In this article, we list the showcase and brief explanations of the 7 best open-source web (http) servers available for your Linux server.
Apache HTTP (Web) Server
Apache HTTP Server is founded in 1995 just 12 years after the invention of the internet. Apache is the most successful and well-known web server that has been available from the earliest days of the internet. Because Apache is an open-source project, the community-ridden aspect was the reason why it has been the most successful web server. Apache has been the leading web server until Nginx took its crown but Apache still has a large market share amongst web servers by holding %30.9 of the total hosted websites.
Apache is written in the C language. Apache utilizes the loadable dynamic modular structure that allows you to enable or disable certain modules, improving performance and customizing your web server according to your needs. These include the mod_proxy, which allows for a proxy/gateway on your server, mod_proxy_balancer enables load balancing for all supported protocols. mod_file_cache for caching, mod_ftp for FTP support for uploads and downloads, or mod_ssl for SSL/TLS encryption protocol support. Other notable modules are mod_rewrite, mod_include, and mod_ext_filter.
Granting extensive customizability to your web server. Apache also gives support for both IPv4 and IPv6 protocols as well as frequently used protocols like HTTPS, HTTP/2, and HTTP.
Why should you choose Apache as your webserver?
- Apache natively supports 150 concurrent connections but with some optimization, you can get up to 8000 concurrent connections.
- mod_proxy extension for load balancing.
- .htaccess files provide a way to make configuration changes on a per-directory basis.
- URL rewriting with mod_rewrite.
- Session tracking with mod_session.
- Auto-indexing with mod_autoindex.
- Bandwidth rate-limiting with mod_ratelimit for clients.
- Supports HTTP/2. Here’s a guide on the Apache website.
- Handling of static files.
- Perl, PHP, Lua scripts.
- SSL/TLS support.
Who is Apache for?
Apache is for people who want to manage many aspects of a web server through a modular structure. You can enable/disable certain modules to design your website to fit your needs. It has much more customizability compared to other web servers. Apache, having .htaccess is also a game-changer like giving basic redirect functionalities.
Apache is the oldest web server out there, which means people have used it and encountered countless problems already. So it’s unlikely that you won’t find any tutorials or solutions for the problems that you may face in the future. If you don’t want to use newly developed web servers without many tutorials or answered questions on the internet, Apache is the way to go.
How-to’s and tutorials are available.
Nginx is a web server that was developed in 2011 by Igor Sysoev. Its name is pronounced as Engin-X. Nginx is claiming to be one of the lightest and most developer-friendly web servers. Nginx is widely used amongst web developers mainly as a load balancer. Making tasks distributed amongst resources evenly to maintain efficiency and speed on web applications. It is currently the leading web server by being utilized for %34 of the websites that are being hosted. Nginx has also been written in C language just like Apache.
Nginx could be advertised by its main users such as; Adobe, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Its concurrency gives it the advantage to be used on many popular websites like the aforementioned social platforms. With this, Nginx beats Apache in areas where high traffic is present.
Why should you choose Nginx as your webserver?
- Nginx natively supports 512 concurrent connections, newer versions can go as high as 1024. Most servers though can handle much more concurrent connections, 10.000 and more.
- High performance with fewer CPU loads.
- Low memory consumption.
- Compatible with IPv6.
- Handling of static files, index files, and auto-indexing.
- Applications such as HTTP cache, reverse, and mail proxy.
- Load balancing.
- FastCGI support with caching.
- SSL/TLS support with SNI.
Who is Nginx for?
Nginx for people who wish to build a website that will encounter many concurrent connections, or will host too many visitors at a given time. Using worker_connections you can increase the number of worker connections. The maximum number of connections is limited by your system’s memory.
The more connections you have per worker the higher the workload is. But not to worry, Nginx distributes the connection load over the workers evenly, therefore, reducing overall memory and CPU load. Because of these aspects of Nginx, you will want to use Nginx as your web server if you’re dealing with high-traffic websites.
A beginner’s guide is available.
Lighttpd‘s name kind of gives it away. Lighttpd is optimized and designed to be as light and as efficient as possible. Lighttpd offers a web server with a very small footprint as opposed to other mainstream web servers like Apache or Nginx and is also written in C language just like them. If you have memory/storage problems or want your webserver to be speedy, Lighttpd is your cup of tea.
Also, using less memory and storage comes with fewer CPU power requirements. Therefore Lighttpd is one of the cheapest web servers in terms of processing power as well. It mainly runs un Unix and Linux systems but Windows could run a Lighttpd web server as well.
Why should you choose Lighttpd as your webserver?
- It supports web applications written in languages such as PHP, Python, Perl, and Ruby.
- SSL/TLS support.
- The modular structure allows you to customize your web server.
- CGI, SCGI, and FastCGI support.
- Optimized for high-performance environments.
- Very low memory footprint with low CPU load.
Who is Lighttpd for?
Lighttpd is for people who have memory/CPU/storage shortages or wish to use less of each in their web server. Lighttpd allows users to use a web server that is compact and optimized for performance. Alike Apache, Lighttpd has a modular structure for example HTTP compression with mod_compress module for more compression and storage saving.
Having a modular structure allow users to discard unwanted modules for reducing processing power and memory required for running the webserver even further. Here’s a Lighttpd tutorial.
In OpenLiteSpeed, scalability with no hardware change is available! OpenLiteSpeed implements Apache rewrite rules into its mainframe but OpenLiteSpeed is written in C++. Openlitespeed web server can handle all the concurrent connections you will ever need without any load spikes at sight! One of OpenLiteSpeed’s main sell points is high-performance page caching.
