In this post we are will see Varnish vs NginX for 2018

In this article, we are going to see what is Varnish, what is Nginx, pros, and cons of each of…

In this article, we are going to see what is Varnish, what is Nginx, pros, and cons of each of the technologies and finally, which is better as of 2018.  Varnish and Nginx are both server-side technologies with very specific functionalities.  However, both support speeding up web applications.  In this article, we are going to focus what individual technologies have to offer and also how they are good in speeding up web applications.

if you are wondering whether or not the comparison between varnish and Engine fair consider that Engine is a full-blown web server technology that has web server, Static and dynamic cache, load balancing and mail proxy etc while varnish is only a proxy caching load balancing technique.


Nginx is an open source web server which can also be used as a reverse proxy, load balancer, mail proxy and HTTP cache.  Nginx is a free software that is released under the BSD like license.  A large portion of web server uses Nginx.  Nginx was built specifically to beat the C10K problem.  C10K problem is the inability of the server to serve 10K concurrent clients.  This makes Nginx a better alternative to apache when a large number of users are to be served and Nginx is good at it.

Important Features:

  • Can be installed in the server to serve dynamic HTTP content.
  • Uses FastCGI, SCGI, and WSGI
  • It can act as load balancers.
  • It uses the Asynchronous Event-Driven Approach, rather than threads handle requests.
  • Default config file is nginx.conf

HTTP features of nginx:

  • Very low memory footprint with only 2.5MB per 10K inactive HTTP keep-alive connections.
  • Handling of static files, index files and also auto indexing.
  • Reverse Proxy with caching
  • IPv6 support
  • TLS and SSL support.
  • STARTTLS support.
  • SMTP, POP3 and IMAP proxy
  • Authentication using an external HTTP server.

Features of Nginx plus:

  • Active health checks
  • Session persistence based on Cookies.
  • DNS server Discovery integration.

More about Nginx:

Nginx uses less dynamic memory than Apache and can handle roughly four times the request per second.  Nginx doesn’t have a .htaccess file as does Apache.  This prevents the developers from applying system-wide settings for files.  Applying third-party plugins will require recompilation.


It is an HTTP accelerator for content-heavy dynamic websites such as blogs.  Varnish focuses only on HTTP, unlike other server-side cache technologies that support FTP and SMTP as well.

How Varnish works:

Varnish stores data in Virtual Memory and leaves the task of deciding what is stored in memory and what gets paged out to disk to the operating system. Varnish is heavily threaded.  Each connection with the client is handled with a separate worker thread and when the limit of the threads is reached, the new connections are rejected.

A number of runtime parameter control things such as the maximum and the minimum number of worker threads, various timeouts etc.  A command line interface allows these parameters to be modified without restarting the accelerator.

Varnish supports load balancing using both the round robin and random director.  Health checking of the backend is also available.

Static proxy:

Benchmarks have clearly shown that vanish is quicker than enginx at serving static data.  Varnish is clearly the choice to go with when the user is using an Apache server.  Therefore using varnish will speed up the web application that is using Apache server.

SSL encryption:

As you have already seen in the above-listed features it is clear that Enginx supports SSL encryption and therefore it is more suitable for an eCommerce website that requires encrypting user data.

Final Verdict:

Nginx CGI Cache is a winner when it comes to just performance.  It is not only able to handle more requests simultaneously but also server the requests quicker.  It is easier to configure Nginx in the server.  The users should keep in mind that Nginx requires sudo privileges in the server to set up.  Varnish on the other hand, require far more complex setup due to its inability to support SSL by default.  Varnish still have a better cache invalidation rules than Nginx.  Also, Varnish is also a better solution when the server is Apache.  With all that said, Nginx fast CGI still is the go-to choice if the users do not need Varnish specifically.


Varnish vs Nginx
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