nginx vs Varnish

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nginx vs Varnish: What are the differences?

nginx: A high performance free open source web server powering busiest sites on the Internet. nginx [engine x] is an HTTP and reverse proxy server, as well as a mail proxy server, written by Igor Sysoev. According to Netcraft nginx served or proxied 30.46% of the top million busiest sites in Jan 2018; Varnish: High-performance HTTP accelerator. Varnish Cache is a web application accelerator also known as a caching HTTP reverse proxy. You install it in front of any server that speaks HTTP and configure it to cache the contents. Varnish Cache is really, really fast. It typically speeds up delivery with a factor of 300 - 1000x, depending on your architecture.

nginx belongs to "Web Servers" category of the tech stack, while Varnish can be primarily classified under "Web Cache".

"High-performance http server", "Performance" and "Easy to configure" are the key factors why developers consider nginx; whereas "High-performance", "Very Fast" and "Very Stable" are the primary reasons why Varnish is favored.

nginx and Varnish are both open source tools. nginx with 9.11K GitHub stars and 3.44K forks on GitHub appears to be more popular than Varnish with 908 GitHub stars and 216 GitHub forks.

According to the StackShare community, nginx has a broader approval, being mentioned in 8676 company stacks & 2560 developers stacks; compared to Varnish, which is listed in 1006 company stacks and 140 developer stacks.

What is nginx?

nginx [engine x] is an HTTP and reverse proxy server, as well as a mail proxy server, written by Igor Sysoev. According to Netcraft nginx served or proxied 30.46% of the top million busiest sites in Jan 2018.

What is Varnish?

Varnish Cache is a web application accelerator also known as a caching HTTP reverse proxy. You install it in front of any server that speaks HTTP and configure it to cache the contents. Varnish Cache is really, really fast. It typically speeds up delivery with a factor of 300 - 1000x, depending on your architecture.
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Why do developers choose nginx?
Why do developers choose Varnish?

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      What are some alternatives to nginx and Varnish?
      HAProxy
      HAProxy (High Availability Proxy) is a free, very fast and reliable solution offering high availability, load balancing, and proxying for TCP and HTTP-based applications.
      lighttpd
      lighttpd has a very low memory footprint compared to other webservers and takes care of cpu-load. Its advanced feature-set (FastCGI, CGI, Auth, Output-Compression, URL-Rewriting and many more) make lighttpd the perfect webserver-software for every server that suffers load problems.
      Traefik
      A modern HTTP reverse proxy and load balancer that makes deploying microservices easy. Traefik integrates with your existing infrastructure components and configures itself automatically and dynamically.
      Caddy
      Caddy is a production-ready open-source web server that is fast, easy to use, and makes you more productive. HTTP/2 and HTTPS by default
      Envoy
      Originally built at Lyft, Envoy is a high performance C++ distributed proxy designed for single services and applications, as well as a communication bus and “universal data plane” designed for large microservice “service mesh” architectures.
      See all alternatives
      Decisions about nginx and Varnish
      Node.js
      Node.js
      Python
      Python
      MySQL
      MySQL
      Memcached
      Memcached
      nginx
      nginx
      RabbitMQ
      RabbitMQ
      Redis
      Redis
      Django
      Django
      Tornado
      Tornado
      Varnish
      Varnish
      HAProxy
      HAProxy

      Around the time of their Series A, Pinterest’s stack included Python and Django, with Tornado and Node.js as web servers. Memcached / Membase and Redis handled caching, with RabbitMQ handling queueing. Nginx, HAproxy and Varnish managed static-delivery and load-balancing, with persistent data storage handled by MySQL.

      See more
      Tim Abbott
      Tim Abbott
      Founder at Zulip · | 5 upvotes · 44.5K views
      atZulipZulip
      nginx
      nginx
      Apache HTTP Server
      Apache HTTP Server

      We've been happy with nginx as part of our stack. As an open source web application that folks install on-premise, the configuration system for the webserver is pretty important to us. I have a few complaints (e.g. the configuration syntax for conditionals is a pain), but overall we've found it pretty easy to build a configurable set of options (see link) for how to run Zulip on nginx, both directly and with a remote reverse proxy in front of it, with a minimum of code duplication.

      Certainly I've been a lot happier with it than I was working with Apache HTTP Server in past projects.

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      Prometheus
      Prometheus
      Logstash
      Logstash
      nginx
      nginx
      OpenResty
      OpenResty
      Lua
      Lua
      Go
      Go

      At Kong while building an internal tool, we struggled to route metrics to Prometheus and logs to Logstash without incurring too much latency in our metrics collection.

