Reverse proxy caching with Nginx and Apache

This tutorial describes how to build a origin-edge setup with Apache and Nginx on Ubuntu. Nginx with cache locking is needed because Apache's own cache locking works only as a hint and is not reliable.

The information here is a guidelline, other ways of doing this are possible too.

Lua may be used on both Apache and Nginx to script extra features, but if this is not required it may be left out.


Origin configuration

To setup Apache you will need to create a vhost config file in /etc/apache2/sites-enabled, for instance as 'origin.conf':

<VirtualHost *:82>
  ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost

  DocumentRoot /var/www/vod
  <Directory />
    Options FollowSymLinks
    AllowOverride None

  <Location />
    UspHandleIsm on

  ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/

  # Possible values include: debug, info, notice, warn, error, crit,
  # alert, emerg.
  LogLevel warn

  CustomLog /var/log/apache2/ common

At this point you will have Apache configured as an origin with /var/www/vod as DocumentRoot. A good test if everything works is to use the setup from Verifying Your Setup.

Running this tutorial will create a directory called /var/www/usp-evaluation directory with content, but it can be renamed to /var/www/vod. Then adjust the URLs in 'index.html' (inside /var/www/vod) to '' and make sure your /etc/hosts file maps your IP address to

You then can start the webserver as follows:


sudo service apache2 restart

Apache should now start listening to port 82 as an origin.


Setup a cache and log directory for Nginx:

sudo mkdir /var/cache/nginx
sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/cache/nginx

sudo mkdir /var/log/nginx
sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/log/nginx


Nginx will listen on port 80 and sit in front of the Apache origin. You will need the following configuration (in /usr/local/nginx/conf):

# same user as Apache
user www-data;

# most sources suggest 1 per core
worker_processes 2;

working_directory /var/www;
error_log /var/log/nginx/error.log;
pid /var/tmp/;

# worker_processes * worker_connections = maxclients
events {
  worker_connections 256;

http {
  default_type  application/octet-stream;

  log_format main '$remote_addr - $remote_user [$time_local] "$request" '
                  '$status $body_bytes_sent "$http_referer" '
                  '"$http_user_agent" "$http_x_forwarded_for"';

  access_log /var/log/nginx/access.log main;

  sendfile on;
  tcp_nopush on;
  keepalive_timeout 65;

  log_format cache '***$time_local '
                   '$upstream_cache_status '
                   'Cache-Control: $upstream_http_cache_control '
                   'Expires: $upstream_http_expires '
                   '"$request" ($status) '
                   '"$http_user_agent" ';

  access_log  /var/log/nginx/cache.log cache;

  proxy_buffering on;
  proxy_cache_path /var/cache/nginx levels=1:2 keys_zone=edge-cache:10m inactive=20m max_size=1g;
  proxy_temp_path /var/cache/nginx/tmp;
  proxy_cache_lock on;
  proxy_cache_use_stale updating;
  proxy_cache_valid 200 302 10m;
  proxy_cache_valid 301      1h;
  proxy_cache_valid any      1m;

  upstream origin {
    keepalive 32;

  server {

    location / {
      proxy_pass http://origin;
      proxy_cache edge-cache;

      proxy_http_version 1.1;
      proxy_set_header Connection "";

      add_header X-Cache-Status $upstream_cache_status;
      add_header X-Handled-By $proxy_host;

    location /server-status {
      stub_status on;


viewers -> cdns -> nginx:80 -> origin:82

If all is correct then you have an edge-origin setup with caching and cache-locks through Nginx.


sudo /usr/local/sbin/nginx

(Assuming you installed nginx in /usr/local/sbin - see the Nginx documentation).

Additional Nginx settings

In order to setup the Nginx cache lock properly you need to have the following settings.

  • In the upstream section of the nginx.conf add this line:

where CONNECTIONLIMIT is the maximum you want to set for keepalive.

  • In the location section add these two lines:
proxy_http_version 1.1;
proxy_set_header Connection "";

This will allow for the "time_wait"-requests to close much quicker and if it would reach CONNECTIONLIMIT, older connections will be closed from Nginx.


A typical browser session (Silverlight) in Firefox would look like this:


Urls would be:

The above can be achieved by editing the 'index.html' in /var/www/vod to use the URL wanted and by setting the ip address of the edge correctly in /etc/hosts locally - when DNS is not used.


Using Firefox + Firebug, it is possible to see what edge is doing regarding its cache:

../../_images/flash.png ../../_images/silverlight.png

With this it is possible to quickly check the behaviour of the edge(s)/origin.

Log files

The log files generated by the different setups are also of value. Locations of the different log files are as follows.





The config files of each server define the access, error and cache logs. Tools like for instance Munin can pick these up to produce load graphs.

Load testing

For load testing other tools can be used, varying from Apache Bench (AB) to Weighttp to custom build setups.