NGINX Extends Microservices Ambitions to App Servers

At the nginx.conf 2017 event today NGINX revealed that, as part of its push to embrace microservices based on containers, the longtime provider of open-source load balancing and web server software is now also providing IT organizations with access to an open-source application server.

Owen Garrett, head of product for NGINX, says the latest version of the NGINIX Application Platform now includes an application server dubbed NGINIX Unit. Based on REST APIs, Garrett says the NGINIX app server initially will support applications written in PHP, Python or Go, with support for additional programming languages to follow.

In addition to launching NGINIX Unit, the company today unveiled NGINX Controller, which provides a centralized controller through which multiple instances of NGINX Plus web server and load balancing software now can be managed. At the same time, NGINIX updated NGINX Plus with the ability to employ it as a Kubernetes Ingress Controller to deploy applications within Kubernetes or on a Red Hat OpenShift platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment based Kubernetes.

NGINX also at the conference today demonstrated a service mesh capability through which organizations can set up policies to address what applications are permitted to access a specific back-end service, as well as an ability to set up a proxy engine that runs alongside public cloud services provided by Google.

Garrett says the rise of microservices creates an opportunity for NGINX to more easily expand its portfolio of open-source software into adjacent areas such as application servers. Existing application servers don’t lend themselves to supporting applications based on microservices. As such, there is a clear need for application servers that are designed from the ground up to meet the needs of microservices that tend to spin out and down quickly, Garrett says.

It’s too early to say to what degree microservices will transform back-end services. Many enterprise IT organizations are already moving entire legacy applications into a container so they can be accessed using a common set of APIs. Over time, many of those legacy monolithic applications will be rewritten as a suite of microservices that can be more easily consumed via REST APIs. While all those microservices should make the IT organization more agile, they also come with a lot more potential complexity as now there are many more moving microservices parts to be managed.

Of course, as it makes available an open-source application server, NGINX is also likely to encounter additional competitors. The NGINX Application Platform is intended to leverage the popularity of the company’s load balancing software to make it more enticing for IT organizations to standardize on web and application server software along with the NGINX Wen Application Firewall, all provided by a single vendor. It’s clear that NGINX is now employing the same strategy it used to usurped rival providers of load balancing software. By making its open-source offerings as frictionless as possible for developers to consume, the company is betting many organizations will use a lot more of its software than most senior IT managers will realize until long after the fact.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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