The value of using Varnish as a part of your e-commerce infrastructure, part 1

As the world of e-commerce continues to grow by double digits every year (U.S. e-commerce sales in 2012 were up by 16% from 2011) the competition in this industry is becoming ever fiercer. For every site offering a particular product online there are tens or hundreds offering the exact same product. And as there are more e-stores to choose from customers become ever more demanding.

In this blog series I will explain how Varnish can help you enhance your user experience, manage your e-commerce site more effectively and consequently boost your bottom line.

Great user experience = Competitive advantage 

I recently spoke to one of our e-commerce customers, Trade Me, about what they have done to be successful and how Varnish has helped them accomplish that. Trade Me is the largest online marketplace in New Zealand  with more than 1 million Kiwis buying or selling something on the site in the past 12 months. With its huge membership, it’s no surprise Trade Me is the most visited site in New Zealand with an average of 732,942 visitors generating 70 million page impressions every day. Trade Me’s group of sites (it operates several sister sites including dating and travel) collectively generate more than 60% of New Zealand based web traffic.  

Ross Brown, Trade Me’s Team Lead for System Engineering, told us that outstanding user experience is imperative for Trade Me to stay competitive. “We prioritise a great user experience and that means speed and scalability are important. We make sure we optimise our pages so they load fast.  We use Varnish on all user uploaded images as two-thirds of our traffic is images. Using Varnish means we have full confidence in the image platform as a whole.”

Reverse caching at a lower cost

Trade Me has been using Varnish for reverse caching since 2010. Before moving to Varnish, the company was using a different service but as Trade Me’s web presence grew this became increasingly and overly expensive. “Switching over to Varnish for our reverse caching saved us a lot of money and helped us solve a problem around scalability. Our previous devices could not scale but with Varnish we are not constrained and we can use whatever device we want,” Ross said. He adds that an additional benefit with using Varnish is that it is a lot easier and more flexible to configure. “We invested some time upfront in Varnish and after deploying it we have never looked at other alternatives as its flexibility is unmatched. Using the Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) allows us to be very granular in how we manage our caching. We have full control over how much we cache and for how long,” he said.

Finally, Ross shared with us that Trade Me is planning on extending their use of Varnish in the near future by using it for for pdfs and static content, such as sidebars via Varnish’s ESI functionality (you can learn more about ESI in Varnish by downloading our free webinar on caching strategies here).

Why should I use Varnish for caching my e-commerce site?

Varnish is a proven web caching tool that has given a growing population of system administrators and IT and operations managers a much desired relief from constantly worrying about the performance and scalability of their sites. As in the case of Trade Me Varnish can help scale up your website and enhance your user experience while likely helping you save money on your infrastructure.

Contact us

 Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are wondering if Varnish is the right alternative for your e-commerce site. We will do our best to help or to get you in touch with the right person if your questions are highly technical.

Topics: e-commerce

8/13/13 12:30 PM by Hildur Smaradottir

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