Varnish customer newsletter #1 2019

It’s time for the first Varnish Software customer newsletter of 2019. This time, we’ll run through everything you need to know about what’s new in Varnish; we’ll introduce you to our brand-new Tech Evangelist, Thijs Feryn, and share more of the latest Varnish news that matters for you in getting the most from your Varnish use.

What’s new in Varnish

When we’re considering new features and thinking about the short and long-term roadmap for Varnish, we think a lot about the top web concerns for businesses now and in the future. For example, we know that video streaming is one of the major concerns businesses across industries are thinking about and have been developing our roadmap accordingly.

In addition we try to consider web performance from many perspectives. For example, everyone in a business may be tasked with cutting costs and looking for efficiencies while perhaps only digital marketing departments will be concerned with how web performance affects conversion rates. That is, web performance, scalability and security matter to everyone but in different ways.

We’ve been sharing details about what Varnish Enterprise 6.0 offers throughout its development. From MSE3 to 100Gbit per server innovations, Varnish has been particularly active in making strides in delivering the best streaming-performance technology available. But there’s still more, all of which is designed not only to give your sites and applications seamless performance and availability but also to give you better oversight of what is happening in your infrastructure.

Some of what we’ve added makes Varnish more powerful and easier to manage… and there’s more to come.

Varnish Web Application Firewall (WAF): Securing your backend

We’ve discussed the WAF briefly before, but as automated threats become more sophisticated  and cybersecurity is always atop the list of the biggest threats to doing business, going more in-depth on the WAF seems fitting. Built as a VMOD (vmod_waf), which, as we described before, lets you inspect your HTTP traffic to detect malicious requests at the edge of your network before they reach your website or application. The main purpose of vmod_waf is to keep your backend protected from predatory traffic, such as the kinds of threats found in the OWASP top ten critical web application security risks.

With Varnish WAF, the open source ModSecurity rules can be implemented directly into your web setup to access the OWASP Core Rule Set directly through Varnish. Varnish WAF is able to execute all the facilities of the ModSecurity library and its rule sets via a convenient, efficient API that accesses the ModSecurity engine. ModSecurity is designed to inspect requests in a specific order to determine risk, and then blocks and finishes the request by logging or continuing to the next phase. Because Varnish is all about HTTP, ModSecurity can be incorporated seamlessly to balance speed and performance with protection. VMOD WAF is only needed for cache misses, so normal cache hits operate normally until it’s time to access the backend, when security measures kick in.

Varnish Live: Monitoring performance on the go

Varnish Live is a new real-time Varnish monitoring mobile app that delivers instant, global intelligence on your web traffic and performance. Accessing data from your active Varnish Custom Statistics module, Varnish Live is able to identify patterns and detect problems with your Varnish Enterprise instances and web performance right now so you can keep an eye on performance wherever you happen to be. The Varnish Live app is available now for Android and iOS. Varnish Live is an add-on for users of Varnish Enterprise.

What kinds of benefits does Varnish Live offer? Apart from being a mobile app that gives you real-time stats and data on the go, it’s a user-friendly visualization of your performance and potential issues.

  • Delivers key stats about your traffic, relevant for video streaming, e-commerce, and all industries that rely on high-performance content delivery
  • Gives a clear visual picture of potential issues, i.e. peak in error rates, bandwidth dropping
  • Lets you monitor your entire Varnish cluster
  • Gets key metrics from all of your edge locations, applicable for all your servers
  • Note: Varnish Live works only with Varnish Enterprise instances and gets its data from the VCS module

Varnish Ops: Managing services in a whole new way

In a separate newsletter article, you can read more about Varnish Ops, Varnish’s new managed service provision. The biggest benefit of Varnish Ops, other than having your service managed by Varnish experts, is that embodies that same flexibility as all Varnish products do. You can choose to be involved as little or as much as you wish in the management of your service, and Varnish will support your approach.


Meet Tech Evangelist, Thijs Feryn

Thijs Feryn

Early in 2019, we welcomed our new tech evangelist, Thijs Feryn. After 15 years at Belgian hosting company Combell and a long, enthusiastic history as a Varnish Cache advocate in the developer community, as well as the author of the O’Reilly book, Getting Started with Varnish Cache, Thijs joined Varnish full-time to help deliver the Varnish message globally.  

Read on to find out more about what drives Thijs’s passion for Varnish and learn how Thijs sees the Varnish future.

-Why did you join Varnish in the first place and what has made it different for you so far from other places you’ve worked?

It’s no secret that I love Varnish as a technology. I have worked with Varnish Cache for over a decade, I’ve done dozens of presentations about the subject and I even wrote an O’Reilly book about it.

Varnish Software was already on my radar for quite some time: I’ve spoken at a couple of Varnish summits, did a workshop at VarnishCon and it was Varnish Software that invited me to write the book. I always had a lot of affinity for the company, but I didn’t know a lot about the products and the ambitions of Varnish Software.

It was actually the CEO who reached out to me and invited me for a lunch meeting. At that time I had no real interest in a change. I had been working for Combell my entire career and was happy doing tech evangelism for them.

But after that meeting, it was clear to me that Varnish Software is a very ambitious company that was in real need of an evangelist. This was a unique opportunity for me and I believe that Varnish Software will give me the opportunities I need to become a better evangelist.

Having been on board for two months, I have noticed some differences. Combell is a bigger company, but the Varnish is a more internationally recognized brand. This is always a tradeoff, but it seems to suit me quite well. Working for a company that is distributed is also quite interesting. I work from home in Belgium. My colleagues are based in Norway, Sweden, London and the US. There’s lots of diversity.

