NetCraft: NGINX Manages 26% of Popular Website Traffic, Cloudflare CDN Servers Support 5.2% in 2018

Written by: , Mar. 17, 2018

NGINX Compatible With Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, or FreeBSD Web Servers

NetCraft is considered a reliable source for web server operating system analysis based on their method of parsing the HTTP meta-tag values of the top 1 million websites in the world by the measure of total user traffic. The NetCraft report for February of 2018 shows use of the NGINX web servers at 25.9% of the market surveyed, which was down 4.6% from the previous month due to the way that the Cloudflare CDN service codes output pages on client websites. The launch of a new Cloudflare server category follows the introduction of a change in HTTP response header encoding by the company. Previously Cloudflare content carried a "Server: cloudflare-nginx" meta-tag value, which is now being replaced by the HTTP response tag "Server: cloudflare" published on hosted CDN content. From this it is suggested that 4.5% to 5.2% of all NGINX web server traffic was running on the Cloudflare CDN data center architecture internationally during or before February 2018. Overall, Apache has 36.8% of the web server market, NGINX web servers (including Cloudflare CDN) powered around 31% of the top 1 million websites, while Microsoft Windows solutions accounted for 9.4% of web traffic volume, and LiteSpeed web servers represented 1.4% of total IT hardware deployments. These figures give an accurate portrait of resource allocation in web hosting internationally or the configurations actively in use that support the top 1 million websites from a variety of third-party service providers or private cloud solutions in enterprise companies and software start-ups. NGINX Plus is a licensed distribution of the web server framework with better cloud network load balancing and optimized content cache systems for managed website hosting. NGINX Controller provides advanced network monitoring and data analytics tools to online businesses. Both the open source version of NGINX and NGINX Plus are supported by AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and the other major public cloud companies, while the web server changes at Cloudflare CDN consolidate huge global scale through their 127+ international data centers and client base.

Cloudflare Workers & NGINX Servers in Cloudflare’s 127+ International Data Centers

While Cloudflare CDN did not make any official statement on the coding changes that were recorded by NetCraft, the company did issue a major press release in March of 2018 announcing the launch of a new Cloudflare Workers platform. According to Matthew Prince, the co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, "Prior to today, the only way to write code that ran at the edge of Cloudflare’s network was to be a Cloudflare employee. Cloudflare Workers opens the scale of our global network to any developer. By bridging the front-end and back-end with a third place to develop code, we’re excited Cloudflare Workers will empower a new class of applications that were previously impossible. I can’t wait to see what developers build.” One of the use case scenarios cited by the company for Cloudflare Workers is a gaming company "using Workers to perform authentication and redirects to their back-end infrastructure. Workers has transformed their operational and capex expenditures by eliminating additional server hardware that hosts NGINX, saving countless hours of engineering time." Over the last 6 months, Cloudflare customers have run billions of edge computing tasks using the beta version of Cloudflare Workers. According to the press release, the benefits of Cloudflare Workers include:

  • Programmable: "Developers can deploy custom JavaScript code at the edge to intelligently respond to users on any browser or API client."
  • Scalable: "Cloudflare Workers runs across Cloudflare’s 127+ data centers and dynamically scales to meet the demands of any load."
  • Fast: "Cloudflare’s global network is within milliseconds of virtually every Internet user, allowing Cloudflare Workers to support latency-sensitive applications."
  • Resilient: "A globally-distributed, 'serverless' architecture ensures that Cloudflare Workers is not hamstrung by any single point of failure."
  • Unconstrained: "Support for complex computing tasks without worrying about end users’ bandwidth or battery burden."
  • Affordable: "Cloudflare Workers is priced at 50¢ per 1 million tasks, making its pricing easy to understand, globally consistent, predictable, and less expensive than centralized alternatives."
  • Portable: "Powered by JavaScript, the Internet’s most popular programming language, Cloudflare Workers supports the same code that many developers have already used for their front- and back-end applications."
  • Updatable: "Developers can push updates to Cloudflare Workers and within seconds know their code has been deployed globally — without having to wait for end users to update their apps or centralized cloud platforms that can take half an hour or more to deploy code."
  • Backward Compatible: "Legacy static configuration languages like Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) or Edge Side Includes (ESI) can be automatically converted to dynamic Cloudflare Workers."

Otherwise Cloudflare did not issue any further clarification on the change in HTTP header encoding or comment officially if they are migrating away from the use of NGINX in favor of Cloudflare Workers solutions. For example, Cloudflare could consolidate their client base around a proprietary new web server standard & unique ecosystem which would immediately be #4 in market share, i.e. Apache, NGINX, Windows Azure, Cloudflare, & LiteSpeed by volume of user traffic hosted. According to the company, Cloudflare Workers allows developers to:

  • "Run code at the edge, deliver powerful web extensibility."
  • "Increased security by applying custom security rules and filtering logic at the edge to detect malicious bots and prevent them from consuming resources."
  • "Improve the user experience by incorporating more personalization and interactivity into static HTML pages with dynamic requests being run at the edge."
  • "Lower operational costs by shifting more operational processes and request handling to the edge to improve cache hit rate and reduce bandwidth costs."

