WTF is OpenResty? The world's fifth-most-used Web server, that's what!

Tumblr switches to nginx superset maintained by CloudFlare and Taobao folk

OpenResty Logo
The very low key OpenResty Logo

Netcraft's September survey of the world's most prevalent web servers turned up something interesting: a dip for all major servers but a sudden spike for OpenResty.

Open what?

OpenResty is a superset of the nginx web server, but bundled with LuaJIT, a just-in-time compiler for the Lua scripting language. We've not covered Lua extensively: long story short it is has a reputation for speed, makes very modest demands on systems and is therefore often used in embedded applications.

Of late Lua has also been used in web applications.

OpenResty therefore includes “many carefully written Lua libraries, lots of high quality 3rd-party Nginx modules, and most of their external dependencies.” It's been designed “to help developers easily build scalable web applications, web services, and dynamic web gateways.”

Netcraft says OpenResty was used on about 240,000 domains in August, then jumped to over 400,000 in September as tumblr.com moved to the server.Tumblr now accounts for 87 per cent of all OpenResty sites. But it's not just tumblr that like the server, as Netcraft says “More than 10,000 of the top million sites are now using OpenResty.”

Netcraft says the server appeals for the following reasons.

“Switching from nginx to OpenResty is not such a paradigm shift as moving to, say, Apache or Microsoft IIS. The OpenResty web application platform is built around the standard nginx core, which offers some familiarity, as well as allowing the use of third-party nginx modules. One of the key additional features provided by OpenResty is the integration of the LuaJIT compiler and many Lua libraries – this gives scope for high performance web applications to be run completely within the bundled nginx server, where developers can take advantage of non-blocking I/O."

What Netcraft doesn't mention is that OpenResty was first sponsored by Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao.com and has been supported by content delivery network and DDOS-buster CloudFlare.

So OpenResty clearly has support from people who need to scale web applications.

It's hard to see Tumblr's move to the project as anything other than further endorsement OpenResty is good gear, so it would not surprise The Register if interest in the bundle grows quickly.

Elsewhere in web-server land, Netcraft found Microsoft's IIS has edged ahead of Apache in terms of site market share of all web sites, with 34 per cent to Apache's 33 per cent. When Netcraft looked at active sites Apache has a 46 per cent market share, well ahead of nginx's 19 per cent and IIS' ten points.

Apache and nginx remain dominant on busy web sites, with the former accounting for 43 per cent of the world's busiest million sites and nginx owning 28 per cent.

Netcraft's data is here. ®

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