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With the nginx HttpLimitReq module requests can be limited by IP. However, I'm not understanding what the "nodelay" option does.

If the excess requests within the limit burst delay are not necessary, you should use the nodelay

limit_req   zone=one  burst=5  nodelay;
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The documentation here has an explanation that sounds like what you want to know:

The directive specifies the zone (zone) and the maximum possible bursts of requests (burst). If the rate exceeds the demands outlined in the zone, the request is delayed, so that queries are processed at a given speed

From what I understand, requests over the burst will be delayed (take more time and wait until they can be served), with the nodelay options the delay is not used and excess requests are denied with a 503 error.

This blog post has a good explanation how the rate limiting works on nginx.

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