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Fastly vs Varnish: What are the differences?


In this article, we will compare two popular content delivery networks (CDNs) - Fastly and Varnish. While both Fastly and Varnish offer similar functionalities in terms of caching and content delivery, there are some key differences that set them apart.

  1. Architecture: Fastly and Varnish differ in their architecture. Fastly operates in a distributed server model, with multiple Points of Presence (PoPs) spread out across the globe. This helps to ensure low latency and high availability. On the other hand, Varnish is a reverse caching proxy that runs on a single server or a cluster of servers.

  2. Ease of Use: Fastly provides a user-friendly and intuitive web interface, making it easier for users to manage their CDN configurations. It offers a well-documented API that allows for seamless integration with various development tools and platforms. Varnish, on the other hand, requires more technical expertise to set up and configure as it primarily relies on configuration files and VCL (Varnish Configuration Language).

  3. Advanced Caching Capabilities: Fastly offers advanced caching capabilities such as Edge Side Includes (ESI), which allows for fragment caching and dynamic content assembly. It also provides surrogate keys that enable granular cache invalidation. Varnish, on the other hand, offers powerful caching features through its flexible VCL configuration, enabling developers to define complex caching rules and logic.

  4. Pricing Model: Fastly follows a usage-based pricing model, where customers pay for the amount of bandwidth consumed and requests processed. They also have various pricing tiers based on the level of support and additional features required. On the other hand, Varnish follows an open-source model and is free to use, with optional commercial support available. This makes Varnish a cost-effective option for organizations with limited budgets.

  5. Support and Documentation: Fastly provides comprehensive documentation, support through various channels like email, chat, and phone, as well as a community forum where users can share knowledge and seek assistance. Varnish also has good documentation and an active community, but official support from Varnish Software requires a commercial license.

  6. Integration and Ecosystem: Fastly integrates well with various third-party services and tools, including popular content management systems and developer platforms. It also provides a Marketplace with pre-built solutions and configurations. While Varnish also has integrations with several platforms and extensions developed by the community, its ecosystem may be comparatively smaller than Fastly's.

In summary, Fastly and Varnish have several key differences. Fastly operates in a distributed server model and provides a user-friendly interface, while Varnish runs on a single server or cluster and requires more technical expertise. Fastly offers advanced caching capabilities, follows a usage-based pricing model, and provides comprehensive support. In contrast, Varnish is free and open-source, has a flexible configuration language, and has a smaller ecosystem.

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Pros of Fastly
Pros of Varnish
  • 28
    Real-time updates
  • 26
    Fastest CDN
  • 22
    Powerful API
  • 20
    Great support
  • 14
    Great customer support
  • 7
    Instant Purging
  • 7
    Custom VCL
  • 6
    Good pricing
  • 6
    Tag-based Purging
  • 5
    HTTP/2 Support
  • 4
    Speed & functionality
  • 4
    Image processing on demande (Fastly IO)
  • 4
    Best CDN
  • 104
  • 67
    Very Fast
  • 57
    Very Stable
  • 44
    Very Robust
  • 37
    HTTP reverse proxy
  • 21
    Open Source
  • 18
    Web application accelerator
  • 11
    Easy to config
  • 5
    Widely Used
  • 4
    Great community
  • 2
    Essential software for HTTP

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Cons of Fastly
Cons of Varnish
  • 1
    Minimum $50/mo spend
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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    What is Fastly?

    Fastly's real-time content delivery network gives you total control over your content, unprecedented access to performance analytics, and the ability to instantly update content in 150 milliseconds.

    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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    What companies use Varnish?
    See which teams inside your own company are using Fastly or Varnish.
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    What tools integrate with Fastly?
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    Blog Posts

    May 6 2020 at 6:34AM


    What are some alternatives to Fastly and Varnish?
    Cloudflare speeds up and protects millions of websites, APIs, SaaS services, and other properties connected to the Internet.
    If you've ever shopped online, downloaded music, watched a web video or connected to work remotely, you've probably used Akamai's cloud platform. Akamai helps businesses connect the hyperconnected, empowering them to transform and reinvent their business online. We remove the complexities of technology, so you can focus on driving your business faster forward.
    Netlify is smart enough to process your site and make sure all assets gets optimized and served with perfect caching-headers from a cookie-less domain. We make sure your HTML is served straight from our CDN edge nodes without any round-trip to our backend servers and are the only ones to give you instant cache invalidation when you push a new deploy. Netlify is also the only static hosting service with integrated continuous deployment.
    Build your applications and services at the edge, with Edge Computing and Edge Services that give you high performance, full security, and total control.
    Twilio offers developers a powerful API for phone services to make and receive phone calls, and send and receive text messages. Their product allows programmers to more easily integrate various communication methods into their software and programs.
    See all alternatives