Required command line arguments

There a two command line arguments you have to set when starting Varnish, these are:

  • what TCP port to serve HTTP from, and

  • where the backend server can be contacted.

If you have installed Varnish through using a provided operating system bound package, you will find the startup options here:

  • Debian, Ubuntu: /etc/default/varnish

  • Red Hat, Centos: /etc/sysconfig/varnish

  • FreeBSD: /etc/rc.conf (See also: /usr/local/etc/rc.d/varnishd)

‘-a’ listen_address

The ‘-a’ argument defines what address Varnish should listen to, and service HTTP requests from.

You will most likely want to set this to “:80” which is the Well Known Port for HTTP.

You can specify multiple addresses separated by a comma, and you can use numeric or host/service names if you like, Varnish will try to open and service as many of them as possible, but if none of them can be opened, varnishd will not start.

Here are some examples:

-a :80
-a localhost:80
-a '[fe80::1]:80'
-a ',[::]:8081'

If your webserver runs on the same machine, you will have to move it to another port number first.

‘-f’ VCL-file or ‘-b’ backend

Varnish needs to know where to find the HTTP server it is caching for. You can either specify it with the ‘-b’ argument, or you can put it in your own VCL file, specified with the ‘-f’ argument.

Using ‘-b’ is a quick way to get started:

-b localhost:81

Notice that if you specify a name, it can at most resolve to one IPv4 and one IPv6 address.

For more advanced use, you will want to specify a VCL program with -f, but you can start with as little as just:

backend default {
        .host = "localhost:81";

which is, by the way, precisely what ‘-b’ does.

Optional arguments

For a complete list of the command line arguments please see varnishd(1) options.