Many applications including WordPress supporting the web server with Litespeed Cache. These also include Magento, Joomla, Prestashop, Opencart, and many more. What’s more, is, you don’t have to rely on ready-to-use caches. You can just go ahead and build your own Litespeed Cache Plugins!
Why should you choose OpenLiteSpeed as your webserver?
- WebAdmin GUI with build-in real-time statistics graphical dashboard.
- SSL/TLS support.
- Supports both IPv4 and IPv6.
- Bandwidth rate-limiting
- Intelligent-cache acceleration.
- HTTP request validation.
- High-performance page caching.
- Event-driven architecture with extremely low resource (CPU and RAM) overhead.
- Handles hundreds of thousands of concurrent connections without load spikes.
- Rewrite engine uses Apache mod_rewrite syntax.
- Worker processes for scalability. Ability to bind certain processes to particular workers.
- Support of third-party modules through API. (LSIAPI)
- High-performance coding using kqueue (FreeBSD and OS X), epoll (Linux), /dev/poll (Solaris), and poll.
Who is OpenLiteSpeed for?
OpenLiteSpeed is for people who want high-performance page caching. The web server itself has many LiteSpeed cache plugins available but it is also open source so you can develop your own cache plugins as well.
OpenLiteSpeed, aside from high-performance page caching, is also optimized to execute a wide spectrum of scripts such as Java, Ruby, Python, and Perl. So if you’re dealing with scripts and page caching, OpenLiteSpeed is one of the best web servers out there. Check for the step-by-step guide by Openlitespeed
Apache Tomcat is a pure JAVA HTTP web server written in Java language from Apache that is used for Java codes and applications like Servlet and JavaServer etc. Apache Tomcat is the implementation of Jakarta Servlet, Jakarta Server Pages, Jakarta Expression Language, Jakarta WebSocket, Jakarta Annotations, and Jakarta authentication specifications.
Apache Tomcat is a trademark of the Apache software foundation, which is promising since Apache is one of the largest web server ecosystems that we have. But not to be confused, Tomcat is fundamentally different from that of other web servers by utilizing Java content. That’s why it’s mainly used as a Java server. Tomcat currently contributes only %0.1 of the web servers that are being used.
Why should you choose Apache Tomcat as your webserver?
- 200 concurrent connections natively.
- HTTP/2 flow control window management.
- Apache Tomcat is providing support for the latest Java stable versions.
- Provides the most common capabilities for Java web deployments.
- Provides rich API set.
- Integrations with IDE’s such as IntelliJ, Eclipse.
- Lightweight and not resource-intensive. Very stable.
- Highly scalable, you can perform auto-scaling with cloud solutions. And you can add nodes swiftly.
Who is Apache Tomcat for?
Tomcat is for people who want a Java web server with Apache reliability. Tomcat has the ability to simple and fast deployment of Java applications. Tomcat isn’t heavy on resources as well. It’s lightweight and stable.
Since Tomcat is a trademark of Apache itself, it has all the support and benefits of the Apache community as well. If you’re looking for a Java web server that is lightweight, Tomcat is for you. Here’s the official wiki page and FAQ section.
Why should you choose Node.js as your webserver?
- Node. js with scalability can handle up to 10,000 concurrent requests.
- A single-threaded event loop is the backbone of a Node. js webserver.
- Flexibility, You can make changes isolated to particular nodes.
- Speed and performance. Non-blocking and input-output operations make Node.js one of the fastest webservers.
- Efficient caching.
- Easy to master.
Who is Node.js for?
Node.js is also one of the fastest web servers out there with Non-blocking and input-output operations. So if you don’t want to learn a new language just to run a web server, and want a fast/reliable web server that runs Java. Node.js is the way to go.
Our last open-source web server is Eclipse Jetty written in Java, an alternative to the Tomcat with it being a Java web server that utilizes Java servlet. Eclipse Jetty has started in 1995 as an open-source web server and then moved to the Eclipse Foundation in 2009. Being an open-source project provides many benefits such as community upgrades and security checks, but Eclipse Jetty also has a small footprint as a web server.
Why should you choose Jetty as your webserver?
- Full-featured and standards-based.
- Flexible and extensible.
- Cloud computing, such as Google AppEngine.
- Dual licensed under Apache and Eclipse.
- App server scalability.
- Satisfying servlet performance.
- Java flexibility.
Who is Eclipse Jetty for?
Jetty isn’t for developing a server or web host that will interact with web users. Eclipse Jetty is rather for people who want a web server that communicates with machines in larger software frameworks. Jetty is using Java language, it has a small footprint and doesn’t rely on high memory or processing power.
It’s for people who want to use a Java web server that isn’t going to necessarily interact with visitors and is lightweight. Here’s the documentation for guides and anything you need to know.
Using an open-source web server has many advantages. The community itself keeps the systems up-to-date, provides patches and security countermeasures frequently. Apache is frequently used for reasons like being one of the oldest, easy-to-learn, and highly customizable with its modular structure. For example .htaccess file in Apache is such a powerful tool that allows you to make changes to your website’s configuration without having to edit any server configuration files.
On the other hand, Nginx has become much more popular and widely used lately. That’s for a reason; Internet utilization has been changed drastically in the past few years. Individual internet users have been increasing exponentially with each passing day. Hence Nginx which can easily handle more than 10.000 concurrent connections is being used much more than Apache.
It’s up to you to decide which web server you wish to use regarding your necessities, technological infrastructure, and your skills. There is no one web server that has all the advantages and could be utilized in any given situation.