June 18, 2024
3 min read time

Navigating Through the Transition: What to Do When Your Varnish Expert Moves On

Varnish Cache is deployed behind millions of websites worldwide. It’s a useful, powerful tool for site reliability engineers, web developers and more, who, after learning how to get the most out of Varnish, couldn’t do without it. Sometimes, though, a business will find that their in-house Varnish expert has moved on. So what do you do when your Varnish expert leaves? First things first: don’t panic! There are many options available for companies in this situation. Let’s explore some options.

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge the gap left by an expert. They might have been responsible for managing and optimizing Varnish deployments, troubleshooting issues, monitoring cache performance, and even customizing Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) files. Their departure can lead to a temporary knowledge vacuum.


Training Existing Team Members

One of the immediate solutions is to upskill other staff in the web operations team. Many times, there are team members with adjacent skills who can pick up Varnish easily. VCL, for instance, has a {curly braces} style. Users with basic coding experience will find this comfortingly familiar, as this style is the same used by many other common languages, like Java, Javascript, and C++.

The thing to remember is that VCL is not a top-down programming language: you don’t need to code the entire behavior of the cache. Instead you use VCL to extend the existing behavior of Varnish, represented by a so-called “Finite State Machine”.

By hooking into various states in the Finite State Machine, you can tailor that behavior to your exact needs, rather than relying on the standard behavior that is more cautious and conservative.

Mastering the flow of the Finite State Machine, and knowing how to extend the states and state transitions can be daunting at first. There is a learning curve, because you’re dealing with a domain-specific language.

Luckily there are many, many resources are available for self learning, too:

  • Varnish 6 by Example is the essential guide to all things Varnish 6, covering both Varnish Cache and Varnish Enterprise. A practical guide, it will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about using Varnish
  • Visit the Varnish Developer Portal for a wide range of tutorials, install guides and documentation
  • The friendly Varnish Community is active across mailing lists, IRC, Discord, Stackoverflow, X and LinkedIn. See the Get Help page for more information. 


Partnering with Varnish Software for Support

Varnish Software offers comprehensive support services that can temporarily or permanently fill the expertise gap. As the primary stewards of the Varnish Cache project and the creators of Varnish Enterprise, we've extended our expert support to Varnish Cache users worldwide. Our support team includes Varnish Core Engineers and represents the greatest concentration of Varnish expertise in the world. Our commercial Varnish Cache support covers both Varnish Cache (LTS) and Hitch (SSL Termination):

  • Professional Support. Access dedicated expertise through the Varnish Support Portal (up to 5 cases per year).
  • Security Vigilance. Stay ahead with timely alerts for potential vulnerabilities.
  • Professional Development. Explore opportunities for personalized services and training, enhancing your Varnish mastery.

Find out more 

The departure of a Varnish expert doesn’t have to be a setback. With options ranging from internal training and hiring to partnering with Varnish Software, there are several pathways to filling the knowledge gap. The key is to evaluate your business needs, resources, and long-term strategies before deciding on the best course of action. Remember, at Varnish Software, we’re always here to help guide and support you through these transitions and beyond.