Go, Nginx, and TLS Termination




With the advent of Let’s Encrypt, it’s now easier than ever before to ensure all of your web applications and services are behind HTTPS. However, many times it’s hard to realize the performance impact and overhead of using HTTPS on your applications. Should you terminate in Nginx? Go? Stunnel? ELBs?

Luckily, it’s fairly easy to find out with a simple benchmark. We’ll put a Hello World server, written in Go, behind Nginx, set up as a TLS-terminating reverse proxy, and compare that to the native http.ListenAndServeTLS.

I set up a very small test case for this, (find it here) to compare the two. Looking at Nginx 1.10.2 w/ OpenSSL 1.0.2j vs Go 1.7.3, the quick (and not very scientific) benchmark using Vegeta shows us the following

Nginx (reverse proxy to Go)

fortytw2@fortytw2 ~ % echo "GET https://localhost:8081/" | vegeta attack -duration=30s -insecure | tee results.bin | vegeta report


Requests      [total, rate]            1500, 50.03
Duration      [total, attack, wait]    29.98051442s, 29.979999935s, 514.485µs
Latencies     [mean, 50, 95, 99, max]  682.338µs, 686.243µs, 751.002µs, 1.677588ms, 18.316751ms
Bytes In      [total, mean]            18000, 12.00
Bytes Out     [total, mean]            0, 0.00
Success       [ratio]                  100.00%
Status Codes  [code:count]             200:1500
Error Set:

Go (http.ListenAndServeTLS)

fortytw2@fortytw2 ~ % echo "GET https://localhost:8080/" | vegeta attack -duration=30s -insecure | tee results.bin | vegeta report


Requests      [total, rate]            1500, 50.03
Duration      [total, attack, wait]    29.980323182s, 29.979999924s, 323.258µs
Latencies     [mean, 50, 95, 99, max]  491.133µs, 434.315µs, 735.471µs, 1.18063ms, 19.708664ms
Bytes In      [total, mean]            18000, 12.00
Bytes Out     [total, mean]            0, 0.00
Success       [ratio]                  100.00%
Status Codes  [code:count]             200:1500
Error Set:

Admittedly, this is a fairly unfair benchmark, as the Nginx benchmark has the overhead of reverse proxying in it. However, this is fair, as we care most about “real world” numbers, not arbitrary TLS termination benchmarks, as you can’t exactly terminate TLS in Nginx and then use it for anything if there’s no proxying going on (in most cases).

It’s very nice to see Go have lower non-tail latencies, as the last time I ran a benchmark like this (Go 1.2ish era) Go was rather far behind Nginx, even with the reverse proxy overhead. In conclusion, it’s probably no longer worth it to just run Nginx in front of your Go app to terminate TLS and proxy to Go, as Go is perfectly capable of doing so performantly (and has an awesome variety of easy to use Let’s Encrypt clients, which Nginx still lacks native support for).

If you have ideas to improve this benchmark (or if I did something horribly wrong…) find me anywhere as fortytw2 :)

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