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What Is LiteSpeed?

console 2Back in the 1990s, when the Internet was just beginning to go mainstream, a group of software developers created a revolutionary program called Apache. Apache was one of the first (and still the most popular) web servers.  Put simply, when you visit a web site, your browser asks the web server for a copy of the page, and the web server delivers it.  And back in the mid-90s, Apache was great at what it did.

Fast forward a quarter century later, and Apache is showing its age.  The Internet isn’t the same as it was in 1995.  Simple text-only sites have given way to dynamic content-rich sites.  As more people discovered the Internet, websites got busier and the demand on web servers grew.  And as broadband connections got faster, slow web servers really started to stand out.  Although Apache did a pretty good job of adapting, some people started to wonder if they could do things better.

LiteSpeed logoThat’s where LiteSpeed comes in.  LiteSpeed is a modern event-driven web server that’s engineered from the ground up to power today’s web content.  Thanks to its modern and efficient codebase, LiteSpeed is up to five times faster than Apache.  It’s even up to 67% faster than nginx (another alternative web server).  And unlike nginx, LiteSpeed is fully compatible with all of Apache’s configuration files and modules.  In plain English, that means your website works without any configuration changes or recompiling.

To understand how this benefits your website, let’s consider two coffee shops that work with in two very different ways:

In the Apache coffee shop, you’d walk in, place your order, and then wait.  The barista would take your order, make your drink, collect your payment, hand you your change, print a receipt, and send you on your way.  This works well for a small shop with only a few customers.  But what if the shop gets busy?  You can add more baristas, but sooner or later you simply run out of space.  You’ll also have to add more cash registers, more coffee stations, more counterspace, and so on.  Next thing you know, barista #17 is helping customer #25 while barista #32 is explaining to customer #44 for the fifth time that there’s no such thing as a triple decaf soy mocha latte coffee-free.  Meanwhile, thanks to the limited space behind the counter, the ten baristas keep crashing into each other, spilling drinks and mixing up orders.  Some customers don’t get served, while others don’t get what they ordered.  And the few who do get their order had to wait an awfully long time to get it.

baristasBy comparison, LiteSpeed uses an event-driven architecture.  In the LiteSpeed coffee shop, you’d walk in and place your order with one barista, while another makes and serves your beverage of choice.  Simple, right?  When the shop gets busy, the line keeps moving because everyone has their routine down pat.  So when customer #44 is demanding that impossible beverage, he isn’t holding up the line, because the other baristas keep working independently.  Not coincidentally, is almost exactly how some very busy coffee shops run.  And this is very similar to how the two web servers work:

  • Apache creates a new thread (basically, a barista) to handle each request.  Creating a barista takes a lot of time and energy, which puts overhead on the server.  This is like getting a different employee every single time you go for a coffee run.
  • LiteSpeed uses the same baristas every time.  It’s like going to your favorite coffee shop, where your favorite barista knows your favorite drink and asks if you’ve heard the new (insert indie band here) track.

The end result?  Your website is faster, more efficient, and can handle a larger volume of traffic.  And you don’t have to worry about the “sticky variable” problems that you get with some front-end caches like Varnish.  And because LiteSpeed is fully Apache-compatible, there are no confusing reconfigurations or recompilations to get your apps to run — they just work out of the box!

The 90s were great, but some things are best left buried in that decade.  Don’t let your website be one of them.  See how much faster our LiteSpeed-powered servers can deliver your site.

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