Few months ago I got directed at Cherokee http server, as it's supposed to be faster than Apache. I finally took a look at Cherokee and it seems that it's also easier to configure than Apache. Cherokee is available on Linux and BSD operating systems, and probably it's in repository of most popular distros. It's licensed with GPL license.
So... how do you actually configure a symfony project with it? First of all, you'd need to install php-cgi package, as Chreokee uses FastCGI.
Then run cherokee admin:
You need to run it as root, otherwise it will not be able to access configuration files (hence sudo - I'm working on Ubuntu). You'll get printed user name (which is admin) and generated one-time password. You'll use these to access configuration panel which is usually available at localhost:9090 address.
What do you do now? well... add new virtual host, which will run configuration wizard for it. There, under platforms, you'll see symfony option next to Zend Framework, Ruby on Rails and Django. There are some other options to choose from, if you want, and what is most surprising, about half of them is for php solutions.
However we'll choose symfony. In the next step, you'll have to type in two paths:
to your symfony's project web folder
and to symfony's data folder (has to be symfony/data folder, not just symfony)
After pressing next, all you need to do is to choose your host name, and create your new virtual host.
Oh, almost forgot, one more thing. You'll need to save all that by pressing save in the cherokee's admin interface. It'll trigger server restart (hard or gentle) after which you'll be able to enjoy your symfony virtual host.
There's one thing you have to be careful about. If there'll be problems with access to files, like insufficient rights, or possibly wrong group, you'll probably get the file not found error, and it'll not be the on served by symfony.
So far I haven't noticed much difference between Apache and Cherokee on my dev machine. And I have seen project called symfttpd which is aimed at symfony developers. Symfttpd provids them with "embed" http server (uses lighttpd). This solution should be more suited for developer's machine, although it doesn't support Windows as well. It reminds of those built in web servers that can be found in Ruby on Rails or python's frameworks like web2py for example.
Next steps will be to check how does symfttpd works and how to run symfony2 project on cherokee (as soon as I'll start one).