Nginx* HTTPs with Intel® QAT Tuning Guide on 3rd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors

Published: 08/17/2021

Nginx* Introduction

Developed by Igor Sysoev, a Russian software engineer, Nginx* is a high-performance HTTP and reverse proxy web server based on a BSD-like license. It also provides IMAP/POP3/SMTP services in the meantime. Since the release of the first version in 2004, its market penetration rate has increased year by year, and it has been widely applied in many front-line Internet companies and IT enterprises. Nginx's architecture design is very flexible, with a very small and simple kernel containing core modules, basic modules, and tripartite modules. It collaborates with modules through file static mapping and configurable instructions, highlighting significant advantages of high performance, high concurrency, and low memory in various application scenarios such as HTTP proxy, static and dynamic separation, load balancing, virtual host, reverse proxy, cache acceleration, authorized access, and others.

nginx structure

For more information about Nginx, please visit:

Nginx uses SSL/TLS to enhance web access security. Intel has introduced the Crypto-NI software solution which is based on 3rd generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors (Codename Ice Lake/Whitley). It can effectively improve the security of web access.

Crypto-NI (NI stands for New Instruction) is a new instruction set in the field of encryption and decryption for 3rd generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors and it adds new instructions such as Vectorized AES and Integer Fused Multiply Add on the basis of the Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) that the Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors already has. The main software used in this solution are IPP Cryptography Library, Intel Multi-Buffer Crypto for IPsec Library (intel-ipsec-mb) and Intel® QuickAssist Technology (Intel® QAT), which provide batch submission of multiple SSL requests and parallel asynchronous processing mechanism based on the new instruction set, greatly improving the performance.

nginx software

For details on proprietary Intel® QAT hardware, please see:

Tested hardware and software environment for this tuning guide:

Server Configuration



Intel® Xeon® PLATINUM 8360Y CPU @ 2.20GHz


16*32 GB DDR4, 3200 MT/s

Hard Drive

Intel SSD S4610, 960G


Intel® Ethernet Controller XXV700 25GbE SFP28

Intel QAT card

Intel® QuickAssist Accelerator8970


Operating System

CentOS* 7.8




asynch_mode_nginx v0.4.4




Intel QAT driver

QAT v1.7L4.12.0. 00011


Intel QAT Engine for OpenSSL



  • The configuration described in this article is based on Intel® QuickAssist Accelerator hardware. Memory, hard drives, network interface cards can be determined according to customer usage requirements.
  • For the software listed in configuration, you can refer to oldest versions of each software supported are described on the page the link. The software versions listed in this article meet the above requirements and have been verified and tested.
  • Asynch_mode_nginx is an optimized version of Nginx, used by Intel to support Nginx hardware and software acceleration. It can be compiled directly after download. For related descriptions, please refer to the following link:
  • Intel QAT Engine for OpenSSL link:

BIOS Settings

The BIOS configuration items that can be optimized and their recommended values are as follows:

Configuration item

Recommended value



CPU C6 report


SpeedStep (Pstates)


Turbo Mode


PCIe Link Speed


Energy Efficient Turbo


Boot Performance Mode

Max Performance

Linux* Optimization

     1. Set the corresponding parameters for system startup


processor.max_cstates=1 idle=poll pcie_aspm=off

     2. Stop cpupower service

systemctl stop cpupower.service

     3. Disable the firewall

systemctl disable firewalld.service

     4. User process settings

ulimit -c unlimited #generate core dump

ulimit -n 1000000 #set the maximum number of file open handles

Intel® QuickAssist Accelerator installation and Settings

Intel® QuickAssist Accelerator is a PCIe card that needs to be inserted into the PCIe slot in the server at the start. Below is a picture of the Intel® QuickAssist Accelerator card.


After the card is installed, you need to go to the BIOS settings and set the PCIe link speed to Gen4 and X16 for highest possible performance.

You can use the following link to download the Intel® QuickAssist Accelerator driver, before you extract, configure and install it. In this article, /QAT is used as the installation directory for the driver:

$cd /

$mkdir QAT

Copy qat1.7.l.4.12.0-00011.tar.gz to the /QAT directory

$cd /QAT

$ar xvzf ./qat1.7.l.4.12.0-00011.tar.gz


$./make install

After the driver installation is completed, you will see at the command output that three QAT acceleration devices (qat_dev) are in the startup mode.

Next, use the following command to start the QAT service.

$service qat_service start

OpenSSL* and Intel QAT Engine for OpenSSL installation

    1. Download OpenSSL Source Code

$ cd /usr/local/src

$ wget


     2. Build and Install OpenSSL

$ tar xvzf openssl-1_1_1j.tar.gz

$ cd ./openssl-1_1_1_1i

$./config --prefix=/usr/local/ssl -Wl,-rpath, /usr/local/ssl/lib

#In this article, openssl is installed in /usr/local/ssl

$ make

$ make install

     3. Download Intel QAT Engine for OpenSSL Source Code

$ export OPENSSL_ENGINES=/usr/local/ssl/lib/engines-1.1

$ cd /usr/local/src

$ git clone

     4. Build and Install the Intel QAT Engine for OpenSSL

$ cd ./QAT_Engine


$./configure \

-- with-qat_dir=/QAT \

-- with-openssl_install_dir=/usr/local/ssl

$ make

$ make install

     5. Replace the QAT Service Configuration File.

To enable QAT Engine to work with the QAT service, it is also necessary to copy the instance configuration file in the QAT Engine directory to the /etc directory and replace the original QAT configuration file.

