Apache Web server gets high performance upgrade

Witrh Nginx close behind, the Apache HTTP server has been enhanced for high traffic environments

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has celebrated the 17th anniversary of the release of the Apache HTTP Server by launching a new version of the popular open source Web server software.

Apache HTTP Server version 2.4 is the first major update to the software since 2005, when version 2.2 was released (Version 2.3 was a development only version), and includes many new features that make it more suited for high traffic environments.

Apache is the most widely used Web server across the Internet. It is used by nearly 400 million websites around the world, according to Netcraft estimates.

Apache is used by about 65 percent of all websites. The second most widely used Web server software is Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Services), running about 14.5 percent of websites. Perhaps Apache's biggest competition, though, is Nginx. Although Nginx has less than a 10 percent market share, over the past month it has gained nearly 12,000 sites, while in that same time Apache has lost 18,000 sites, according to Netcraft.

Perhaps not surprisingly then, many of the new features in Apache 2.4 replicate those high performance features that make Nginx popular.

In particular, Apache 2.4 has been upgraded to work in high traffic environments. Performance has been improved, both to allow more simultaneous connections and to use less memory. The reverse proxy module now allows organizations to expose multiple internal servers through a single IP address even when the addresses of the internal servers change frequently. Administrators can now set timeouts in increments as small as milliseconds, and resource limits can be set with more precision as well. Also caching has been improved, to make it more suited for high traffic usage.

One of the first servers for Tim Berners-Lee's then nascent World Wide Web, the Apache Web Server was created in 1994 as a fork of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) httpd Web server. It quickly became the most widely used Web server software. In 1999, the volunteer developers behind the software set up the ASF to provide organizational, legal, and financial support for the project. ASF now hosts 150 other open source projects, including the Apache Hadoop data processing framework, the Cassandra data store, the Lucene search engine, and the Tomcat Java servlet container.

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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