Friday, July 3, 2009

New generation web servers - lighttpd, nginx, Cherokee

New generation web servers have evolved recently, and gradually taken up the market share from Apache and IIS, which still dominate the web server market nowadays.

Of course, there are always many brands of web server made available to the market, but so far they haven't managed to make some major impact to the market share of Apache and IIS, until the emergence of these new generation web servers - lighttpd, nginx and Cherokee.

These 3 web servers have some common similarities which form the key factors for their successful breakthrough in the web server market.

  • They are all in the open source world. lighttpd and nginx are distributed under BSD license while Cherokee is distributed under GPL Version 2 license.
  • They are all developed in C Language and designed for Linux/FreeBSD/Unix platform. They can also run in Windows (although it is really a bad idea to use Windows as Windows OS itself is a major source of performance issue for multiuser network server applications) by riding on Cygwin. With some minor porting, Cherokee can run in Windows by itself without any Cygwin component.
  • They are all designed to be lightweight, which consume as little CPU and memory resource as possible. This make them a good choice for virtualized server environment and also for use in embeded systems.
  • They are all designed with high performance to be able to handle large amount of traffic with fast respond time. They make good use of the Linux kernel’s fast, state-of-art interfaces to accelerate request handling. Benchmarking tests show that they can easily perform twice faster than Apache and many times faster than IIS.
  • They are all modular, which is highly configurable for required features and options based on actual need.
  • They can all work with PHP and MySQL, which is the current major trend for web applications.
  • They all support virtual hosting, which is a basic feature that must exist in any web server application nowadays.
  • They all support modern features such as load balancing, video streaming, etc.
Among the 3 of them, lighttpd (a.k.a. Lighty) first came into attention a few years back, and is now in used by popular websites such as YouTube, SourceForge, Meebo, Wikimedia, Flickr, Imageshack, Sendspace, The Pirate Bay, Mininova, etc.

Now, lighttpd is overtaken by nginx (pronounced as Engine-X) to become the current favourite, which powers popular websites such as Rambler,, Yellow Pages, Hulu, Zimbra, etc.

Cherokee came into picture around 2006, and has quickly gained popularity with massive development and extensive features. One thing to make it stand out from the rest is a very user friendly web-based administration interface called cherokee-admin. Following its development trend, it has the potential to overtake the rest and become the most preferred web server of choice.


Pierre said... Reply To This Comment

There is a Web Server which is faster than all others:

15x faster than Apache
3x faster than Rock (webspec's 2008/2009 winner)
3x faster than nginx and Cherokee
4x faster than Microsoft IIS 7.0 and ASP.NET.

The beauty of performance tests (in a world of uncertainties) is that they define instant tangible value. See by yourself:

This server is also provably safer (less code, no buffer copies, no library calls = no buffer overflows).

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

Amazing, G-WAN is faster than IIS on Windows (nobody ever did this because IIS is in the Windows kernel) BUT G-WAN is also the fastest on Lnux!

Being faster than others on one platform (like IIS on Windows or Accoria Rock on Linux) means that you use the platform better than others - but being the fastest ON ALL OSes means that your user-mode portable code is really much better than all others' code.

Hats off.

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