      We replaced nginx with OpenResty on the edge of our tool which allowed us to use the lua-nginx-module to run Lua code that captures metrics and records telemetry data during every request’s log phase. Our code then pushes the metrics to a local aggregator process (written in Go) which in turn exposes them in Prometheus Exposition Format for consumption by Prometheus. This solution reduced the number of components we needed to maintain and is fast thanks to NGINX and LuaJIT.

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      Scott Mebberson
      Scott Mebberson
      CTO / Chief Architect at Idearium · | 5 upvotes · 28K views
      nginx
      nginx
      Caddy
      Caddy

      We used to primarily use nginx for our static web server and proxy in-front of Node.js. Now, we use Caddy. And we couldn't be happier.

      Caddy is simpler on all fronts. Configuration is easier. Free HTTPS out of the box. Some fantastic plugins. And for the most part, it's fast.

      Don't get me wrong, it's not lost on me that Nginx is actually a superior product.

      But for the times when you don't need that extra performance, and complexity - take a look at Caddy.

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      Simon Bettison
      Simon Bettison
      Managing Director at Bettison.org Limited · | 6 upvotes · 102.9K views
      atBettison.org LimitedBettison.org Limited
      PostgreSQL
      PostgreSQL
      Elasticsearch
      Elasticsearch
      Sidekiq
      Sidekiq
      Redis
      Redis
      Amazon ElastiCache
      Amazon ElastiCache
      Rails
      Rails
      RSpec
      RSpec
      Selenium
      Selenium
      Travis CI
      Travis CI
      Ruby
      Ruby
      Unicorn
      Unicorn
      nginx
      nginx
      Amazon CloudFront
      Amazon CloudFront
      Amazon SES
      Amazon SES
      Amazon SQS
      Amazon SQS
      Amazon Route 53
      Amazon Route 53
      Amazon VPC
      Amazon VPC
      Docker
      Docker
      Amazon EC2 Container Service
      Amazon EC2 Container Service

      In 2010 we made the very difficult decision to entirely re-engineer our existing monolithic LAMP application from the ground up in order to address some growing concerns about it's long term viability as a platform.

      Full application re-write is almost always never the answer, because of the risks involved. However the situation warranted drastic action as it was clear that the existing product was going to face severe scaling issues. We felt it better address these sooner rather than later and also take the opportunity to improve the international architecture and also to refactor the database in. order that it better matched the changes in core functionality.

      PostgreSQL was chosen for its reputation as being solid ACID compliant database backend, it was available as an offering AWS RDS service which reduced the management overhead of us having to configure it ourselves. In order to reduce read load on the primary database we implemented an Elasticsearch layer for fast and scalable search operations. Synchronisation of these indexes was to be achieved through the use of Sidekiq's Redis based background workers on Amazon ElastiCache. Again the AWS solution here looked to be an easy way to keep our involvement in managing this part of the platform at a minimum. Allowing us to focus on our core business.

      Rails ls was chosen for its ability to quickly get core functionality up and running, its MVC architecture and also its focus on Test Driven Development using RSpec and Selenium with Travis CI providing continual integration. We also liked Ruby for its terse, clean and elegant syntax. Though YMMV on that one!

      Unicorn was chosen for its continual deployment and reputation as a reliable application server, nginx for its reputation as a fast and stable reverse-proxy. We also took advantage of the Amazon CloudFront CDN here to further improve performance by caching static assets globally.

      We tried to strike a balance between having control over management and configuration of our core application with the convenience of being able to leverage AWS hosted services for ancillary functions (Amazon SES , Amazon SQS Amazon Route 53 all hosted securely inside Amazon VPC of course!).

      Whilst there is some compromise here with potential vendor lock in, the tasks being performed by these ancillary services are no particularly specialised which should mitigate this risk. Furthermore we have already containerised the stack in our development using Docker environment, and looking to how best to bring this into production - potentially using Amazon EC2 Container Service

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      Chris McFadden
      Chris McFadden
      VP, Engineering at SparkPost · | 7 upvotes · 76K views
      atSparkPostSparkPost
      nginx
      nginx
      OpenResty
      OpenResty
      Lua
      Lua

      We use nginx and OpenResty as our API proxy running on EC2 for auth, caching, and some rate limiting for our dozens of microservices. Since OpenResty support embedded Lua we were able to write a custom access module that calls out to our authentication service with the resource, method, and access token. If that succeeds then critical account info is passed down to the underlying microservice. This proxy approach keeps all authentication and authorization in one place and provides a unified CX for our API users. Nginx is fast and cheap to run though we are always exploring alternatives that are also economical. What do you use?

