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HAProxy vs nginx: What are the differences?

In the world of web servers and load balancers, HAProxy and nginx are two popular choices. Let's discuss the key differences between them.

  1. Architecture: HAProxy is a dedicated load balancer that primarily focuses on load balancing and has a single-threaded event-driven architecture. On the other hand, nginx is a full-fledged web server that also includes load balancing capabilities. nginx uses an asynchronous event-driven architecture with a multi-process or multi-threaded approach.

  2. Performance: HAProxy is often considered to have better performance for load balancing purposes as it is designed specifically for that purpose. Its lightweight architecture and efficient algorithms make it highly performant. nginx, on the other hand, may have slightly lower performance due to its additional capabilities as a web server.

  3. Advanced Load Balancing: HAProxy offers more advanced load balancing features, such as dynamic server configuration, active health checks, and session persistence. It provides fine-grained control over load balancing algorithms and has extensive configuration options. nginx, although capable of load balancing, provides a more basic set of load balancing features with limited configuration options.

  4. Protocol Support: Both HAProxy and nginx support a wide range of protocols, including HTTP, HTTPS, TCP, and UDP. However, HAProxy has better support for protocols like SMTP, IMAP, POP3, and WebSocket. nginx, on the other hand, excels in handling HTTP and HTTPS traffic and is often used as a reverse proxy for web applications.

  5. Ease of Configuration: HAProxy configuration requires more expertise and knowledge as it uses a command-line interface or configuration files. It has a steeper learning curve and may be complex for beginners. On the other hand, nginx configuration is relatively easier due to its use of simple configuration files. It also has better documentation and community support for configuration-related queries.

  6. Third-Party Module Availability: nginx has a large community and supports a wide range of third-party modules. These modules extend its functionality to include features like caching, rewrites, and SSL termination. HAProxy, although extensible, has a smaller set of third-party modules available.

In summary, HAProxy is a dedicated load balancer with advanced load balancing features and high performance, while nginx is a versatile web server with basic load balancing capabilities and excellent support for HTTP traffic. HAProxy offers more granular control over load balancing algorithms and protocols, but may have a steeper learning curve and limited third-party module availability compared to nginx.

Advice on HAProxy and NGINX

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 · 674.4K views
Recommends
on
NGINXNGINX

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)
Recommends
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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
Recommends
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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 · 642.3K views
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Apache HTTP ServerApache HTTP Server

I use Apache HTTP Server because it's intuitive, comprehensive, well-documented, and just works

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Pros of HAProxy
Pros of NGINX
  • 131
    Load balancer
  • 102
    High performance
  • 69
    Very fast
  • 58
    Proxying for tcp and http
  • 55
    SSL termination
  • 31
    Open source
  • 27
    Reliable
  • 20
    Free
  • 18
    Well-Documented
  • 12
    Very popular
  • 7
    Runs health checks on backends
  • 7
    Suited for very high traffic web sites
  • 6
    Scalable
  • 5
    Ready to Docker
  • 4
    Powers many world's most visited sites
  • 3
    Simple
  • 2
    Ssl offloading
  • 2
    Work with NTLM
  • 1
    Available as a plugin for OPNsense
  • 1
    Redis
  • 1.4K
    High-performance http server
  • 893
    Performance
  • 730
    Easy to configure
  • 607
    Open source
  • 530
    Load balancer
  • 289
    Free
  • 288
    Scalability
  • 226
    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
    Embedded Lua scripting
  • 3
    Streaming media delivery
  • 3
    Streaming media
  • 3
    Reversy Proxy
  • 2
    Blash
  • 2
    GRPC-Web
  • 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

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Cons of HAProxy
Cons of NGINX
  • 6
    Becomes your single point of failure
  • 10
    Advanced features require subscription

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- No public GitHub repository available -

What is 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.

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.

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What are some alternatives to HAProxy and NGINX?
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.
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.
Squid
Squid reduces bandwidth and improves response times by caching and reusing frequently-requested web pages. Squid has extensive access controls and makes a great server accelerator. It runs on most available operating systems, including Windows and is licensed under the GNU GPL.
Varnish
Varnish Cache is a web application accelerator also known as a caching HTTP reverse proxy. You install it in front of any server that speaks HTTP and configure it to cache the contents. Varnish Cache is really, really fast. It typically speeds up delivery with a factor of 300 - 1000x, depending on your architecture.
Pound
Pound was developed to enable distributing the load among several Web-servers and to allow for a convenient SSL wrapper for those Web servers that do not offer it natively.
See all alternatives