The Power of Rust in NGINX Module Development

NGINX is one of the most widely used web servers in the world, powering millions of websites and web applications. It’s known for its speed, reliability, and scalability, and is used by many companies to handle high volumes of traffic. But what happens when you want to extend NGINX with functionality that isn’t provided out of the box? That’s where NGINX modules come in.

Writing NGINX modules in Rust, a safe and efficient systems programming language, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Rust’s strong memory safety guarantees and performance make it an ideal choice for systems programming, and its popularity in the web development community has grown steadily. At ISAB, we’ve recently been exploring the use of Rust in NGINX module development, and we’ve learned a lot about the process.

In our experience, NGINX doesn’t provide much documentation on writing modules in languages other than C, so there was some work that needed to be done to figure out how to write an NGINX module in Rust. However, we made heavy use of parts of the code from the nginx-rs project, particularly around the handling of buffers and memory pools. With this groundwork, we were able to develop a full NGINX module in Rust.

While writing a full NGINX module in Rust is a long process and beyond the scope of this blog post, there are a few key bits that make the whole thing possible. One of the most important is the ability to get NGINX to talk to Rust. This is achieved through the use of the FFI, or foreign function interface, which allows code written in one language to call code written in another.

Another key aspect of Rust in NGINX module development is the ability to handle buffers and memory pools efficiently. In NGINX, memory allocation is handled through pools, which are blocks of memory that can be allocated and freed together. Rust’s ownership model and memory safety guarantees make it possible to work with these memory pools efficiently, while avoiding common issues such as memory leaks and buffer overflows.

In conclusion, the use of Rust in NGINX module development has many benefits, including improved memory safety and performance. While there is a learning curve involved in figuring out how to get NGINX to talk to Rust, the process is made easier by existing projects such as nginx-rs. As Rust continues to gain popularity in the web development community, we expect to see more and more NGINX modules written in Rust.