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I have seen a lot of interesting references to Varnish and would like to play with it. However, I run Windows XP and don't have an extra machine available to run linux, nor do I have much linux skill. I would like to install linux under some virtualization software so I can evaluate Varnish and it's VCL.

Any way to run Linux as a Virtual Machine on top of Windows so can have best of both worlds? gave me some good tips. I am fine with using either Virtual PC (which I use now) or VirtualBox (which seems like a good choice). Any recommendations on which of these to use?

Next, which linux distro makes the most sense. I don't really need a desktop version if I just want to play with a networking level application. I'd prefer something that didn't take up much disk space and was either easy to setup, or even already mostly setup on a virtual hard drive. Something that had Varnish and any dependencies installed would be the best option.

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Virtual PC has historically been a big pain in the butt with Linux distributions (many linux distros required 16-bit graphics to install, which weren't supported in VPC). Virtual box or VMWare Server are much better choices for setting up virtualized linux boxes.

Varnish is included in standard Ubuntu distributions as an add-on package, so it's very easy to get started there. You can download a vmware ubuntu appliance from the VMWare site.

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It looks like these appliances work with the free VMWare Player (, is that right? Should I use Ubuntu 8.10 Server ( – Kevin Hakanson Jul 12 '09 at 23:48
Yep, vmware player should work- I use the (also free) vmware server, as it's a bit more capable for my needs- but vmware player is a fine place to start. The 8.10 appliance looks like it would work, and you can upgrade it to 9.04 with a simple upgrade command once you're happy with it. – Tim Howland Jul 13 '09 at 18:26

Virtualbox. Available on more platforms & seamless mode apps. You won't really need to use seamless with a server virtual. You can run the virtual headless and use putty and ssh to transfer files and get a shell if needed.

If you port forward the default nat network you'd access the regular web server at http://localhost and varnish proxy cache of the web server at http://localhost:3128 or whatever upper port you assign it to. Or use bridge networking and assign the virtual it's own address.

Debian and Ubuntu had ~70k search hits, Centos ~55k

  • Debian - use a minimal server install
  • Ubuntu - use Jeos
  • Centos - (fedora AOS maybe? haven't tried it yet) this is the largest base install

All the major distros should be fine. Fedora, Ubuntu, Opensuse, Gentoo and LFS virtuals.

You should compile the current version from source if your repos have an older one. Install the development version of varnish from your distro's repos to get all the dependency sources installed. Then check out the current version from varnish source control and compile.

Install base and add packages for an isolated testing framework

  • web server - nginx, lighttpd or apache, etc.
  • database server - mysql, postgresql, sqllite, etc.
  • file transfer server/shell console server - openssh
  • reverse proxy server - varnish development packages, should pull in dependency sources
  • compiler, source control, debuggers, automated testing framework, bug tracking
  • log viewers, network and system monitoring, backup, performance tools
  • wiki - use as feed for varnish and for configuration, usage and testing notes
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