We need the right tools and processes to communicate efficiently. But what I also like is that we are encouraged to travel to the different offices and have face-to-face meetings, which can be a lot more efficient than e-mail, chat or calls.

-What has been one of the biggest contributions you hope to make at Varnish? What are the challenges you foresee going forward?

I want Varnish Software to be the authority on all things Varnish and VCL. There are a lot of good community efforts and good resources out there regarding Varnish Cache and VCL. My ambition is to provide official resources (documentation, VCL code, framework integrations plugins) that are easy to find, relevant to the context of the user and easy to understand.

Another thing I want to do is democratize our enterprise offering for developers. We have official AWS, Azure & GCP images containing Varnish Enterprise. The price of the license is already included in the hourly cost. This lowers the barrier for users who don’t necessarily match the profile of “the enterprise”. Some of the advanced features we offer could really make a difference for developers.

For me, it’s a matter of properly evangelizing these topics to inspire developers.

-What should we know about you, i.e. why caching? What do you do when you are not working?

I’m a public speaker at heart. I’ve done more than 200 presentations in 15 different countries. Without a doubt, public speaking is my main instrument for evangelizing. The last four years I discovered the power of video and I’ve recorded dozens of them. Most of them are vlogs, which is my preferred format, because of its honesty and people-centricity.

When I’m not working, I love spending time with my wife and kids. I also love attending football games: I’m a Club Brugge season ticket holder and I run a successful Club Brugge fan vlog. It’s an ideal testing ground for new techniques, and these fan vlogs help me become a better content creator.

Work and personal life often cross paths. Maybe it’s all related to passion.

-What should we expect or look for from Varnish in the near future? Anything particularly exciting on the horizon from your point of view?

I’m extremely excited about our Edgestash module. This can be a game changer in the CMS and framework ecosystem. It allows us to “cache the uncacheable”.

Basically we can cache Mustache-style templates and their data separately. This would allow for storage of user-specific data without having too many cache variations. The only missing piece of the puzzle is accessing the user’s session data without accessing the origin servers, but our team already has a plan to figure this out.

-Any thoughts on where general tech trends are heading and how Varnish can contribute solutions to challenges new trends pose?

Prior to joining Varnish Software, I had no clue how big the OTT video streaming business was and what our role was in that industry.

Two months in, I’ve come to realize that this is a huge business, with lots of potential growth. I’m really proud to see that Varnish Enterprise offers unparalleled flexibility and performance in that market. At this point we have some of the biggest video streaming providers among our clients, which is a great honor.

Another challenge is to position ourselves in the container and cloud-native ecosystem. Docker and Kubernetes are very popular and they happen to leverage HTTP, which is our strong suit. It will be a matter of finding our place in this very hyped-up and noisy ecosystem.

Varnish wins B2B streaming award at NAB Show

For the first time, the annual NAB Show, the world’s largest convention encompassing the convergence of media, entertainment and technology, recognized innovative new products with Product of the Year awards. We are delighted to share that Varnish Software won the award for Best B2B Streaming Technology award for the Varnish Enterprise 6.0 advanced video streaming and content delivery platform.

As a customer, you have undoubtedly already experienced what Varnish Enterprise offers, but if you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with the new features of Varnish Enterprise 6.0, do read the article focusing on these developments. In the meantime, NAB recognized Varnish Enterprise 6.0’s ability to help optimize web performance, scalability and content delivery using, at its core, the power of caching. A major component of Varnish Enterprise 6.0 is the Varnish Streaming Server, which enables businesses to overcome barriers to fast, seamless video delivery.

In a landscape in which video is the most common content requested and delivered, new challenges to delivery arise all the time. Massive user and video library growth and an ever-larger global demand footprint make latency a real problem. Varnish Enterprise 6.0, media businesses can deliver their entire content library at sub-millisecond latency to their CDN while our 100Gbit delivery enables them to make their server infrastructure more efficient, responsive and high-performance, all while reducing cost. Combined, this ensures seamless video streaming experiences for viewers regardless of the device or network they’re watching on.

Powering this high-performance, sub-millisecond-latency video are a number of features and benefits, including:

Varnish Ops – a new approach to managed services

In conversation with both customers and prospects, we have learned that in addition to appreciating the flexibility of Varnish itself, many customers have also requested a more versatile approach to managed services. We can imagine what you’re thinking – “Managed services? That sounds a little dull, a little corporate and more than a little contradictory to the idea of a flexible approach.”

We know from experience across the various industries we serve that the initial Varnish learning curve can be steep, but worth it – the more you know, the more flexible and powerful our software becomes. But even the most enthusiastic Varnish users don’t usually have time to become full-blown experts. One customer told us that they knew Varnish Enterprise was right for them, but the time and complexity of setting it up to deliver exactly what they needed was something they preferred to leave to us.

We realized that we could pave a friendlier middle road for our customers with a solution we call Varnish Ops. The purpose of this new approach to managed services is to let our customers decide for themselves how hands-on they want or need to be, with our goal being to deliver a service that always has a person behind it.

You may have met our VP of Engineering, Espen Braastad. When we were creating Varnish Ops, we ‘personified’ it by visualizing Espen going from customer to customer and personally setting Varnish up, ensuring that all the pieces worked together. By giving Varnish Ops a personality, we redefined how we think about managed services as something personal and bespoke. We know infrastructure and performance are key to your business and success – but they are not necessarily your core business. Varnish Ops ensures that you can focus on your core business and your customers while we take care of the infrastructure;



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