NGINX vs Apache Tomcat

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Apache Tomcat vs nginx: What are the differences?

Introduction

Apache Tomcat and Nginx are both web server software that can be used to serve web content. However, there are key differences between the two that make them suitable for different use cases.

  1. Architecture: Apache Tomcat is a Java-based web server that is designed specifically for Java web applications. It can also be used as a servlet container for running Java Servlets and JavaServer Pages (JSP). Nginx, on the other hand, is a lightweight and high-performance web server that can also function as a reverse proxy, load balancer, and HTTP cache server. It is known for its ability to handle a large number of concurrent connections efficiently.

  2. Configuration: Apache Tomcat uses XML configuration files to define its settings and behavior. This can sometimes make the configuration process complex and more time-consuming. Nginx, on the other hand, uses a simple and intuitive configuration language that is easy to understand and manage. This makes it quicker and easier to configure and maintain Nginx servers.

  3. Static Content: Apache Tomcat is primarily designed for serving dynamic content generated by Java web applications. It can also serve static content, but it is not as efficient or performant as Nginx for this purpose. Nginx excels in serving static content and is often used as a front-end server for static file delivery or as a reverse proxy for dynamic content, offloading the dynamic content generation to backend servers.

  4. SSL/TLS Termination: Apache Tomcat has limited support for SSL/TLS termination, and its configuration can sometimes be complex. Nginx, on the other hand, provides robust and efficient SSL/TLS termination and can handle a large number of SSL/TLS connections while offloading the encryption and decryption overhead from backend servers. This makes Nginx a popular choice for handling secure connections.

  5. Caching: Nginx is known for its powerful caching capabilities, allowing it to serve cached content directly from memory or disk without invoking backend servers. It supports various caching strategies, including proxy caching, fastCGI caching, and HTTP caching. Apache Tomcat does not have built-in caching capabilities, although caching can be implemented within Java web applications running on Tomcat.

  6. Concurrency: Nginx is designed to handle a large number of concurrent connections efficiently, making it an ideal choice for high-traffic websites or applications. It uses an event-driven asynchronous architecture that allows it to handle thousands of connections with low memory usage. Apache Tomcat, while capable of handling concurrent connections, may not scale as efficiently as Nginx in terms of handling a massive number of simultaneous connections.

In Summary, Apache Tomcat is a Java-based web server primarily focused on running Java web applications, while Nginx is a versatile web server designed for high performance, scalability, and handling of concurrent connections. Nginx excels in serving static content, SSL/TLS termination, caching, and handling high traffic, making it a popular choice for many web applications and websites.

Advice on NGINX and Apache Tomcat

I am diving into web development, both front and back end. I feel comfortable with administration, scripting and moderate coding in bash, Python and C++, but I am also a Windows fan (i love inner conflict). What are the votes on web servers? IIS is expensive and restrictive (has Windows adoption of open source changed this?) Apache has the history but seems to be at the root of most of my Infosec issues, and I know nothing about nginx (is it too new to rely on?). And no, I don't know what I want to do on the web explicitly, but hosting and data storage (both cloud and tape) are possibilities. Ready, aim fire!

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Replies (1)
Simon Aronsson
Developer Advocate at k6 / Load Impact · | 4 upvotes · 664K views
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I would pick nginx over both IIS and Apace HTTP Server any day. Combine it with docker, and as you grow maybe even traefik, and you'll have a really flexible solution for serving http content where you can take sites and projects up and down without effort, easily move it between systems and dont have to handle any dependencies on your actual local machine.

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Needs advice
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From a StackShare Community member: "We are a LAMP shop currently focused on improving web performance for our customers. We have made many front-end optimizations and now we are considering replacing Apache with nginx. I was wondering if others saw a noticeable performance gain or any other benefits by switching."

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Replies (3)
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I use nginx because it is very light weight. Where Apache tries to include everything in the web server, nginx opts to have external programs/facilities take care of that so the web server can focus on efficiently serving web pages. While this can seem inefficient, it limits the number of new bugs found in the web server, which is the element that faces the client most directly.

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Leandro Barral
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I use nginx because its more flexible and easy to configure

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Christian Cwienk
Software Developer at SAP · | 1 upvotes · 632.3K views
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I use Apache HTTP Server because it's intuitive, comprehensive, well-documented, and just works

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Decisions about NGINX and Apache Tomcat
Daniel Calvo
Co-Founder at Polpo Data Analytics & Software Development · | 8 upvotes · 234.3K views

For us, NGINX is a lite HTTP server easy to configure. On our research, we found a well-documented software we a lot of support from the community.

