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PHP-FPM vs nginx: What are the differences?


PHP-FPM and nginx are both important components in web servers. Understanding their key differences can help in choosing the right setup for websites and applications.

  1. Execution Model: PHP-FPM is a process manager for PHP which handles PHP script execution and management of workers. It communicates with the web server (like nginx) using FastCGI protocol. On the other hand, nginx is a high-performance web server and reverse proxy server that can also act as an HTTP cache. It can handle static content efficiently and can also forward dynamic requests to PHP-FPM.

  2. Architecture: PHP-FPM follows a pool or worker model where multiple dedicated worker processes handle incoming PHP requests. Each worker process can handle multiple requests simultaneously using threads or processes. On the other hand, nginx uses an asynchronous and event-driven architecture where a single master process handles all incoming requests efficiently without blocking multiple connections.

  3. Resource Handling: PHP-FPM primarily handles PHP scripting and processing, including database connections, session management, and application logic. It depends on the web server (like nginx) to handle static file requests efficiently. Nginx, on the other hand, excels at serving static files due to its efficient architecture. It can handle static content without the need to involve PHP-FPM for processing.

  4. Load Balancing: PHP-FPM supports load balancing by using multiple worker processes. It can distribute requests across different PHP-FPM instances, ensuring efficient resource utilization and increased performance. Nginx also supports load balancing, but at a higher level. It can distribute requests to backend servers (including PHP-FPM instances) using various load balancing algorithms like round-robin, IP-hash, etc.

  5. Caching: PHP-FPM does not provide built-in caching mechanisms. However, it can integrate with other caching solutions like Varnish or a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to improve performance. Nginx, on the other hand, includes a built-in caching module that can cache responses from dynamic requests. It can cache content in memory, on disk, or even on a distributed cache server like Redis.

  6. Configuration and Extensibility: PHP-FPM configuration involves settings related to PHP execution, process management, and resource limits. It can be tweaked to achieve optimal performance based on specific application requirements. Nginx provides rich configuration options for customizing server behavior, handling server blocks, SSL/TLS settings, and more. It also supports various modules for additional functionality like URL rewriting, gzip compression, rate limiting, and more.

In summary, PHP-FPM is responsible for executing PHP scripts and managing worker processes, while nginx acts as a powerful web server, reverse proxy, and can handle static content efficiently. PHP-FPM excels at processing PHP requests, while nginx is effective at serving static files and load-balancing requests. Both technologies have their strengths and can be used together to achieve high-performance web applications.

Advice on NGINX and PHP-FPM

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 · 656K views

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
Apache HTTP ServerApache HTTP Server

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)

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

I use nginx because its more flexible and easy to configure

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Christian Cwienk
Software Developer at SAP · | 1 upvotes · 624.5K views
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 NGINX
Pros of PHP-FPM
  • 1.4K
    High-performance http server
  • 893
  • 730
    Easy to configure
  • 607
    Open source
  • 530
    Load balancer
  • 288
  • 288
  • 225
    Web server
  • 175
  • 136
    Easy setup
  • 30
    Content caching
  • 21
    Web Accelerator
  • 15
  • 14
  • 12
  • 12
  • 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
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
    Fast and easy to set up
  • 2
  • 2
  • 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 NGINX
    Cons of PHP-FPM
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      Advanced features require subscription
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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 PHP-FPM?

      It is an alternative PHP FastCGI implementation with some additional features useful for sites of any size, especially busier sites. It includes Adaptive process spawning, Advanced process management with graceful stop/start, Emergency restart in case of accidental opcode cache destruction etc.

      Need advice about which tool to choose?Ask the StackShare community!

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      What companies use PHP-FPM?
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      What tools integrate with NGINX?
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        What are some alternatives to NGINX and PHP-FPM?
        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 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.
        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 2 is a powerful, enterprise-ready, open source web server with automatic HTTPS written in Go.
        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.
        See all alternatives