Cloudflare Workers is developing an extensible edge cloud ecosystem for web hosting services that competes with AWS, Google Cloud Platform, DigitalOcean, Akamai, GoDaddy, Verizon, & Dreamhost for clients. Cloudflare is one of the best funded and well financed start-up companies so that the company is in a position to scale data center facilities internationally to establish market dominance, offer free plans to expand market share by user volume, and develop new cloud platforms with unique SaaS/PaaS/IaaS solutions that extend the CDN model to compete with other major IT options for enterprise consulting services & data center outsourcing. Cloudflare CDN is already integrated with cPanel, CloudLinux, & CentOS, as well as being offered by most of the major shared web hosting companies as a free promotional tool for web publishers.

'For several years, every edge machine in Cloudflare's content delivery network (CDN) exhibited the "Server: cloudflare-nginx" HTTP response header. This reflected the fact that its custom software stack was based on NGINX – but this month's survey saw a vast swathe of websites switching to a new "Server: cloudflare" header. Although NGINX remains part of Cloudflare's stack, it plays less of a role than it once did. The code that handles HTTP requests on Cloudflare's machines now goes far beyond the capabilities of NGINX alone, and Cloudflare also hints that it will most likely end up writing its own caching software instead of using NGINX. In line with Cloudflare's reasoning, Netcraft's survey treats the new Cloudflare server as a distinct product to NGINX, and this has taken a chunk out of NGINX's share in the top million sites. The new Cloudflare server already accounts for 5.2% of the top million sites, and this share will undoubtedly increase next month. The transition to the new Cloudflare server banner started on 18 December 2017, and the February 2018 survey found nearly 60% of Cloudflare's sites using the new banner. It is likely that they will all use the new banner by next month's survey.' Learn More from NetCraft on the Cloudflare-NGINX Migration Underway.

Load Balancer, Content Cache, & Web Server: "NGINX Plus is a software load balancer, web server, and content cache built on top of open source NGINX. NGINX Plus has exclusive productionready features on top of what's available in the open source offering, including session persistence, configuration via API, and active health checks. Use NGINX Plus instead of your hardware load balancer and get the freedom to innovate without being constrained by infrastructure." Learn More About NGINX Plus.

NGINX has scaled rapidly over the last ten years to become the #2 overall choice for web server software in production environments and the standard for high-performance web hosting on the most popular CMS/CRM websites (WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Joomla, etc.) by user traffic metrics. The higher licensing fees required to scale NGINX Plus across all of their data center operations & 5% of internet traffic may have led Cloudflare CDN to slowly migrate to other solutions or develop internal alternatives with similar functionality. Many of the statistical results come from SaaS, media, & large scale enterprise companies that use NGINX in production on AWS & Google Cloud for elastic container orchestration with Kubernetes & Docker. Running NGINX with Varnish Cache and Redis are also production stack configurations used by the largest websites to increase efficiency in page load speeds through superior web page file caching, reverse-proxy servers, & cloud load balancing on network traffic I/O requests. Small businesses, ecommerce websites, mobile apps, & independent publishers can set up NGINX & Varnish Cache solutions on a VPS, dedicated server, or cloud hosting plan. For example, WordPress site owners can double page load speeds as well as the number of hits per day or simultaneous users on the same hardware by using the NGNIX/Varnish Cache solution with PHP 7.x, Memcached, & HHVM. NGINX requires a .conf file for configuration settings on CMS integrations compared to the use of the .htaccess file with Apache web servers. Contract a freelance systems administrator or a DevOps specialist to configure cloud web server frameworks for small business solutions or complex mobile apps.

High performance WordPress hosting is very competitive with the open source CMS running over 25% of all the active script installs on currently registered domains. Because many of the most popular WordPress websites require platform support for NGINX, Redis, & Varnish Cache for elite performance speeds integrated with a CDN, the main rival to Apache & Microsoft IIS servers NGINX continues to strengthen through new adoption patterns with Cloudflare CDN. How the announcements and changes from Cloudflare CDN will further affect the NGINX web server development landscape remain unknown, or if Cloudflare Workers will be able to build a competing platform standard to NGINX tools on the strength of their client base, programming talent teams, and data center resources. The video below discusses some of the main interdependencies between the Cloudflare CDN platform & NGINX web servers:

Source: CloudFlare Boosts Performance and Stability for its Millions of Websites with NGINX (2016)

Web publishers and business organizations are recommended to adopt cloud hosting solutions built around NGINX server and Cloudflare CDN solutions for professional, reliable PaaS options that are affordable even for SMEs, ecommerce stores, and popular WP blog sites to implement.

Author:
Eliran Ouzan is the Co. Founder and designer of HostAdvice and also owns Moonshot Marketing LTD, a leading web design & development firm and was a member at GreenPeace.

Widely known for his pixel-perfect and high conversion rate web designs. Over the course of his web experience he experimeneted with over 200 web hosting companies and have a superior knowledge on what defines a good hosting company.

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