Varnish customer newsletter #2 2018

Welcome to the second Varnish Software customer newsletter of 2018. In this issue, we’ll introduce the new Varnish E-Commerce Accelerator feature; you’ll get to know our engineer, Guillaume, as he moves to the US and opens up Varnish’s Bay Area office, as well as find out about upcoming events and webinars where you can interact with us.

Q2-3 summer newsletter

What’s new in Varnish

As we teased in our previous newsletter, Varnish 6.0 is out. We shared the groundbreaking Varnish Total Encryption feature, which helps prevent cache vulnerabilities by encrypting each item in cache, lending itself well to the data protection requirements of the GDPR regulations that came into force in May 2018; we discussed Varnish Broadcaster, a feature similar to the Super Fast Purger, which is a standalone, request-agnostic solution that lets you broadcast any HTTP request for cache invalidation from a single point to multiple instances of Varnish in multiple locations. (We’ll host a Varnish Broadcaster webinar in August; sign up here to learn more.)

We covered more, ranging from Varnish Discovery to full HTTP/2 support, and we should also mention that we’ve relaunched the Akamai Connector for Varnish. If you’re already an Akamai customer, you can benefit from the Connector, by being able to streamline your operations and offload your Akamai network traffic by only needing to set your policies and logic up-to-date in Varnish, which will sync with Akamai – eliminating the need for duplicate work.

But maybe the most exciting feature we’ve released is the Varnish E-Commerce Accelerator.

Varnish E-Commerce Accelerator: Caching the uncacheable
Every e-commerce brand in the world faces the same problem: not being able to cache truly personalized, truly dynamic content – the bread and butter of e-commerce sites. This causes site performance and user experience to suffer.

Sure, e-commerce, like most industries, uses caching technology to boost performance and save resources. But that’s the standard only for static content, and more recently, for semi-dynamic content. Personalized content, though – the kind that is specific to one individual user – has been impossible to cache. The performance hit has come as the price of serving personalized content, but the slowdown is just about to end.

Many solutions have attempted to introduce fixes for this issue, but they’ve all require changes to the e-commerce software itself, meaning it’s not straightforward or an out-of-the-box solution. Magento specifically – one of the world’s leading e-commerce platforms – has these issues, and e-retailers have sought (and software companies have tried to provide) solutions for the slow response times and hard-to-scale backends.

With the Varnish E-Commerce Accelerator, which slots in right in front of the e-commerce software, meaning that it just works, without any kind of development or backend work, you get content acceleration by being able to cache all that previously uncacheable, personalized content.

How does Varnish E-Commerce Accelerator work?
Xbody, a Varnish 6.0 VMOD, in conjunction with Edgestash, allows you to cache and accelerate personalized content. This means that finally content containing user information, session tokens, dynamic CSRF protections – personalized content – can be cached. Pages become cacheable and are easily re-assembled with JSON templates.

Caching with Xbody and Edgestash serves personalized pages to achieve a hit rate of 90% or better – meaning your performance gets a big boost. In our own testing, Varnish hit close to 15,000 requests/sec and approximately 10 Gbit/sec of outbound bandwidth while maintaining well under 1 ms response times.

New office in San Francisco/Meet Guillaume

Varnish Software comes to the Bay Area – and Varnish engineer Guillaume Quintard is on the ground.

Varnish Software has danced around setting up shop in the heart of tech innovation (Bay Area/Silicon Valley) for years, but only now, as our engineer, Guillaume Quintard makes the big jump over to California from France, has the dream become a reality.

Guillaume has spearheaded and, in many cases, improved on Varnish innovations, and many customers will have met him over the years, as he has been instrumental in many on-site and professional services projects, helping customers optimize their Varnish implementations.

But for those who don’t know Guillaume, here’s a brief introduction to his background, and what to expect from Varnish on the US West Coast and from him in the near future.

-Why did you join Varnish Software in the first place and what has kept you here?
I have been with Varnish for almost three years now — a record in longevity for me! I went through quite a few companies in my career, always around video (producing it, managing it, distributing it) and I always eventually got bored because even though things are very technical, they stayed the same.

That’s the trick with Varnish: it’s a piece of software that is central to many and diverse architectures. For example, pushing hundreds of gigabytes of video per second isn’t the same as serving millions of API calls a second for IoT devices, and yet Varnish is relevant in each and every case where HTTP is involved, allowing me to explore fun and new territories all the time.

And of course, there’s the team: fun, multicultural, kind, curious and always pushing the boundaries and keeping me on my toes. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? (By the way, we are hiring!)