We have been using it alongside tools like certbot and it has been a total success.

We can easily configure our sites and have a folder for available vs enabled sites, and with the nginx -t command we can easily check everything is running fine.

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Grant Steuart
  • Server rendered HTML output from PHP is being migrated to the client as Vue.js components, future plans to provide additional content, and other new miscellaneous features all result in a substantial increase of static files needing to be served from the server. NGINX has better performance than Apache for serving static content.
  • The change to NGINX will require switching from PHP to PHP-FPM resulting in a distributed architecture with a higher complexity configuration, but this is outweighed by PHP-FPM being faster than PHP for processing requests.
  • The NGINX + PHP-FPM setup now allows for horizontally scaling of resources rather vertically scaling the previously combined Apache + PHP resources.
  • PHP shell tasks can now efficiently be decoupled from the application reducing main application footprint and allow for scaling of tasks on an individual basis.
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I was in a situation where I have to configure 40 RHEL servers 20 each for Apache HTTP Server and Tomcat server. My task was to 1. configure LVM with required logical volumes, format and mount for HTTP and Tomcat servers accordingly. 2. Install apache and tomcat. 3. Generate and apply selfsigned certs to http server. 4. Modify default ports on Tomcat to different ports. 5. Create users on RHEL for application support team. 6. other administrative tasks like, start, stop and restart HTTP and Tomcat services.

I have utilized the power of ansible for all these tasks, which made it easy and manageable.

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Pros of NGINX
Pros of Apache Tomcat
  • 1.4K
    High-performance http server
  • 893
    Performance
  • 730
    Easy to configure
  • 607
    Open source
  • 530
    Load balancer
  • 288
    Free
  • 288
    Scalability
  • 225
    Web server
  • 175
    Simplicity
  • 136
    Easy setup
  • 30
    Content caching
  • 21
    Web Accelerator
  • 15
    Capability
  • 14
    Fast
  • 12
    High-latency
  • 12
    Predictability
  • 8
    Reverse Proxy
  • 7
    The best of them
  • 7
    Supports http/2
  • 5
    Great Community
  • 5
    Lots of Modules
  • 5
    Enterprise version
  • 4
    High perfomance proxy server
  • 3
    Reversy Proxy
  • 3
    Streaming media delivery
  • 3
    Streaming media
  • 3
    Embedded Lua scripting
  • 2
    GRPC-Web
  • 2
    Blash
  • 2
    Lightweight
  • 2
    Fast and easy to set up
  • 2
    Slim
  • 2
    saltstack
  • 1
    Virtual hosting
  • 1
    Narrow focus. Easy to configure. Fast
  • 1
    Along with Redis Cache its the Most superior
  • 1
    Ingress controller
  • 79
    Easy
  • 72
    Java
  • 49
    Popular
  • 1
    Spring web

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Cons of NGINX
Cons of Apache Tomcat
  • 10
    Advanced features require subscription
  • 2
    Blocking - each http request block a thread
  • 1
    Easy to set up

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What is NGINX?

nginx [engine x] is an HTTP and reverse proxy server, as well as a mail proxy server, written by Igor Sysoev. According to Netcraft nginx served or proxied 30.46% of the top million busiest sites in Jan 2018.

What is Apache Tomcat?

Apache Tomcat powers numerous large-scale, mission-critical web applications across a diverse range of industries and organizations.

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What are some alternatives to NGINX and Apache Tomcat?
HAProxy
HAProxy (High Availability Proxy) is a free, very fast and reliable solution offering high availability, load balancing, and proxying for TCP and HTTP-based applications.
lighttpd
lighttpd has a very low memory footprint compared to other webservers and takes care of cpu-load. Its advanced feature-set (FastCGI, CGI, Auth, Output-Compression, URL-Rewriting and many more) make lighttpd the perfect webserver-software for every server that suffers load problems.
Traefik
A modern HTTP reverse proxy and load balancer that makes deploying microservices easy. Traefik integrates with your existing infrastructure components and configures itself automatically and dynamically.
Caddy
Caddy 2 is a powerful, enterprise-ready, open source web server with automatic HTTPS written in Go.
Envoy
Originally built at Lyft, Envoy is a high performance C++ distributed proxy designed for single services and applications, as well as a communication bus and “universal data plane” designed for large microservice “service mesh” architectures.
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