Nginx is a fast open source web server and reverse proxy server. Nginx recently surpassed Apache as the most popular web server among the top 1000 web sites.

You can yum install Nginx from software repositories with just a few simple commands but on a production server it's better to compile and install from source for a number of reasons.

  • Software repositories are often out of date and might not have the latest greatest version of Nginx.

  • If you want to run an HTTPS server then you'll need to build with the http_ssl_module.

  • At some point you'll most likely need to do some fancy URL routing which requires the pcre module to match routes via regular expressions.

  • You might want to include some 3rd party modules such as Google PageSpeed or the GeoIP module.

  • Building from source usually gives you better optimization for your specific hardware environment.

  • Other security reasons beyond the scope of this tutorial.

For this tutorial I'm assuming you've already launched an AWS EC2 instance using the latest Amazon Linux AMI and can SSH into the instance.

SSH into the instance.
$ ssh

Update the server.
$ sudo yum -y update

Install some necessary packages.
$ sudo yum install -y pcre-devel zlib-devel openssl-devel gcc gcc-c++ make

Let's use /tmp as the working directory for our downloads and installation.
$ cd /tmp

Visit the Nginx web site to find the latest stable version.

Download Nginx

At the time of this writing it's version 1.8.0. Replace with the current version in the commands below.

Download Nginx.
$ curl -O

Decompress and cleanup.
$ tar -xvf nginx-1.8.0.tar.gz

$ rm nginx-1.8.0.tar.gz

Configure, compile and install.
$ cd /tmp/nginx-1.8.0/

$ ./configure --with-http_ssl_module --with-pcre --with-http_spdy_module

$ make

$ sudo make install

Create an init script for easier management of Nginx.

$ sudo nano /etc/init.d/nginx

The command above opens the nano text editor with a blank document. Copy/Paste the text below into it.

# nginx - this script starts and stops the nginx daemon
# chkconfig:   - 85 15 
# description:  Nginx is an HTTP(S) server,
# HTTP(S) reverse proxy 
# and IMAP/POP3 proxy server
# processname: nginx
# config:      /usr/local/nginx/conf/nginx.conf
# pidfile:     /usr/local/nginx/logs/
# Source function library.
. /etc/rc.d/init.d/functions
# Source networking configuration.
. /etc/sysconfig/network
# Check that networking is up.
[ "$NETWORKING" = "no" ] && exit 0
prog=$(basename $nginx)
start() {
    [ -x $nginx ] || exit 5
    [ -f $NGINX_CONF_FILE ] || exit 6
    echo -n $"Starting $prog: "
    daemon $nginx -c $NGINX_CONF_FILE
    [ $retval -eq 0 ] && touch $lockfile
    return $retval
stop() {
    echo -n $"Stopping $prog: "
    killproc $prog -QUIT
    [ $retval -eq 0 ] && rm -f $lockfile
    return $retval
restart() {
    configtest || return $?
reload() {
    configtest || return $?
    echo -n $"Reloading $prog: "
    killproc $nginx -HUP
force_reload() {
configtest() {
  $nginx -t -c $NGINX_CONF_FILE
rh_status() {
    status $prog
rh_status_q() {
    rh_status >/dev/null 2>&1
case "$1" in
        rh_status_q && exit 0
        rh_status_q || exit 0
        rh_status_q || exit 7
        rh_status_q || exit 0
        echo $"Usage: $0 {start|stop|status|restart|condrestart|try-restart|reload|force-reload|configtest}"
        exit 2

Type ctrl+o to WriteOut the file to disk. Then crtl+x to exit the nano text editor.

The init file you created is a shell script, it needs to have executable permissions.

$ sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/nginx

Configure the server to automatically startup Nginx when the server restarts/reboots.

$ sudo /sbin/chkconfig nginx on

Startup Nginx and make sure it's working.
$ sudo service nginx start

Navigate to the public IP of your AWS instance and you should see...

Nginx Welcome Screen

If you don't see the welcome screen make sure you have port 80 open in the security group that your AWS instance is running in.

Some control commands:

$ sudo service nginx stop
$ sudo service nginx start
$ sudo service nginx restart
$ sudo service nginx reload