Do It Yourself CDN and Edge Compute by Varnish

Varnish Software has long been a leader in caching software, however, they have recently expanded their product portfolio; including an investment of resources in building out their do it yourself CDN product line. Their DIY CDN business is growing rapidly at what is an opportune time. Many large companies in the Fortune 1000 and elsewhere are building out their CDNs; some are already with Varnish.

The Swedish-headquartered company is seeing their greatest revenue growth occurring in the U.S., then Europe. They are also actively growing new customers in Asia and the surrounding region, particularly in the realm of video.

We had a recent in-depth call with Hildur Smaradottir, VP of Marketing and Reza Naghibi, VP of Technology, to find out more about Varnish Software’s offerings and their upcoming plans.

Can you give us a snapshot of current business at Varnish Software and your primary offerings?

As the market is constantly evolving, we decided to bring to market a more tailored set of offerings. We recently launched three solutions built on the Varnish platform:

1 – Varnish API and Web Acceleration – this addresses acceleration and web performance space issues for API or web servers with our HTTP reverse proxy;

2 – Varnish Streaming Server – this is based on the needs of our broadcast media customers and anyone else delivering video, whether OTT, VoD or live streaming;

3 – Varnish DIY CDN– this is our flexible, easy-to-set-up packaged CDN offering, for which we already have a number of customers, both in the enterprise tier and at the SMB level. It provides everything you need to build out a CDN.

Whereas our previous focus was web acceleration through our flexible caching technology, we have been seeing a lot of growth in the need for high performance video streaming and DIY CDN services, and we’re excited to now be able to offer all three.

In general, business is going really well and this year, we reached profitability, which in our space is rare. We are currently a team of 40 and will be adding 20% to that this year. Instead of focusing on high growth, we are focused on self-sustainability and smart growth. We are headquartered in Sweden and have offices in New York, London, Paris and Oslo.

Can you tell us more about your DIY CDN offering, and what motivated you to build it?

We’re seeing a lot of interest from enterprise and Fortune 500-1000 companies. We’re not talking about building a CDN so that McDonalds, for instance, can serve video; but rather so that it can build an edge architecture. Our DIY CDN solution allows companies to deliver a more distributed architecture, which is extremely appealing to them. We are making the process of building customized websites and apps highly accessible.

The process and complexity of building out a DIY CDN is a lot easier than it was in the past: whether you are in the cloud or a data center, all you need to begin is to perform a quick Internet search and you can order the exact hardware wherever you want it at an affordable price. Another important element to increased accessibility is the change we’ve seen in network carriers. Five to ten years ago, the hardest part was working out how to get your CDN online; now the big carriers like Verizon, Cogent or Level3 are all building carrier hotels, allowing them to market their services directly to enterprises.

What are the different stages involved in the set-up of Varnish’s DIY CDN?

The first stage involves selecting your hardware and network carrier. If you’re in the cloud, the choice of network is usually included and priced in. If you choose a data center, you’re offered network as part of that co-location cost (as you’re paying for rack, power and network); they may also provide the hardware for a set fee, or you can use the cloud. Typically, you just call the data center and they will set it up for you.

The next step is to install the DIY Varnish software. You install Varnish on all the nodes and have a simple configuration file where you say, here’s the IP and that’s it. Finally, you need DNS routing. Lots of clouds have their own DNS offerings, and once that’s in place, the CDN is ready to go.

A public facing CDN has to face hundreds of customers simultaneously. As a private CDN is just handling its own own traffic, you only need 1/10th or 1/100th of the complexity of Akamai, for instance.

What services does Varnish offer?

At the core of our solutions is Varnish. Everything we do is built on Varnish. We offer a range of unique features, including Varnish High Availability, allowing you to increase resiliency if a cache fails and increase cache efficiency in a distributed setup. The Varnish Massive Storage Engine (MSE) with persistence allows your cache to survive even if you have to restart Varnish, and offers 100+TB storage. For security, we have various features, including a new option that provides full cache encryption called Total Encryption.

We have two new products we’re excited about: Broadcaster (which can coordinate requests like cache invalidation to multiple Varnish caches) and Discovery (which allows us to offer autoscaling as new nodes are added).

We provide support from our experts on all technical questions.

The big CDNs are actively putting out edge computing products: What is Varnish’s position in relation to edge computing?

Varnish is the definition of edge computing and has been for the last 5-10 years. The other big companies are playing catch-up. Varnish is a programming platform that you can configure precisely in the way you see fit. Varnish Configuration Language (VCL), Varnish’s real time embedded programming language provides developers with complete control of HTTP behavior, hashing, security, content caching policies, advanced routing and anything in between.

Even with something as basic as video delivery, having access to VCL allows you to easily add authentication and authorization to your delivery. VCL can also facilitate smart content routing, allowing you to distribute your origin content to where it makes sense.

Varnish has been offering this level of granular edge control from the start. Because of its growing popularity and widespread use, Varnish has raised the bar for what people expect when they think about their CDNs.

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