Envoy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons)

Envoy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons). Today’s world has moved to cloud based and microservices solutions. Next point to consider is the movement of a network traffic. Therefore we need to think of the load balancers. There has to be a consideration of the features, usability and performance levels. In this article, we introduce and explore the main differences between Envoy and Nginx to help you decide which tool best suits your needs.

The comparison of the two popular proxy servers is about Envoy vs Nginx. Both tools are used to redirect network traffic between applications and also to distribute the load. All in all, Envoy and Nginx also offer many additional features, such as support for HTTP/2, gRPC or WebSocket protocols. One one side, Envoy was developed by Lyft and is a newer solution, currently being developed by the open source community. While Nginx, on the other hand, is one of the most popular proxy servers and web servers in the world. 

Let’s start this article blog Envoy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons)

What is Envoy?

Envoy is a high performance open source proxy designed for microservice architectures. Originally developed by Lyft but now maintained by the open source community. Designed as a universal data plane providing for example service discovery, traffic control, load balancing, and observability.

Additionally, Envoy is designed to be extensible and is configured with a simple JSON or YAML configuration file. Also has a rich set of APIs to integrate with various infrastructure components and tools.

Features of Envoy

Envoy Proxy provides a variety of features that are widely used in modern network applications. Some of the key features are:

Traffic management

  • Precise control over traffic routing an implements various traffic control policies such as rate limiting, circuit blocking and retry logic.


  • Provides detailed metrics, logs, and trace information that are used to monitor and debug network traffic. Supports various telemetry protocols such as StatsD, Prometheus and OpenTracing.

Load balancing

  • Traffic is distributed among service instances using various algorithms, such as round robin, least connections, and random selection. What is more, it also supports advanced load balancing features such as weighted routing and canary distribution.

Service discovery

  • Envoy Proxy discovers services running in various environments including Kubernetes, Mesos, and Consul. It provides dynamic load balancing and traffic routing to service instances.


  • Designed to be highly extensible and is customized using various plugins and filters. Moreover, supports dynamic customization using APIs and service meshes.

Popularity of use

Pros of Envoy

  • Designed to work well in modern cloud native architectures, a popular choice for organisations that use containers and microservices.
  • With network layer L3/L4/ L7 it functions like a timeout, load balancer, circuit breakers and is easily configurable from one central location.
  • More of advanced load balancing features, such as dynamic service discovery, automatic health checks, and clever routing.
  • The configuration API it has allows users to customise and tailor the behaviour to specific requirements.
  • Extensible with plug in architecture for adding new features.

Cons of Envoy

  •  Envoy Proxy requires constant maintenance and updates in order to work efficiently. 
  • Documentation for Envoy proxy is difficult and lacking some data. 
  • Envoy proxies are resource intensive, especially when running in resource constrained containerized environments.
  • Steep learning curve required.

What is Nginx?

Nginx otherwise (pronounced engine x) is a very popular open source software for running various web servers. But also used as a reverse proxy, load balancer and HTTP cache. Developed by Igor Sysoev in 2002, and known for its high performance, stability and scalability.

What is also worth mentioning is that Nginx is often used before other web servers such as Apache to improve site performance and handle heavy traffic. Additionally, it is applied in serving static content, managing SSL/TLS encryption and acting as a reverse proxy for other applications.

Features of Nginx

Thus, the main features our Nginx is surrounded by are:

Load balancing

  • Distributes incoming traffic across multiple servers to improve performance and avoid congestion.

SSL/TLS support

  • SSL/TLS support: Nginx supports SSL/TLS encryption, providing a secure connection between clients and servers.

HTTP/2 support

  • Supports the latest HTTP/2 protocol which enhances website performance by reduction of latency and enabling multiplexing.

Reverse proxy

  • Used as a reverse proxy, redirecting client requests to other servers and caching content to improve performance.

Easy configuration

  • Easily installable and configurable. Uses a simple configuration language that easily to reads and modifies.


  • WebSockets in Nginx allow two way, real time communication between clients and servers over a single TCP connection. Well, the WebSockets enable real time data transfer, useful for applications like chat, gaming and financial trading.

