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

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

HAProxy and Nginx server are a few services that are used by most high profile companies to conduct load balancing. Nginx is a web server but also acts as a load balancer and plays a key role in improving performance. Before comparing the two popular load balancers, let us discuss the need for a load balancer and its available options.

We will point out the differences between HAProxy and Nginx with their own respective features, pros and cons.

What is Load balancing

Load balancing is the distribution of incoming network traffic and data resources across different servers. Today, each website receives thousands of concurrent requests from different users and clients in a fast and reliable manner. To scale this high volume traffic and lighten the load of requests across servers, the load balancing technique is used.

In load balancing the requests are distributed among different servers, instead of going to a particular server. It saves you from overloading the server or slowing its speed. With the help of load balancing all the workload is distributed equally and different components can run queries faster. As a result, the performance of your website/application improves.

Round Robin, IP Hash and Least Connections are the 3 popular load balancing techniques. You can choose the technique depending on your requirement. 

Follow this post below to learn HAProxy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference?

What is HAProxy

HAProxy stands for High Availability Proxy which is an open source software written in C. HAProxy is a high performance, free and open source software used by developers to improve website/application performance. It supports load balancing capabilities that help distribute workloads and result in performance improvements, such as reduced response times and increased throughput.

It also provides reverse proxy for TCP and HTTP based applications to send requests across various servers. HAProxy is considered to be scalable and secure software with various advanced features that limit the attack surface. Also, the software is best suitable for a platform with high traffic services (Twitter, GitHub, Instagram). Furthermore, it is compatible with platforms like Linux, macOS and FreeBSD.

Features of HAProxy

  • URL rewriting.
  • PROXY Protocol support.
  • Gzip compression.
  • Supports caching.
  • API Support.
  • SPOE Support.
  • gRPC Support.
  • Offers advanced debugging and tracing features.
  • Detailed logging.
  • Multithreading.
  • CLI for server management.
  • Supports HTTP authentication.
  • Dynamic SSL certificate storage.
  • Offers Transparent proxying.
  • SSL/TLS termination.
  • Load balancing Layer 4 (TCP) and Layer 7 (HTTP).
  • Rate limiting.
  • Supports protocol for gRPC, FastCGI, HTTP, HTTP/2.

Pros of HAProxy

  • HAProxy supports virtual hosts and multiple network segments (layers 4 and 7).
  • It has a more detailed and user friendly status page compared to Nginx.
  • Easy integration with third party monitoring tools and services.
  • Supports Session retention and Cookie guidance.
  • The software has a better load balancing speed.

Cons of HAProxy

  • Does not offer web server capabilities.
  • HAProxy does not support POP/SMTP protocol and SPDY protocol.
  • It also does not support the HTTP cache function.
  • Support for Multi process mode is not good enough.

What is Nginx

NGINX is open source software designed as a web server to deliver maximum performance and stability. It comprises HTTP server capabilities and functions as a proxy server for email, reverse proxy and load balancer for specific servers.

NGINX server  is one of the fastest web servers beating Apache web server and other servers. It supports gRPC, WebSocket, HTTP/2 and streaming of video formats including HLS, HDS, RTMP, etc. Another feature of NGINX is it has a scalable underlying architecture and the ability to handle a high volume of connections and incoming traffic.

 Currently, it is used by some of the top known websites such as Netflix, DuckDuckGo, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Zynga, Atlassian, Intuit, T Mobile, Dropbox, etc.

Features of Nginx

  • Reverse proxy with caching.
  • FastCGI support with caching.
  • IPv6 support.
  • Load balancing.
  • Supports WebSockets.
  • Manages static files, index files and auto indexing.
  • Handle 10,000 simultaneous connections.
  • OCSP stapling support.
  • gRPC support.
  • TLS/SSL support.
  • A single entry point for users.
  • Supports A/B testing features.
  • Supports standard HTTP log format.
  • Health check features.

