In the world of web servers, Apache stands head and shoulders above the rest, with roughly 19 million new hostnames selecting the software to run their web assets in February 2012 alone.
But, over the years this popular open-source web server has started donning a lot more clothes and accessories, that means it’s not as fast as some of its competitors who are being used in highly specialized ways.
This bloating affect was not lost on a young German PhD, Jan Kneschke, a student writing his thesis entitled Development of a handheld system to monitor and control CAN-busy systems in a non-automatic environment in 2003.
To keep himself from going nuts during the documentation of the related software and hardware, he read a proof-of-concept by Dan Kegel called the c10k problem which argued that web servers should step up to the plate and be able to handle 10,000 concurrent connections in parallel on one server.
Kegel said the rapid advances? in processing power and CPU suggested that popular web servers like Apache should not be degrading once the 10k threshold was met.? Apache, it seemed, was not light enough for the job.? Kneschke noted that Apache killed systems while eating memory into swap with only 100 parallel connections.
This spurred Kneschke to embark on building and slimming down a new web server built upon a single-thread, single-process core that uses native event handlers residing in? the underlying OS.
Within weeks he had succeeded with Lighttpd and gave it the monikerFly Light?. He noted his new server was faster than most, except perhaps another stable web server called Zeus.
Lighttpd soon evolved from proof-of-concept into a full-blown production web server that is now used by tech giants such as YouTube
In 2010 there were roughly 1.3 million domains using Lightppd. By 2011 this had increased to nearly 1.9 million.
Big sites like YouTube now use the light web server to help deliver content. Perhaps its most innovative use is by companies such as Avatron that built their highly popular file-sharing app called Air Sharing upon Lightppd.? The app generated over 1 million downloads during its first week of going live on the Apple app directory.
The low memory footprint, small CPU load and speed optimizations of Lighttpd help high-load sites reduce downtime and assist with quickly serving static content separately from dynamic content.
Just like MySQL is facing threats from other open source databases such as PostgreSQL, rivals such as Lightppd are chipping at Apache’s web server lead.
Could it be that the awesome might of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) model is about to be replaced by a new team of open source technologies?