Nginx gets commercial backing

Michael Dell and a number of venture capitalists have put $3 million behind the increasingly popular Nginx Web server software

Nginx, an increasingly popular open source Web server software program, has gotten some commercial backing.

Nginx Inc., co-founded in July by the software's creator Igor Sysoev[cq], received US$3 million in funding from a number of venture capital firms, including MSD Capital -- the private investment firm for Dell CEO Michael Dell -- and from BV Capital and Runa Capital, the company announced Tuesday.

With this money, the company will open an office in San Francisco by the end of the year, and will offer a commercially available version of the software by 2012, said Andrew Alexeev[cq], Nginx co-founder.

Despite having little commercial support so far, Nginx is already run by about 8 percent of the world's websites, or about 1.6 million sites, according to the latest monthly survey conducted by Netcraft. Approximately 20 percent of the top 1,000 busiest Web sites use the software, including Facebook, Zappos, Groupon, Hulu, Dropbox, and WordPress, according to the new company.

Company officials hope Nginx, with its rapid adoption rate, will unseat Microsoft's ISS (Internet Information Services) Web server software as the second most popular Web server software. IIS currently is used across nearly 16 percent of the world's Web servers. The open source Apache server software dominates this market, with almost a 65 percent market share.

Sysoev designed Nginx, short for Engine-X, in 2004 specifically to handle high-volume Web traffic. Nginx features the ability to execute basic tasks such as serving static Web pages and fulfilling SSL (Secure Socket Layer) requests. It also can also act as a load balancer and be run across multiple servers, with one copy serving a master that coordinates additional worker copies. Sysoev published the software under a simple BSD-like open source license.

"The difference between Nginx and Apache is how the architecture is done with Nginx," Alexeev said. "He was really trying to solve some practical problems with not being able to scale with Apache."

Specifically, Alexeev wanted server software that could maintain up to 10,000 concurrent connections per server, which at the time was not possible. An average connection executed through Apache can take several megabytes of working memory, whereas a connection on Nginx can be only consume a few kilobytes, which means Nginx can manage more connections per server, Alexeev explained.

"It is a very lean architecture," Alexeev said.

Nginx will follow the open core model of commercialization, Alexeev said. The company will keep the core software available as open source, but will sell a package with advanced management tools unavailable otherwise, such as high-availability support.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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