Nginx goes beyond its server roots and launches its application platform

Nginx, in its commercial and open source forms, is one of the most popular load balancers, proxies, web and application servers on the internet today. But Nginx Inc, the company behind the project, wants to cast a wider net, especially now that the way developers are writing and deploying their applications is quickly changing. As the company announced at its developer conference in Portland today, it’s launching the Nginx Application Platform to give developers a one-stop platform for developing or modernizing their applications with DevOps, the cloud, containers and microservices in mind.

Unsurprisingly, the core of the platform is Nginx Plus, the company’s commercial version of Nginx that adds a number of enterprise features to the open source version. On top of that, though, the company is adding Nginx Controller and Nginx Unit. Controller provides a central management and control plane for applications (no matter where they are deployed) and Unit is a modern application server for applications written in PHP, Python and Go (with support for node.js, Java, Ruby Perl and others following soon), that run in dynamic environments. Later this year, Unit will be fully integrated into Controller, so ops teams can manage their Unit applications right from the Controller dashboard.

“The thinking behind Unit is that contemporary application servers aren’t well suited for microservices applications where different languages are used, for example,” Nginx head of product Owen Garrett told me.

The team sees Controller as the bridge between Nginx Plus and the traditional applications that people run on top of it and the modern green-field deployments that many enterprises are now investing in.

Controller will launch in closed beta for select customers in October. Unit is already available.

The existing Nginx Web Application Firewall rounds out the platform. Pricing for the full platform remains up in the air while Controller is still in closed beta.

It’s also worth noting that while Unit will be open source, Controller is a closed-source project. That follows Nginx’s long-standing tradition of keeping some of its commercial products closed-source. “We want to get wide adoption of Unit and to get that, we need to open source it,” Nginx CTO and co-founder Igor Sysoev told me. “We plan for Controller to be a commercial product.” The team tells me that it wanted to get Unit out as soon as possible to get feedback from the community to help it decide on the tool’s future directions.