Apache vs Nginx – Detailed Comparison in 2021

Apache and Nginx are two of the most common open source web servers in the world. Together these two handle more than half of the worlds internet traffic.

Apache vs Nginx Comparison – Detailed Comparison in 2021

Although Apache and Nginx share many qualities, they should not be considered as entirely interchangeable. Both are different from one another and should be selected according to the needs of your web applications. In this article we will discuss Apache vs Nginx comparison in detail.

What is Apache?

The Apache web server is one of the most popular server on the internet and serves more than 27% of websites. Apache is mostly the first choice of developers due to its flexibility, power as well as widespread support and detailed documentation. It supports dynamically loadable modules which allow developers to easily extend its functionality.

What is Nginx?

Nginx is becoming more and more popular due to its light-weight, better resource utilization and its scalability. Nginx web server is very fast and servers static content quickly. For dynamic content, it passes requests off to other software and let them handle those requests. Developers choose Nginx due its efficient resource usage and responsiveness under load.

Apache vs Nginx Comparison

In this section, lets compare Apache and Nginx on the basis of support, documentation, content type and configuration structure.

Architecture

Apache starts multiple server processes to share the workload at boot time. There is one parent process and many child processes. Each child process is responsible for creating server threads that handle incoming requests. Apache uses the Multi-Processing Module to assign child processes to accept requests and bind network ports. On the contrary Nginx features an event-driven architecture. Nginx has a master process which controls port binding and configuration reading. Master process creates sub-processes according to a predictable process model unlike Apache which allows Nginx server to use resources more efficiently. For every new request, Nginx initiates an event and creates a file descriptor which takes up only a small process memory. This makes Nginx more scalable than Apache. Apache consumes much more process memory for each connection.

Modules

Both Apache and Nginx have the ability to modules in order to extend of modify its core functionality. Implementation for modules is different for both Apache and Nginx and the main difference is loading of modules. In case of Apache modules are loaded dynamically only when there is a need for them. On the contrary Nginx modules are integrated into the core and are loaded on boot even if you don’t need them. In that sense Apache a more customizable platform for developers as compared to Nginx. This is a limitation for users as far as flexibility is concerned but on positive node it means better security since dynamic modules can poses security concerns.

Support & Documentation

Apache is clear winner here if we compare it on the basis of support and documentation, because it has been in the market for so long. There is a large library of available documentation for Apache server. Comparatively Nginx is also becoming popular due to its high performance and resource utilization and hence its support and documentation is growing rapidly.

Static vs Dynamic Content

Apache serves both static as well as dynamic content on its own. On the other hand, Nginx does not have the ability to server dynamic content so it passes those requests to third party software. Apache servers handle static content using its conventional file-based methods.

File vs URI-Based Interpretation

Apache server has the ability to interpret a request as a physical resource on the filesystem or as a URI location. On the other hand Nginx was designed to work as both web server and a proxy server as well. Due to the architecture required for these two roles, it works primarily with URIs, translating to the filesystem when necessary. Nginx does not specify configuration for a filesystem directory and instead it parses the URI itself.

Configuration

Apache provides the ability for developers to set configuration on directory level using the file referred as .htaccess. But in case of Nginx there is no such mechanism to set configuration on directory level. Apache provides more flexibility than Nginx in terms of configurations.

Is Nginx better than Apache?

Nginx is faster than Apache for serving static content. So if your web application serves a lot of static content then yes Nginx is better and faster than Apache. As far as dynamic content is concerned, both web server almost give same performance wo there is no clear winner here. Both Apache and Nginx run on almost all operating systems, but Nginx’ performance on Windows is not as good as compared to Apache’s. If your operating system is Unix-like system and your web application is performance critical then yes, Nginx is better than Apache.

Conclusion

Both Apache and Nginx are capable in their own ways. We have discussed Apache vs Nginx comparison in detail in this article. Selecting one from these two most popular web servers totally depends upon the requirements of your web apps. Selection depends on your expectations with performance, resource utilization, speed, scalability and support of a web server. Both have their own benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all web server, so use the solution that best suits your objectives and expectations.

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