Nginx's new version goes beyond Web serving

Nginx Plus Release 6 adds high availability and expanded load balancing to appeal to a wider audience

With the release of Nginx Plus Release 6, the latest version of its Web server, Nginx looks to replace everything from hardware load balancing to legacy servers.

It makes sense for Nginx to broaden its game and its functionality. The company's explosive growth among the most heavily trafficked sites is leveling out; to stay competitive, it must become more than a faster, more efficient alternative to Apache.

Release 6 features load-balancing capabilities (including an extended version of the TCP load-balancing feature introduced in version 5), a high-availability system that uses the Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol, support for SSL authentication when routing mail traffic, and new status dashboard.

Nginx CEO Gus Robertson stated in an email that with enterprise customers looking at containerization, public and private cloud architectures, and devops deployment models, "we are seeing ourselves increasingly adopted as either a replacement for [legacy hardware appliances use for load balancing], or at least as the application-level load balancer deployed alongside the legacy solutions."

All of these features fall in line with Nginx's basic pitch for Nginx Plus, which provides features intended mainly for enterprise use, albeit at cost. The core, open source version of the server remains free to use, but with a customer base expanding beyond the top slice of websites, it's likely the company will have to keep reassessing which features belong in what edition. Statistics from Netcraft show Nginx's surge with top sites starting to flatten out, though the server's overall share with websites continues to rise.

Several other new features for Nginx have been announced but have yet to appear in a release version. Among them is support for JavaScript -- both as an application language (along with Perl and Lua) and as a way to manipulate the configuration of the server itself. Said additions are tentatively scheduled to show up sometime this year.

Nginx is also unveiling an Innovators Program. There, Nginx Plus customers using containers or Paas/Saas applications have unlimited access to the software without having to pay per-instance licensing fees. Licenses for Nginx Plus are also going to startups with less than US$2 million in annual revenue and $10 million in fundraising.

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