Watch out Nginx, Here Comes Varnish


Varnish Software is one of the leading open source HTTP Web Accelerators on the market today. Varnish was founded by Per Buer in the mid 2000’s, and more than 1.7M websites use Varnish Cache, as it is known. The impressive client list includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Fastly and Vimeo. There are two major open source caching platforms that have been commercialized: Varnish and Nginx. The commercial versions are backed by their founders and companies. Implementing a caching platform is challenging; implementing a global caching platform across different data centers is an extremely complex undertaking. Even Netflix, known to have an engineering staff on par with Google, worked extensively with the Nginx team in architecting, and deploying their caching platform.

Varnish Software offers professional services to aid customers in deploying their software, whether it’s designing, architecting, or deploying the robust caching platform. As far as open source commercial caching alternatives, there aren’t really any others. Squid and Apache Traffic Server (ATS) are open source, however, companies deploying this software must work with the developer community at large. I would personally go with Varnish or Nginx in the majority of cases. It’s nice to have one throat to choke in case things go sideways. Varnish Software comes in two editions: Varnish Cache and Varnish Plus. Varnish Cache is the free open source version. Varnish Plus is the is the commercial version. The commercial version comes packed with a ton of features including an extensive logging feature, mobile detection, 24×7 support, and much more.

Comcast and Varnish

I wonder if the Nginx Team and Varnish Team would have been present, helping the Comcast team with their internal CDN evaluation, if Comcast would have gone a different route, as opposed to going with Apache Traffic Server. I personally think they would have gone with Varnish. Varnish is a rock solid caching platform, especially when powering a CDN. Just ask Fastly, the highly successful CDN, they built their business on Varnish. I must say they aren’t doing too shabby. Mark my words, Fastly is going to reach Limelight Networks in 2 years. Stay tuned.

Company Background
  • Started: 2005
  • Raised: Confidential
  • Linkedin Employee Count: 17
  • Executives: Per Buer (CTO), Lars Larsson (CEO) and Poul-Henning Kamp (Chief Architect)
  • Product: Open Source HTTP Accelerator (HTTP Cache Software)
  • Value Prop: Deployed on 1.7M Sites
  • Customers: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Fastly and Vimeo,
  • Higher performance HTTP Accelerator
  • Varnish Cache – free open source
  • Varnish Plus – commercial version
  • Logging feature is the most extensive and robust in the industry
  • New feature: VXID is a powerful feature in Cache 4.0 that provides users, when viewing logs, with detailed information on items such as a cache miss, where users will be able see client request, backend request and the session
  • Varnish Plus supports all the features including Gzip compression, streaming, hashing, load balancing, health checks, mobile device detection, dynamic content acceleration, advanced statistics and reporting
  • Commercial version comes with 24×7 support Watch out Nginx, Here Comes Varnish
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