Varnish Tech

Varnish Newsletter #2 2019

Another Varnish Software customer newsletter, just as we leave the IBC event in Amsterdam, full of ideas about the future of content delivery. This time, we'll take a sneak peek at upcoming Varnish features; we will tell you about a newish Varnish developer Alf-André Walla, and share our reflections and observations from the 2019 IBC conference - all to help you get the best from Varnish.

What’s new in Varnish

As ever, many new things are brewing (not just the beer) at Varnish. Varnish has a lot of innovations in the pipeline, and most are coming up in Q1 2020 – revolutionary stuff like 5G Cache. But you’ll just have to wait a little while longer, and we will share more about these features in the coming months. For now we’ll share a couple of pieces of news.

Varnish goes west: Office in LA’s Silicon Beach hotspot opens

We’re excited to announce that we are extending our reach into the US market, opening our new Los Angeles office this month. Based out of the heart of the LA tech scene, Silicon Beach, Varnish will sit alongside tech luminaries such as Google!, BuzzFeed, Facebook, Salesforce, Electronic Arts, and Sony. Silicon Beach is regarded as one of the hottest tech hubs in the world, and from our new base of operations there we will be able to better service the needs of our US – and particularly West Coast – customers, with a team that will build on the world class support that we already offer to our US customers from our New York office.

Varnish for Docker

There is at last an official Docker image for open source Varnish available with an enterprise version to follow soon.

The Docker image is a stepping stone towards truly native Kubernetes and OpenShift integration that will enable faster and more efficient deployment in these environments.

Stay tuned.

Black Friday is around the corner

Although it isn’t news by any means, it’s worth noting that with Black Friday/Cyber Monday just around the corner, your e-commerce web performance strategy might need rethinking. Every year the post-Black Friday period is filled horror stories about crashed websites and unhappy customers. Planning for permanent or peak-period scalability to handle the extra demand should be a part of doing most of your business in the online retail sector. Read our Black Friday survival guide and our everyday e-commerce readiness guide (or both) to learn more about how to plan for peak traffic and what Varnish can help you with to keep your infrastructure running smoothly, so your holiday-season sales are all you need to think about.

Meet Varnish developer, Alf-André Walla

Alf-Andre Walla

In September we shared information about the VSV00003 vulnerability with the world. One of Varnish Software’s newest developers, Alf-André Walla, discovered the potential vulnerability in the course of getting to know the source code inside and out. Conducting internal testing, Alf-André identified the VSV00003 issue, and Varnish got to work on a fix.

Here’s your chance to get to know Alf-André Walla and learn a bit more about his discovery and his thoughts on Varnish so far.  

-Why did you join Varnish in the first place?

I was working for a startup that lost an investor. I knew about Varnish and was told to call here. It’s as simple as that.

-What is the most challenging support question you’ve ever had to resolve?

Since I’m new this is fairly easy to answer: Adding IPv6 support to the ACLplus VMOD, which is the only support request I have done so far! Haha!

-What was the process by which you discovered the VSV00003 vulnerability?

I employed structure-aware genetic fuzzing, using libfuzzer, which is built into binaries. I actually had to add support for single-process mode in Varnish to do this, so I could only start fuzzing after the summer vacation. Once I started fuzzing the vulnerability appeared pretty early on, but since it hinged on sending two malformed requests on the same connection it took us a long time to figure out how to create a minimal test-case for it.

-In your opinion, based on what you know about Varnish so far, is the least-well-known/least-understood but truly powerful/exceptional thing about Varnish that customers/users should know?

Perhaps it’s the request-coalescing feature, where two or more simultaneous requests for the same content coalesce, meaning that only one client request fetches content from the origin. That is, only one request is made for each video segment. The origin does not overload, and the content is served to all the requesting clients more quickly because the coalesced request will end up in and be served from cache.

Clearly, with video, the large majority of the consumers will repeatedly, and at the same time, fetch the most recent video segment in the stream, making request coalescing a valuable feature.

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

I think people are going to judge products on how they perform out-of-the-box. Beginners can’t write fancy VCL, so the most sensible thing is having defaults that work really well right away.

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

Before I came back to Oslo I was renovating a sailboat. An old Maxi 95 produced in Sweden. Sadly, it’s now on hold until I can find someone to finish it for me. At some point I will be sailing the fjord down here in Oslo!

IBC reflections and trends

Varnish Stand and team at IBC 2019
Varnish team at IBC 2019

The Varnish team on the ground at IBC had a lot to say about what they saw. Their comments range from general observations, with several people noting that companies were quick to use buzzword-phrases, such as “end-to-end solutions”, despite there being no such thing as truly end-to-end. There were also ongoing mentions, as usual, of 4K, 8K and ultra-high definition video. The consensus seems to be, though, not unexpectedly, that no matter how capacity and performance expectations change, the technologies designed to meet those expectations still struggle to keep up. 

What we observed most acutely were themes related to streaming setup and performance – basically the same issues that companies have been facing for years. Some of these points include:

-Companies want to know how best to size their setups for peak streaming traffic, particularly when they don’t know how many viewers will watch.

Capacity planning, even when using CDNs, is really important. Users have QoE expectations, whereas the OTT providers often have to fight hard to meet those expectations.

Regardless of whether companies are talking about 4K, 8K or 16K resolution for streaming, the fundamental issues remain the same: bandwidth and storage. The demand for both will increase, driving up streaming costs.

Some willingness to move away from proprietary solutions to open up for standardization (and simplification of streaming) seems to be in the air.

One use case that came up a number of times was the challenge of delivery live sports streaming at the highest possible quality and the lowest latency. While many tech solutions can solve pieces of this puzzle, the bottom line is that connectivity and infrastructure quality suffer from extreme differences depending on the region. For example, the further south you go geographically, the worse these elements get. But that doesn’t mean that football fans in Italy, for example, don’t expect the same fast, high-quality stream of their football match as a viewer in Scandinavia. In a place like Italy, there isn’t a well-developed network of CDN PoPs, so many are starting to rely on local, self-built PoPs, and there’s some exploration even of peer-to-peer for guaranteeing bandwidth.

IBC, as usual, is great for networking and checking in with the trends – but no giant surprises popped up. The same challenges and opportunities exist for companies wanting to stream and control their content delivery – they just change and escalate slightly year to year.

Our CEO Lars Larson sat down with John Moulding and Videonet at IBC to discuss the opportunities facing media businesses as increasing demand has exposed the need for a change in the capacity & costs associated with content delivery networks. Watch the video below. 

The future of streaming: Read the new white paper

The Future of Streaming Delivery White paper

Top of mind at IBC and the other events we have recently attended: video streaming, and to some extent, CDN setups. No surprises here – as consumer QoE demands increase, the need for capacity handling and lower latency delivery becomes more apparent. But network and storage limitations continue to dog companies trying to stay on top of viewer satisfaction requirements and their own cost constraints. 

We continue to build on our streaming offer and have recently published a white paper, “The Future of Streaming Delivery – Beyond the Inflection Point”, to address some of these pressing streaming challenges, such as storage, throughput, stability and scalability performance and how improvements in these areas will move streaming toward more broadcast-like experiences.



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