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      nginx
      nginx

      I use nginx because it is very light weight. Where Apache tries to include everything in the web server, nginx opts to have external programs/facilities take care of that so the web server can focus on efficiently serving web pages. While this can seem inefficient, it limits the number of new bugs found in the web server, which is the element that faces the client most directly.

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      Marcel Kornegoor
      Marcel Kornegoor
      CTO at AT Computing · | 6 upvotes · 18.2K views
      nginx
      nginx
      Apache HTTP Server
      Apache HTTP Server

      nginx or Apache HTTP Server that's the question. The best choice depends on what it needs to serve. In general, Nginx performs better with static content, where Apache and Nginx score roughly the same when it comes to dynamic content. Since most webpages and web-applications use both static and dynamic content, a combination of both platforms may be the best solution.

      Since both webservers are easy to deploy and free to use, setting up a performance or feature comparison test is no big deal. This way you can see what solutions suits your application or content best. Don't forget to look at other aspects, like security, back-end compatibility (easy of integration) and manageability, as well.

      A reasonably good comparison between the two can be found in the link below.

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      Interest over time
      Reviews of nginx and Varnish
      Review ofVarnishVarnish

      Thank you for posting such a great article! I found your website perfect for my needs. It contains wonderful and helpful posts. Keep up the good work!. Thank you for this wonderful Article! five nights at freddy's

      How developers use nginx and Varnish
      Avatar of MaxCDN
      MaxCDN uses nginxnginx

      The original API performed a synchronous Nginx reload after provisioning a zone, which often took up to 30 seconds or longer. While important, this step shouldn’t block the response to the user (or API) that a new zone has been created, or block subsequent requests to adjust the zone. With the new API, an independent worker reloads Nginx configurations based on zone modifications.It’s like ordering a product online: don’t pause the purchase process until the product’s been shipped. Say the order has been created, and you can still cancel or modify shipping information. Meanwhile, the remaining steps are being handled behind the scenes. In our case, the zone provision happens instantly, and you can see the result in your control panel or API. Behind the scenes, the zone will be serving traffic within a minute.

      Avatar of Cloudcraft
      Cloudcraft uses nginxnginx

      Nginx serves as the loadbalancer, router and SSL terminator of cloudcraft.co. As one of our app server nodes is spun up, an Ansible orchestration script adds the new node dynamically to the nginx loadbalancer config which is then reloaded for a zero downtime seamless rolling deployment. By putting nginx in front or whatever web and API servers you might have, you gain a ton of flexibility. While previously I've cobbled together HAProxy and Stun as a poor man's loadbalancer, nginx just does a much better job and is far simpler in the long run.

      Avatar of datapile
      datapile uses nginxnginx

      Used nginx as exactly what it is great for: serving static content in a cache-friendly, load balanced manner.

      It is exclusively for production web page hosting, we don't use nginx internally, only on the public-facing versions of static sites / Angular & Backbone/Marionette applications.

      Avatar of Pēteris Caune
      Pēteris Caune uses nginxnginx

      We use NGINX both as reverse HTTP proxy and also as a SMTP proxy, to handle incoming email.

      We previously handled incoming email with Mandrill, and then later with AWS SES. Handling incoming email yourself is not that much more difficult and saves quite a bit on operational costs.

      Avatar of Pinterest
      Pinterest uses VarnishVarnish

      When you visit the site, you talk to a load balancer which chooses a varnish front-end which in turn talks to our web front-ends which used to run nine python processes. Each of these processes are serving the exact same version on any given web front-end.

      Avatar of Wirkn Inc.
      Wirkn Inc. uses nginxnginx

      NGINX sits in front of all of our web servers. It is fantastic at load balancing traffic as well as serving as a cache at times when under massive load. It's a robust tool that we're happy to have at the front lines of all Wirkn web apps.

      Avatar of The Independent
      The Independent uses VarnishVarnish

      Varnish sits as a secondary cache layer behind Akamai. Two servers operate in a Primary/Secondary configuration with failover managed by HAProxy. Requests peak at around 10k/s.

      Avatar of Hevelop
      Hevelop uses VarnishVarnish

      Varnish is the http cache proxy we use to achieve maximum performance on high traffic e-commerce.

      Avatar of Pruvit
      Pruvit uses VarnishVarnish

      Used as part of site hosting (Firebase HTTP Hosting manages implementation)

      Avatar of Reactor Digital
      Reactor Digital uses VarnishVarnish

      Caching static content requested by Drupal.

      How much does nginx cost?
      How much does Varnish cost?
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