System Design

Reverse proxy (web server)

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Source: Wikipedia

A reverse proxy is a web server that centralizes internal services and provides unified interfaces to the public. Requests from clients are forwarded to a server that can fulfill it before the reverse proxy returns the server’s response to the client.

Additional benefits include:

  • Increased security – Hide information about backend servers, blacklist IPs, limit number of connections per client
  • Increased scalability and flexibility – Clients only see the reverse proxy’s IP, allowing you to scale servers or change their configuration
  • SSL termination – Decrypt incoming requests and encrypt server responses so backend servers do not have to perform these potentially expensive operations
  • Compression – Compress server responses
  • Caching – Return the response for cached requests
  • Static content – Serve static content directly
    • HTML/CSS/JS
    • Photos
    • Videos
    • Etc

Load balancer vs reverse proxy

  • Deploying a load balancer is useful when you have multiple servers. Often, load balancers route traffic to a set of servers serving the same function.
  • Reverse proxies can be useful even with just one web server or application server, opening up the benefits described in the previous section.
  • Solutions such as NGINX and HAProxy can support both layer 7 reverse proxying and load balancing.

Disadvantage(s): reverse proxy

  • Introducing a reverse proxy results in increased complexity.
  • A single reverse proxy is a single point of failure, configuring multiple reverse proxies (ie a failover) further increases complexity.

Source(s) and further reading

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