Add some Varnish to speed up your Web Applications

varnish software

As worldwide Web usage continues to grow by leaps and bounds, websites are responsible for handling more users — and more importantly — more data. Companies developing web applications need to ensure their sites are able to provide a compelling experience to their audience. This becomes more difficult when considering the massive amounts of data required to support Internet video streaming and rich media content delivery.

With gigabit Internet networks rapidly becoming the norm, expect the stress on high-traffic websites to only increase over time. This is why software like Varnish is becoming more important for accelerating website performance over the venerable HTTP protocol. Since the development of faster websites is important, let’s take a closer look at Varnish.

Varnish Cache is an HTTP Accelerator

An open source cache serving as an HTTP accelerator, Varnish’s first release became available in 2006. Varnish Software, the company behind the accelerator, provides commercial support for the cache as well as other paid products, including an advanced version of the cache known as Varnish Plus. The company also offers the Varnish API Engine, a commercial solution supporting high-traffic APIs hosted in a scalable online environment.

Like many other cache products, Varnish keeps website data in memory, so it is easily accessible by a web request without having to retrieve the data from a server. The software uses a threaded model, with one thread essentially dedicated to each web connection. An included configuration language gives network engineers more options to control cache behavior and performance — an advantage over similar HTTP accelerators.

Using Varnish helps high-traffic websites, most notably the social media giants, Facebook and Twitter, handle huge amounts of simultaneous users with nary an issue. Varnish also includes advanced load balancing functionality which is vital for optimizing overall server performance. The software is especially popular among content delivery networks as well.

Supporting High-end Software Development Companies

Any company looking at developing a web application with a ton of rich media content, including online gaming, video sites, and music streaming, would benefit from adding Varnish to their site’s architecture. An online video game is only as good as its perceived performance with multiple users simultaneously connected and interacting. An app must handle this interactivity between users while also providing a compelling visual and aural experience.

Server hiccups, buffering, and general slowness adversely impacts gameplay, which leads to disgruntled customers filling social media networks with complaints. Obviously, this leads to fewer players and less revenue for the game developer. This same scenario can play out with any high-traffic rich media-laden web application, thus the importance of making Varnish an important part of the site architecture.

Additionally, software companies developing publically available APIs realize the importance of their overall performance. The standard Varnish Cache works well for most examples of this use-case, but firms needing additional functionality need to consider the commercial Varnish API Engine for a boost in horsepower. 

Varnish’s benefits are obvious for any organization involved in the development of high-traffic — users and/or data — websites. It is an easy way to make the web fly.

Stay tuned for additional insights into the world of QA and software development at the Betica Blog.