How to Enable Keepalive Connections on Nginx

Enable Keepalive Connections on Nginx

Nginx is a powerful web server known for its high performance, stability, and low resource consumption. One of the key features that contribute to its efficiency is the ability to enable keepalive connections. Keepalive connections allow Nginx to reuse existing connections for multiple requests, reducing the overhead of creating new connections for each request. This can significantly improve the performance of your web server, especially when dealing with a high volume of traffic. In this article, we will dive into the details of keepalive connections, explain how to enable and configure them on Nginx and provide troubleshooting tips to ensure optimal performance.

Understanding Keepalive Connections

In a typical HTTP scenario, a client establishes a new connection to the server for each request it makes. Once the request is fulfilled, the connection is closed. This process repeats for every subsequent request, resulting in the overhead of creating and closing connections repeatedly. However, with keepalive connections, the same connection can be reused for multiple requests, eliminating the need for new connections.

When keepalive is enabled, Nginx keeps the connection open after sending the response to the client. The client can then send additional requests using the same connection, reducing the number of TCP handshakes required. This is particularly beneficial for HTTPS connections, as the SSL/TLS handshake process is more resource-intensive compared to plain HTTP.

By default, Nginx disables keepalive connections for upstream servers. Upstream servers are the backend servers to which Nginx proxies request. To take advantage of keepalive connections, you need to explicitly enable and configure them in your Nginx configuration.

Configuring Keepalive for Upstream Servers

To enable keepalive connections for upstream servers, you need to use the keepalive directive within the upstream block in your Nginx configuration file. Here’s an example:

upstream backend {
keepalive 32;

In this example, we define an upstream block named the backend and specify the server address ( The keepalive directive is used to enable keepalive connections and set the maximum number of idle keepalive connections to 32.

The value provided to the keepalive directive determines the maximum number of idle connections that Nginx will keep open for each upstream server. It is recommended to set this value to a small multiple of the number of upstream servers you have. For example, if you have 4 upstream servers, you can set keepalive to 32 (4 * 8).

These idle connections are then reused for subsequent requests, eliminating the need to establish new connections each time. It’s important to note that the upstream server must also be configured to allow keepalive connections. Most modern web servers, such as Apache and Nginx itself, support keepalive by default.

To ensure that proxied requests from Nginx to the upstream server use keepalive, you need to set the appropriate headers and HTTP version. Here’s an example:

location /api/ {
proxy_pass http://backend;
proxy_http_version 1.1;
proxy_set_header Connection "";

In this example, we define a location block for the /api/ path and use the proxy_pass directive to forward requests to the backend upstream. The proxy_http_version a directive is set to 1.1 to enable HTTP/1.1, which supports keepalive connections. The proxy_set_header directive is used to clear the Connection header, allowing the keepalive setting to be determined by the keepalive directive in the upstream block.

Adjusting Keepalive Parameters

Nginx provides several directives to fine-tune the behavior of keepalive connections. Let’s explore a few important ones:

  1. keepalive_requests: This directive sets the maximum number of requests that can be served through a single keepalive connection before it is closed. It is important to set this value to a reasonable number to prevent a single connection from being used indefinitely, which can lead to resource exhaustion. For example:
keepalive_requests 1000;
  1. keepalive_timeout: This directive specifies the timeout value for keepalive connections. If a connection is idle for longer than the specified time, it will be closed. The default value is 60 seconds. You can increase this value to allow connections to remain open longer, reducing the overhead of creating new connections. For example:
keepalive_timeout 120s;

This sets the keepalive timeout to 120 seconds.

  1. keepalive_time: This directive sets the maximum time for which a keepalive connection can be kept open. It defaults to 1 hour. You can adjust this value based on your traffic patterns and resource availability. For example:
keepalive_time 30m;

This limits the maximum time for a keepalive connection to 30 minutes.

By adjusting these parameters, you can optimize the performance of your Nginx server and ensure efficient utilization of keepalive connections.

Monitoring and Troubleshooting

Monitoring the performance of your Nginx server is crucial to ensure that keepalive connections are working as expected. There are several tools and techniques you can use to monitor Nginx performance and diagnose any issues related to keepalive connections.

One useful tool is Nginx Amplify, which provides real-time metrics and insights into your Nginx server’s performance. It allows you to visualize connections, requests, and other key metrics, making it easier to identify bottlenecks and optimize your configuration.