Pros of Nginx

  • NGINX has a more consistent written code base.
  • It supports a friendly configuration format.
  • With NGINX, one can handle multiple connections without having overhead as it supports context switching.
  • The web server involves less memory and resources.
  • It helps the website perform faster.
  • Supports various web applications like ruby, python, Joomla, etc.
  • Easily switch from dynamic content to static content with the help of Nginx.
  • Allows handling multiple concurrent connections at the same time.
  • Less dependent on network stability.
  • Simple installation and configuration features
  • NGINX is a stable web server and can high load pressure
  • Allows detection of the internal failure using the port features.

Cons of Nginx

  • NGINX has small community support in comparison to the Apache webserver.
  • Fewer modules and extensions compared to other web servers like Apache.
  • It only supports HTTP, HTTPS and Email protocols.
  • The back end server health check process covers only port detection and not URL detection.
  • Lacks Nginx’s Session and Cookie’s guiding ability.

HAProxy vs Nginx - Key Differences

Both HAProxy and Nginx are highly advantageous and offer a wide range of features. HAProxy is also considered to be one of the highly scalable and secure software, whereas Nginx is termed as one of the fastest web servers available in the market. Here we have compared based on a few parameters. Kindly have a look!

Point of Difference HAProxy NGINX
Stands for
High Availability Proxy
Load Balancer / Reverse Proxy
Web Server that acts as a load balancer
HAProxy is open-source software that supports load-balancing capabilities and focuses on improving performance.
NGINX is an open-source web server that comprises HTTP server capabilities and focuses on delivering stability and better performance results.
HAProxy got released in 2006
NGINX got released in October 2004
Key Factors
Load balancer, High performance, Reverse Proxy, very fast
A high-performance HTTP server, a proxy server for email, reverse proxy, and easy to configure
Flexible on health checks and failover situations
Flexible on caching
Status Page
The software maintains a detailed status page to keep track of active requests and servers status
The web server maintains no status page
Exportable metrics
Supports exportable metrics for integrating with monitoring solutions like Datadog, Prometheus, etc.
NGINX does not support exportable metrics (paid edition only)
At the time of HAProxy’s implementation, the processes do not share any memory that affects the configuration parameters and session persistence is not possible.
At the time of NGINX implementation, the processes do share memory.
HAProxy community velocity didn't seem very high.
In comparison with HAProxy, the webserver has a more forward velocity.
Protocol Support
Proxy protocol support for gRPC, FastCGI, HTTP, HTTP/2
NGINX supports HTTP, HTTPS, and Email protocols only.
Ranking as per Application Delivery Controllers (ADC)
HAProxy ranks in 8th position in Application Delivery Controllers (ADC)
NGINX ranks in 6th position in Application Delivery Controllers (ADC)
High-Profile Companies
Twitter, GitHub, Instagram, Yelp, Imgur, Reddit, Vimeo, StackOverflow, Tumblr, etc.
MuleSoft, Warpwire, Discovery Education, Gogo, Netflix, DuckDuckGo, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Zynga, Atlassian, Intuit, T-Mobile, Dropbox, etc.

Great work! You have learned about HAProxy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference!

HAProxy vs Nginx – What’s the Difference? Conclusion

Choosing one between HAProxy and NGINX is difficult as both are highly beneficial and can improve your performance. If you are familiar with Nginx, you might find it simple to use its load balancing feature. Also, it involves less overhead cost for setup. Another advantage of investing in Nginx is it can be used for other things like running dynamic apps and serving static files, which are not possible with HAProxy.

NGINX is open source software and one of the fastest web servers beating Apache and more. You can handle a high volume of connections and incoming traffic via Nginx.

HAProxy, on the other hand, is a free, open source software used by many large companies for improving website performance. Its excellent load balancing capabilities and advanced features, such as URL rewriting, API Support, caching, HTTP authentication, Load balancing Layer, rate limiting, etc., and assist in reducing response times and has increased throughput.

If you are looking for a load balancer that offers more information by default, it is best to stick with Nginx. As a third option, you can invest in both Nginx and HAProxy together to get better results. Follow the above listed points of difference to compare HAProxy and NGINX and make a final decision.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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