June 7, 2016
4 min read time

Varnish & the do-it-yourself CDN: 3 Questions with CacheFly’s Matt Levine


Companies want more control over both the cost and the performance of their CDNs, from how it’s designed and deployed to the important everyday management—leading innovative companies like CacheFly to build their own CDNs.

Rapid growth made it essential for CacheFly, a world-leader in CDN technology, to find a caching solution that supported scalability at its performance level, as well as providing the stability required for deploying in-demand new features. From an infrastructure standpoint, the DIY CDN requires a caching engine, robust geo-DNS and service discovery. It also requires money, time and qualified people to build and manage it.

CacheFly Founder & CTO Matt Levine recently joined Varnish Software for a webinar providing a peek inside their performance-driven approach to building a CDN, and how CacheFly is leveraging Varnish to supercharge speed and delivery. We sat down with Matt Levine after the webinar for a quick interview about these challenges. Read the “3 questions” with Matt Levine, then take a moment to watch the on-demand webinar or read the case study to learn how the agility the new CDN gives CacheFly the ability to deliver new features to their customers in minutes or hourscompared to a process that formerly required days or even weeks to roll out.

Varnish Software:  Matt, What challenges were you dealing with that led you to build your own CDN with Varnish Software?

Matt Levine:  The challenges we had were kind of a build-up of intellectual debt, for lack of better wording. We started in 2002 and over time we ended up deploying a whole bunch of different solutions that all kind of had to work and play together, and the reality for us – to continue to grow and add features – was that it required a lot of patchwork, getting things to work together. It became cumbersome and difficult to add new features for customers.

We had a very stable platform, but we couldn’t necessarily do all the things that we wanted to do, and certainly not in a short timeframe.  We could do a lot of things before Varnish, but it would take months instead of weeks, or weeks instead of days. That was what we wanted to change by moving to Varnish. Once CacheFly moved to Varnish, we were able to then leverage the flexibility of Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) and VMODs, and we gained the ability to add features while still having that stable platform to build everything on.

Varnish Software:  What role did Varnish play in helping you to solve these challenges?

Matt Levine: The great thing about Varnish is the flexibility that we get from VCL and VMODs. Even in the first month of deploying, we were able to immediately add features that had been in our backlog for a couple of months. We were able to roll those out as part of the rollout of Varnish within just three or four days. So it really allowed us to tackle our backlog for development. And then the challenge as it relates to our CDN, is that we offer a 100% SOA (service oriented architecture), or as we call it, we’re “painting a moving train” so being able to roll stuff out without impacting availability at all was a huge plus when we rolled Varnish out.

Varnish Software:  Why did you choose Varnish as a solution?

Matt Levine:  The challenge that we really had to wrap our heads around, was how do we grow for the next 2, 3, 5, 10 years… and how do we do it in a way that’s supported, and we know we can build a reliable platform. The big thing that stood out with Varnish as opposed to other solutions we were looking at was the support we knew we could get with Varnish Plus. And we knew with Varnish, any new features we needed to create were open, and easy to build; easy to deploy; and easy to test.

Watch the full CacheFly webinar on demand for more on:

  • How CacheFly used Varnish Plus to massively improve performance on "in-flight" objects
  • How much more granular control over caching and more flexibility allows CacheFly to deliver better customer service
  • How features can now be added or changed within minutes - not days - ensuring that functionality is maintained in a timely fashion
  • How CacheFly has saved both monetary and manpower resources after implementing Varnish Plus.

For even greater depth, read the full CacheFly case study here.

Read the case study

Photo (c) 2014 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center used under Creative Commons license.