Nginx tries converting Web-server popularity into money

The open-source software for housing Web sites is widely used by big names including Facebook and Hulu. Now it's a startup selling services, too.

Among active sites on the Internet, Netcraft shows Nginx as having just surpassed Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) for the second-place rank.
Among the gargantuan number of active sites on the Internet, Netcraft shows Nginx as having just surpassed Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) for the second-place rank. Netcraft

Nginx, a Russian startup that has succeeded where others have failed at challenging the dominant Apache software for housing Web sites, has begun trying to convert its popularity into actual money.

Nginx (pronounced "engine X") yesterday unveiled corporate support offerings for the product, a traditional business model for open-source software. It offers three grades--Essential, Advanced, and Premium--with three- and twelve-month contracts for services including installation, configuration, performance tuning, and maintenance.

Nginx logo

"Subscribers to the Advanced and Premium options receive design, implementation and optimization assistance, as well as prioritized development. Premium subscribers will have access to an additional set of customization options," the company said. In addition, it's begun offering consulting services, too.

Web server software is used to house Web sites, sending data when browsers request Web pages using the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Apache's HTTP server has dominated the area, but in recent weeks Nginx has caught on widely enough to surpass Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) for the second-place spot among active Web sites, according to Netcraft's data.

Why has it been gaining a foothold in the marketplace where other challengers from companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle haven't succeeded in dislodging Apache? Better technology, argues co-founder Andrew Alexeev, who now leads business development and marketing.

"With the older architecture like that of Apache, handling thousands of simultaneous users per hardware servers may quickly become problematic," Alexeev told CNET News. "With Nginx, it is possible to handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous users per hardware server."

The software offers nice features beyond the basics, too, he said: the ability to balance computing loads across multiple servers, features for encrypted communications, enforcement of bandwidth usage policies, and HTTP media streaming abilities. It's modular, so third parties have added new abilities such as data compression and image format transformation on top.

That modular architecture means that Nginx will pursue another revenue source later this year, proprietary add-ons, Andreev said.

Another feature coming later this year is support for SPDY, a faster version of HTTP that Google is promoting and that allies hope will be standardized in coming months. SPDY support should arrive in May, Alexeev said.

Other engineering work will involve integration with Node.js, a project to run JavaScript programs on Web servers not just their usual home of Web browsers.

"It's awesome, and in many installations, Nginx and Node.js co-exist for mutual benefits," Alexeev said. "We'll be doing more with Nginx to help people combine it with Node.js applications even more efficiently."

Nginx users include Facebook, Hulu, Yandex, Mail.ru, Zappos, Intel, and Dropbox

Igor Sysoev began the Nginx project and is the company's chief technology officer. The company has nine employees.

Nginx, raised $3 million in first-round funding in August from BV Capital, Runa Capital, and MSD Capital, and the company formally launched in October.

Nginx is the third most widely used Web server on Netcraft's survey of all Internet domains, but the data set includes lots of inactive sites.
Nginx is the third most widely used Web server on Netcraft's survey of all Internet domains, but the data set includes lots of inactive sites. Netcraft
 

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