Being the Old One

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Thursday, April 23. 2015 in ASF

This may come off as "sour grapes", or being defensive, but that's not that case. Instead, it's to show how, even now, when we should know better, technological decisions are sometimes still based on FUD or misinformation, and sometimes even due to "viral" marketing. Instead of making a choice based on "what is best for us", decisions are being made on "what is everybody else doing" or, even worse, "what's the new hotness." Sometimes, being the Old One ain't easy, since you are seen as past your prime.

Yeah, right.

Last week, I presented at ApacheCon NA 2015, and one of my sessions was "What's New In Apache httpd 2.4." The title itself was somewhat ironic, since 2.4 has been out for a coupla years already. But in the presentation, I address this up front: the reason why the talk was (and is) still needed is that people aren't even looking at httpd anymore. And they really should be.

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't about "market share" or anything as trivial as that. Although we want as many people to use Apache projects as possible, we are much more focused about creating quality software, and not so much about being a "leader" in that software space. And we are well aware that there are use cases where httpd is not applicable, or the best solution, and that's great too.

First of all, there is still this persistent claim that httpd is slow... of course, part of the question is "slow how?" If you are concerned about request/response time, then httpd allows you to optimize for that, and provides the Prefork MPM. Sure, this MPM is more heavyweight, but it also provides the lowest latency and fastest transaction times possible. If instead you are concerned about concurrency, then the Event MPM is for you. The Event MPM in 2.4 has performance equal to other performance-focused Web Servers, such as Apache Traffic Server and NGINX. Even so, whenever you hear people talk about httpd, the first thing they will say is that "Apache is slow, where-as 'foo' was built for speed."

There is also the claim that httpd is too feature-full (or bloated)... Well, I guess we could say "guilty as charged." One of the design goals of httpd is to be a performant, general web-server. So it includes lots of features that one would want, or need, at the web-server layer. So yes, it includes caching, and proxy capability, and in-line content filtering, and authentication/authorization, and TLS/SSL (frontend and reverse-proxy), and in-server language support, etc... But if you don't need any of these capabilities, you simply don't load the modules in; the module design allows you to pick and choose what capabilities you do, or don't want, which means that your httpd instance is specific to your needs. If you want a web-server with all the bells and whistles, great. But if you want just a barebones, fast reverse proxy, you can have that too. Of course, I won't go into the irony of httpd being "blasted" for being bloated, while the hotness-of-the-day is praised for adding features that httpd has had for years. *grin*

Finally, we get to the main point: That Apache httpd is old, after all, we just celebrated our 20th anniversary; httpd is "old and busted", Foo is "new hotness"(*). Well, again, guilty as charged. The Apache httpd project is old, but httpd itself isn't. It is designed for the needs of today's, and tomorrow's, web: Async/event-driven design (if required), dynamic reverse-proxying with advanced load-balancing (and end-to-end TLS/SSL support), run-time dynamic configuration, LUA support (module development and runtime), etc...

You know what else is old? Linux.

Makes you think, huh?

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