Another way to monitor connections is by using the Nginx status module. This module provides a simple HTTP endpoint that displays real-time information about the server’s connections and requests. To enable the status module, you need to include the following configuration:

location /nginx_status {
stub_status on;
access_log off;
deny all;

This configuration creates an endpoint at /nginx_status that displays the current number of active connections, accepted connections, handled requests, and more.

If you encounter issues with keepalive connections, there are a few common symptoms to look out for:

  • High CPU usage: If your Nginx server is experiencing high CPU usage, it could indicate that too many connections are being created and closed frequently. Enabling keepalive can help reduce this overhead.
  • Connection limits reached: If you see errors related to reaching connection limits, it may suggest that keepalive connections are not being reused effectively. Adjusting the keepalive and keepalive_requests directives can help mitigate this issue.
  • Increased latency: If you notice increased latency in your application, it could be due to the overhead of creating new connections. Enabling keepalive can help reduce latency by reusing existing connections.

When troubleshooting keepalive issues, start by verifying that your Nginx configuration is correct. Double-check the syntax of your directives and ensure that the keepalive directive is properly set in the upstream block. Additionally, make sure that your upstream servers are configured to allow keepalive connections.

Load testing your Nginx server can also help identify any performance bottlenecks related to keepalive connections. Tools like Apache JMeter or Locust can simulate high-traffic loads and help you assess how your server handles concurrent connections and requests.

Keepalive and Load Balancing

Keepalive connections work seamlessly with Nginx’s load-balancing capabilities. When you define an upstream block with multiple servers, Nginx distributes the incoming requests across those servers based on the specified load-balancing algorithm.

When keepalive is enabled, Nginx maintains a pool of idle keepalive connections for each upstream server. These connections are not dedicated to specific servers but are instead shared among all the servers in the upstream group. This allows Nginx to efficiently utilize the available connections and distribute the load evenly.

Nginx supports various load-balancing algorithms, such as round-robin, least connections, and IP hash. The least_conn algorithm can be particularly beneficial when using keepalive connections. It directs new requests to the server with the least number of active connections, helping to distribute the load more evenly.

To further optimize the handling of keepalive connections in a load-balanced environment, you can use the keepalive_requests directive in conjunction with a shared memory zone. By defining a shared memory zone, Nginx can track the number of idle keepalive connections across all worker processes.

Here’s an example configuration:

upstream backend {
keepalive 32;
keepalive_requests 1000;
keepalive_timeout 60s;
zone backend_keepalive 64k;

In this example, we define an upstream block with two servers and enable keepalive connections. The keepalive_requests directive is set to 1000, limiting the number of requests per connection. The keepalive_timeout directive sets the timeout for idle connections to 60 seconds. Finally, the zone directive is used to define a shared memory zone named backend_keepalive with a size of 64 kilobytes. This shared memory zone allows Nginx to track the idle keepalive connections across worker processes.

By combining keepalive connections with load balancing and shared memory zones, you can achieve optimal performance and efficient resource utilization in your Nginx setup.


Enabling keepalive connections on Nginx is a powerful way to improve the performance and efficiency of your web server. By reusing existing connections for multiple requests, you can reduce the overhead of creating new connections and minimize the impact of TCP handshakes and SSL/TLS negotiations. To effectively enable and configure keepalive connections, remember to:

  1. Use the keepalive directive in the upstream block to enable keepalive and specify the maximum number of idle connections.
  2. Configure your upstream servers to allow keepalive connections.
  3. Adjust keepalive parameters such as keepalive_requests, keepalive_timeout, and keepalive_time based on your requirements.
  4. Monitor your Nginx server’s performance and troubleshoot any issues related to keepalive connections.
  5. Leverage load balancing and shared memory zones to optimize keepalive handling in a distributed environment.

By following these best practices and regularly monitoring your Nginx server, you can ensure optimal performance, reduced latency, and efficient resource utilization.


r00t is a seasoned Linux system administrator with a wealth of experience in the field. Known for his contributions to, r00t has authored numerous tutorials and guides, helping users navigate the complexities of Linux systems. His expertise spans across various Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. r00t's work is characterized by his ability to simplify complex concepts, making Linux more accessible to users of all skill levels. His dedication to the Linux community and his commitment to sharing knowledge makes him a respected figure in the field.
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