Business Management

Nginx CEO is prepped for expansion and further growth

Gus Robertson, CEO of Nginx, is a likable individual with a slight, but unmistakeable, Australian accent when I meet him for a chat at the OpenStack Summit in Boston. Nginx is one of the highly successful new wave of open source organisations and it offers advanced internet infrastructure software to help companies match the demand for faster web experiences.

Robertson became CEO in 2011 and has driven the incredible growth of the company since the first commercial product was launched in 2013.


An incredible growth story…

In April, W3Techs – which provides live usage stats on the different types of technologies on the web – reported that Nginx had reached 33.3% of web server market share while Apache fell below 50%. This makes it the fastest growing web server and second most popular one, used by the largest websites such as massive high growth businesses like Netflix.

The secret to this is event driven architecture – which overcomes the limitations of Apache – and can rapidly improve efficiency. Robertson explains the company is also focused on keeping the software lightweight with fewer lines of “elegant” code.

Balancing the open source community with commercial imperatives…

The initial solution was created by Igor Sysoev in 2004 and the first commercial product was released just shy of a decade later. “There is always a dual functionality [between open source and commercial],” says Robertson who is conscious he has to deliver on his promise to the business.

At present 70% of engineering work is in open source, he explains. And he has “put a clear line in the sand” about what will not be compromised upon. “The proof is that the numbers have grown since we launched the [commercial] product,” he says.

“Half the people who come to our booth come to shake our hand,” adds Robertson because they couldn’t run their business without Nginx. “It feels good to be contributing to the world.”

Igor Sysoev’s role in the company…

Sysoev is CTO at Nginx and Robertson explains he is the “R&D guy” and he is always looking forward. He is currently working on a new product that will be announced at Nginx’s big conference in Portland, Oregon in September. Some of Sysoev’s yet to be announced advancements are already silently being fed into the back end of the system, Robertson explains.

The next wave of expansion…

Nginx just opened an office in Ireland – to cover Europe - and has had a big increase in staff up from 100 people at the end of last year to 150 people. “This is a hot market for us.”

It raised $8M in funding from Telstra a year ago and is also looking to expand into Asia. “It is a little harder in Asia,” explains Robertson who is reluctant to share any details as all announcements will be made at the September conference. The same is true of the December Zokets acquisition.

The wider industry trends…

“Customers don’t want lock in with any vendor or architecture,” says Robertson. “They want to be able to run an application on anything.”

He says he is seeing more microservice architecture – where software applications are developed as a suite of modular services which each runs its own unique process. This allows companies like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon to split the burden of data processing for huge data requests. And provides a better user experience, agility, scalability and freedom of programming language, says Roberson. This can result in a “true polyglot environment”. 

Recent analysis of the UK IT skills market by Rackspace, showed that the demand for microservices skills rose by 133% over the last year.


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