NGINX might be best known for its high-performance web server, but there’s a lot more to the company. It’s been slowly rolling out a series of tools that wrap around its open source core, adding tools that deliver and manage web applications at scale and, in the process, help companies move along the path toward the DevOps model.
Focusing on modern application development scenarios, NGINX’s Application Platform builds on its NGINX Plus server. NGINX Application Platform is intended to support developers and organizations wanting to operate and manage microservice-based applications, with tooling for handling application load-balancers, firewalls and gateways. In the past, you needed to configure each feature separately, via GUIs or command lines. Now that modern applications need to operate dynamically--automatically scaling up and down, across clouds--that model is no longer valid.
The latest piece of the puzzle has now entered general availability, with the launch of what NGINX is describing as “as mission control for your critical applications” in the shape of NGINX Controller. With support for GUI-driven basic site and application management, and with deep automation tooling for mature DevOps teams, the NGINX Controller brings all the control tooling for NGINX Plus into one place, no matter where your servers are running or how they’re being deployed. It’s a tool that Sidney Rabsatt, VP of Product Management at NGINX, says “ties a nice bow around all the things we do.”
No matter the scale, NGINX Controller works across a small cluster in your data center, or on virtual servers on AWS, and in a fleet of containers being managed by Kubernetes on Azure. You don’t need to change any configuration on your servers to use Controller; it can be installed seamlessly.
Like most management tooling, Controller provides operators with a single pane of glass from which they can monitor and manage their servers, with monitoring and alerts delivered to a central console. There, admins can quickly respond to changes in application health. Controller displays key performance metrics, as well as server errors, enabling a quick overview of application and service performance. Pre-emptive recommendations from a built-in configuration analyzer bring in best practices from across NGINX’s customer base, handling configuration and security. Other options include wizard-driven configuration and deployment, including central handling of SSL and tools for building and deploying policies across all your servers.
Controller isn’t only a GUI; it’s also a set of APIs that can be scripted and integrated with the rest of your DevOps toolchain. Configuration information can be stored in tools like Puppet or Chef, and deployed along with application code from a continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline. New configurations can be made part of an application description and delivered with each new build.
By providing tools for both traditional operations and the modern DevOps model, NGINX intends for businesses to use Controller as part of a migration between operations models: Administrators with older skill sets will still get access to all the features of the platform, at the same time as they begin to implement automation. "We’re playing in both areas--we make modern ways of working accessible to the enterprise, and we’re bringing new capabilities to existing DevOps teams,” said Rabsatt.
A key Controller feature is support for multi-cloud deployments, which enables companies to build and deploy microservice-based applications across multiple private and public clouds, improving reliability and reducing the risk associated with service outages. With a single control panel admins can monitor operations across all deployment targets, and using NGINX Plus’ built-in load balancer they can manage performance across all geographies. An application health score aggregates data from across your application instances, providing an instant health check on servers and code.
With NGINX Plus at the heart of many digital transformation programs, it’s clear that the company sees the DevOps model as an essential part of the process. “It’s a transition for skills, talent, and investment," says Rabsatt. "It’s part of what makes businesses successful, and this approach is as much a business decision as technical.”
With more than 1 million pulls of the NGINX image from Docker Hub, it’s certainly a transition many companies are making.