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Nginx Updates Web Server Application Platform

Monday Oct 15th 2018 by Sean Michael Kerner

Nginx isn't just about its namesake open source web server anymore.

Nginx Inc. held its annual customer conference on Oct. 9-10, announcing a series of updates to its namesake Application Platform.

While Nginx was originally best known for the open source nginx web server, Nginx Inc. has expanded in recent years to enable a larger set of web application capabilities, with a series of different products. 

Nginx first announced its Application Platform in September 2017, which includes the Nginx Plus Application service combined with the Nginx Controller management and Nginx Unit application server.

The new Nginx Plus R16 update adds new clustering capabilities as well as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) mitigation capabilities. Improved support for using Nginx with Kubernetes is also part of the R16 update, now with advanced load balancing algorithms.

The Nginx Controller product provides centralized monitoring and management for Nginx Plus. With the Nginx Controller 2.0 update, load balancing capabilities have been enhanced here as well. Additionally, the platform now provides integration for ServiceNow.

Nginx Unit

Development of the Unit application server is being led by the founder of Nginx, Igor Sysoev, as a new type of server platform.Nginx Founder

"The main feature of unit is dynamic configurations and remote operations with json files," Sysoev (pictured) said during a keynote.

Sysoev added that Unit also provides consistent configuration options that work regardless of the language used. Nick Shadrin, Sr. Product Manager at Nginx, explained during the event that Unit is a different type of application server than what Nginx Plus provides.

Shardin said modern web server application workloads are being created and modified on the fly in minutes or seconds and often with automated processes.

"What unit brings is a new way of looking at the application server," Shadrin said.

He explained that Unit is a dynamic app server with no downtime needed for changes. Additionally, it isolates and scales application processes while providing API-level access to the configuration. Shardin added that Nginx Unit is written in C and is open source.

Shardin said the first Nginx Unit beta was released in September 2017, with version 1.0 announced on April 12 of this year. The new 1.4 update is the latest iteration and benefits from customer feedback and deployment. The Nginx Unit 1.4 update provides support for TLS encryption and now also supports JavaScript with Node.js in addition to  Go, Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby language support.

When a regular web server gets a new SSL/TLS certificate, there can sometimes be a need to reload the server. With Unit, Shardin said it's easy to replace SSL/TLS certificates without the need to reload any processes.

"You just give the software an API call with the new SSL cert and that becomes available immediately," he said.

Looking forward, Shardin said Nginx is looking at adding Java support to Unit. Nginx is also working on its own implementation of JavaScript, called NJS, in an effort led by Sysoev

"NJS is our implementation of javascript, which can be used in Nginx configurations," Sysoev said. "We decided to develop our own implementation of JavaScript because current implementations from Google, Mozilla and Apple are optimized for use in browsers, not servers."


Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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