Popularity of use

Pros of Nginx

  • Limiting the number of simultaneous connections or requests coming from one address.
  • Low memory footprint, high performance, low maintenance.
  • Open source and easy accessibility for larger audience.
  • Supporting Lua, Js, etc scripting. 
  • Handles HTTP connections proficiently. 
  • Nginx ensures the information and resources are  ready and secure.
  • Great at serving static content.
  • Low resource usage with low overhead.

Cons of Nginx

  • Less community support compared to Apache.
  • Less extensive list of modules compared to Apache.
  • A user friendly UI console.
  • Low diversity and extension of modules.
  • Hard to implement.

Envoy vs Nginx –Comparison of the Differences

Although, both are widely used as proxies and load balancers, there are some important differences between the two that affect which one is best for your particular use case. The main differences are:

Service Discovery

Firstly, Envoy has built in support for service discovery protocols like Consul, etcd, and ZooKeeper, which allows it to automatically discover and load balance traffic across services. This means that Envoy updates its routing rules dynamically as services are added or removed, which helps to ensure that traffic is always directed to healthy instances.

Secondly, here Nginx requires the use of third party modules or plugins to support service discovery. For example, nginx plus module integrates with Consul, etcd, and other service discovery tools to enable dynamic routing. However, this requires additional setup and customization which is more complicated than using Envoy’s built in support.


Performance of Envoy is known for its low latency and high scalability, with a layered, modular architecture that scales components independently. Also uses asynchronous I/O and event driven programming to minimize network connection overhead, making it highly efficient when handling large amounts of traffic.

With Nginx it is also designed for high performance, but its monolithic design makes individual components difficult to scale. Uses different architecture optimized for handling HTTP requests and is known to handle SSL/TLS traffic efficiently.


Configuration of Envoy’s is based on a declarative model, which means that the user specifies what they want the system to do, and the system automatically figures out how to do it. In contrast, Nginx uses an imperative configuration model, which means that the user has to specify exactly how the system should behave in each situation.


There is a  fast growing and passionate community that is actively investing in the project. The Envoy community is all about being an open project management model encouraging an active participation from contributors. The Envoy community is varied and includes individuals and organizations from a variety of industries. 

Importantly, Nginx has a well established and mature community as it has been growing for over a decade. Moreover, Nginx community is primarily focused on the Nginx web server and includes individuals and organizations from a variety of industries and sectors, including technology, media, and ecommerce. Also Nginx community resources include mailing lists, user forums, and an active GitHub repository.


Extensibility with Envoy is highly modular and extensible. There is a powerful filter chain architecture that allows developers to add custom logic to proxies at various stages of request/response processing. Envoy provides a variety of filters that are combined and configured to implement different features such as line breaking or authentication, etc.

But the nginx extensibility also enjoys a modular architecture that can be customized using modules that are compiled into Nginx binaries.  There is a wide range of modules for common functions such as HTTP, SSL, reverse proxy,  with Nginx. Developers also create their own custom modules to extend Nginx functionality.


Lastly, Envoy is often used as a sidecar proxy in modern microservices architectures, where it is deployed alongside each service instance. Oppositely, Nginx is typically used as a reverse proxy, load balancer, or web server in traditional web applications. However, both can be deployed in a variety of ways to meet different requirements.

Thank you for reading Envoy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference ? We shall conclude now. 

Envoy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference ? Conclusion

So, to summarize Envoy is not owned by any commercial company. Also important features observed are gRPC support and shadowing. Not to mention rate limiting, or canary routing. On the other side with Nginx is ideal in serving static files,  little resource consumption and caching (includes thundering herd protection).

Regardless of which proxy is chosen, proper configuration and deployment are a must for best performance and security. It is important to consider factors like traffic volume, network architecture, and security requirements when choosing a proxy, as well as to follow best practices for configuration and deployment.

Overall, Envoy and Nginx are both excellent choices for implementing a reliable and performant proxy in modern distributed systems. By understanding the differences between them, developers can choose the right tool for the job and build robust, scalable, and secure systems.

Please see more of our NGINX content in our blog over here

Avatar for Kamil Wisniowski
Kamil Wisniowski

I love technology. I have been working with Cloud and Security technology for 5 years. I love writing about new IT tools.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x