$ cd /usr/local/src/QAT_Engine/qat/config/c6xx/multi_process_event-driven_optimized

$ cp * /etc/ (before performing this operation, the original QAT configuration file can be renamed. For example, c6xx_dev0.conf can be renamed as c6xx_dev0.conf.bak)

After replacing the configuration file, restart the QAT_service to load the new configuration file:

$ service qat_service restart

Use OpenSSL to load QAT Engine:

/usr/local/ssl/bin/openssl engine -t -vvv qatengine

     6. Using the Openssl Speed Command

With the Openssl speed command, user can verify view and verify information before or after using the QAT Engine .

$/usr/local/ssl/bin/openssl speed rsa2048

$/usr/local/ssl/bin openssl speed -engine qatengine -async_jobs 8 rsa2048

Nginx Installation and Optimization Settings

Nginx Installation

     1. Complete the installation and configuration of Intel® QAT, OpenSSL and Intel® QATEngine for OpenSSL.

     2. Download Nginx source code

$ git clone


     3. Build and install Nginx

$ cd asynch_mode_nginx

$ export NGINX_INSTALL_DIR=<Nginx installation directory>

$ export OPENSSL_LIB=<SSL installation directory>

$./configure \


--with-http_ssl_module \

--add-dynamic-module=modules/nginx_qat_module \

--with-cc-opt="-DNGX_SECURE_MEM -I$OPENSSL_LIB/include -Wno-error=deprecated-declarations" \

--with-ld-opt="-Wl,-rpath=$OPENSSL_LIB/lib -L$OPENSSL_LIB/lib -lz"

$ make

$ make install

     4. Start Nginx services

After completing the Nginx settings, execute the $ ./sbin/nginx command in the Nginx installation directory to start the Nginx service.

Optimized Settings for Nginx

     1. Generate RSA self-signed certificate and key file.

$ openssl req -x509 -sha256 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout server.key -out server.crt -subj "/C=CN/ST=Beijing/L=Beijing/O=Example Inc./OU=Web Security/"

Create a new cert directory under the Nginx installation directory and copy server.crt and server.key to that directory.

     2. Key Nginx configuration. Set the following parameters in the nginx.conf file:

  • Set the number of worker processes and event mode


worker_processes <number of worker processes>; #It is recommended to have the same number of worker processes as the number of CPU cores in server

events {

use epoll; #epoll is an enhanced version of select/poll, and it improves the processing of a large number of file descriptors



  • Load and set up the SSL Engine module
load_module modules/;

ssl_engine {

use_engine qatengine;

default_algorithms ALL;

qat_engine {

qat_offload_mode async;

qat_notify_mode poll;

qat_poll_mode heuristic;

qat_shutting_down_release off;


  • Set HTTPS Server
server {

Listen 443 ssl reuseport so_keepalive=on... ; #if you want to verify the SSL handshake performance, then set it to off.

sendfile on;

Server_name; #consistent with certificate CN

ssl_asynch on;

ssl_session_tickets on; #set it to off, if you want to verify the SSL handshake performance

ssl_certificate <Nginx installation directory>/cert/server.crt;

ssl_certificate_key <Nginx installation directory>/cert/server.key;

ssl_ciphers AES256-SHA:AES128-SHA;

#You can set other cipher suites according to customer needs, to verify the performance of different authentication, encryption and decryption protocols

ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;



     3. A complete sample configuration of nginx.conf, which is suitable for RSA2K handshake performance test:

user root;

worker_processes 8;

load_module modules/;

events {

use epoll;

worker_connections 8192;

multi_accept on;

accept_mutex on;


ssl_engine {

use_engine qatengine;

default_algorithms ALL;

qat_engine {

qat_offload_mode async;

qat_notify_mode poll;

qat_poll_mode heuristic;

qat_shutting_down_release off;



http {

server {

listen example:443 ssl reuseport backlog=131072 so_keepalive=off rcvbuf=65536 sndbuf=65536;

keepalive_timeout 0s;

ssl_verify_client off;

ssl_session_tickets off;

access_log off;

ssl_asynch on;

ssl_session_timeout 300s;

ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;

ssl_ciphers AES128-SHA;

ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;

ssl_certificate server2048.crt;

ssl_certificate_key server2048.key;

location / {

root html;

index index.html index.htm;




Introduction to Performance testing tools

In this section, we will introduce two web server stress testing tools: wrk and ab.

  • Wrk is a benchmark testing tool for HTTP/HTTPS protocols. On a single machine powered by multi-core CPUs, it can generate a huge workload on the target machine in multi-threading and event I/O modes, using the system's high-performance I/O mechanisms, such as epoll and kqueue.

Usage Example: (where users would replace the URL with their own Nginx URL)

$ wrk -t 10 -c 1000 -d 30S

Description: the command uses 10 threads and 1,000 concurrent connections to fetch files and stress test the server for 30 seconds. For more information, please visit

  • The ab tool is a stress testing tool that comes with Apache*. It can be used not only for website access stress testing of Apache servers, but also for stress testing of other types of servers. For example, NginxApache Tomcat*, and IIS. If the user has installed Apache, the ab tool has already been installed with Apache. If the user has not installed Apache, then it can be installed easily with the following command (CentOS*):
$ yum -y install httpd-tools

Usage Example: (where users would replace the URL with their own Nginx URL)

$ ab -n 100000 -c 100 -Z AES128-SHA -f TLS1.2


Description: The command uses 100 concurrent connections to send 100,000 requests for “get index” files to perform stress testing on the server. For more information, please visit:



Notices & Disclaimers

Intel technologies may require enabled hardware, software or service activation.

No product or component can be absolutely secure.

Your costs and results may vary.

Code names are used by Intel to identify products, technologies, or services that are in development and not publicly available. These are not "commercial" names and not intended to function as trademarks

The products described may contain design defects or errors known as errata which may cause the product to deviate from published specifications.  Current characterized errata are available on request.

© Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries.  Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Product and Performance Information


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