-What has been one of the biggest contributions you’ve made at Varnish (in your humble opinion, of course)? And one of the most challenging things you’ve done?
I don’t think there’s any single contribution that will stand out, as I tend to work all across the board. Of course, I am the maintainer of Varnish High Availability, which I think I took to new heights (and getting ready to climb higher, by the way) and of dynamic backends, which are often a must in that cloud future we live in, but I’m not sure they register.

My role as an engineer isn’t solely about development; working in presales, as a trainer, a consultant and a support guy (some would add “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist”), I am in constant contact with our customers and prospective clients, and I am one of feedback voices regarding what they want. As a result, I usually don’t focus on big flashy features but rather on fixing the pain points and annoyances that our customers report (one example would be vmod_rewrite: small, simple, but ever useful). I think that’s the area where I brought the most value: preventing paper cuts and saving time for our users.

As for the hardest thing, well, getting a visa to move to and work in the US?

-What should we know about you, i.e. why tech? What do you do when you are not working?
I’m the sort of guy who likes to break things, and then fix them to make them better, and IT is a place where a lot of things are held together with tape and paper clips – a match made in heaven!

More seriously though, and with a striking parallel to my first answer to this interview: working in IT allows you to explore wildly different domains while still using the same core set of skills. That, and it gives me a reason to be on the internet all day.

I basically have two time-consuming hobbies: martial arts and food. It’s really a symbiotic duet: I love trying out new restaurants or recipes (oh, and beers, I recently discovered I love beer!), so I need all these training sessions to stay in shape!

-What should we expect or look for from the new Varnish presence in the Bay Area? Anything new or different – or is it more just proximity and presence?
Proximity and presence are definitely a goal here. We are very strongly established in Europe since we come from there, and the territory only spreads across two time zones, but the US goes across four so it’s much bigger, and the time difference is non-negligible. By having more engineers here, especially in Silicon Valley, we are able to reduce lag in communication and serve our customers better.

But there’s also a cultural dimension. The kinds of setups in the US tend to be different from the European ones, notably because of the network topology and reliance on cloud services, so the goal is truly to understand how we can be more useful to US users, based on their specificities.

-Any thoughts on where general tech trends are heading and how Varnish can contribute solutions to challenges new trends pose?
Predicting the future, particularly in tech, is a perilous exercise, so I won’t be too adventurous here.

And yet, let’s gamble a bit here: the current trend is focusing on software infrastructure, and I don’t see that slowing down. It started with cloud hosting; it’s continuing with container orchestration and the “serverless” concept. I do imagine that we’ll continue to see companies jumping on the bandwagon and overcommitting, lured by the buzzwords and cool factor, but all in all, I feel that we are getting incrementally better, smarter and more nuanced. I see more and more hybrid setups with machines on-premise coupled ithe cloud servers (CDN implementations, for example).

In that context, and because it is so versatile, I feel we can bring a new level of ease to ops and allow them to deploy a caching layer that is too often an afterthought as easily as the rest of the applications. It’s a tall order because caching is vital, central and often mission-critical, so everything must go smoothly, but these are the kinds of challenges we love to solve!

How and where to meet Varnish

IBC Amsterdam – September 14 – 18
You can meet up in person at the IBC event in Amsterdam this September. We will be exhibiting to give you a better look at some of our content delivery solutions – the Varnish Streaming Server and Varnish Private CDN and a few of the new features we’re adding to Varnish that will further help you deliver fast at any scale.

Customer Open Forum
The next Customer Open Forum, to which we are inviting customers in order to get firsthand feedback and ideas, will focus on the Private CDN. Join us to share your experience and get your questions answered about how to get started – and why you’d want to – with your own private or hybrid CDN solution.
When: 10 September 2018: 4 pm CEST / 10 am EST
Register here.

Facing challenges? We’re here to help!

Are you taking on new projects and wondering how to leverage your Varnish license? Did your Varnish expert recently leave your company, meaning you need to train your team for the future? Ready to implement something innovative that could involve Varnish and need help setting it up?

We are able to help you with just about any Varnish project you have in mind. Our Professional Services offerings are designed to give you just what you need when you need it in the form of regular on-site support, health checks or training for your team upon request.

One satisfied Professional Services customer is the Etat de Geneve/State of Geneva in Switzerland, the public administration authority operating the Geneva canton. A project manager in the IT Directorate, which provides e-gov and e-services for citizens, shared information about how Etat de Geneve adopted Varnish as an integral part of their major website overhaul to achieve scalability, security and high availability. With the help of Varnish Professional Services, Etat de Geneve was able to ensure that the Varnish integration and deployment went smoothly and quickly in a highly complex IT structure, which typifies the Etat de Geneve setup. Watch the video interview to learn more.

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