Varnish headers

Acquia Cloud uses Varnish caching to increase an application’s perceived performance for visitors. For more information about Varnish, see Using Varnish. Using developer tools integrated with your browser, you can examine the Varnish caching headers sent with each page and item request to see how Varnish caching is working with your application.

To examine what Varnish is doing (or not doing) on one of the pages in your application, examine the values of the Varnish cache headers for the page.

To view these headers, use one of the development tools available for your web browser to view a served web page’s Varnish headers. Your installed browser may already include a set of development tools that you can use. You can also run the following command from a command prompt:

curl -sSLIXGET urlname

The following are some of the headers you should see:

  • Age - The amount of time the served item was in the cache, in seconds. If the age is zero, the item was not served from the Varnish cache

  • Cache-Control - The directives that must be applied by all caching mechanisms (from Varnish to the browser cache)


    If the field has the value no-cache, must-revalidate, post-check=0 or pre-check=0, this item instructs any upstream proxy layers (such as Acquia load balancers or a CDN) to not cache. This header generally is used when Drupal page caching is disabled. Acquia recommends that you verify that this value is present on all of your website’s pages. If it is, enable caching, and consider using Acquia Purge for cache invalidation.

  • Server - The web server application acting as a load balancer that is used to serve the content (currently nginx)

  • Via - The version of HTTP over which the request was sent (currently 1.1)

  • X-AH-Environment - The Acquia environment that provides the page response (usually prod, but could also be dev or stage)

  • X-Cache - Either HIT or MISS depending on whether or not the item was served from the Varnish cache

  • X-Cache-Hits - The number of times this object has been served from cache. Higher numbers indicate that this URL has received more visitors.

  • X-Drupal-Cache - Similar to X-Cache, this header indicates the outcome of Drupal’s page cache with HIT or MISS values. A MISS value is not unusual here.

  • X-Generator - The software used to create the page (on Acquia Cloud, this says Drupal along with the core version number)

  • X-Request-ID - The request ID for a given request

  • X-Varnish - The ID numbers of the current request and the item request that populated the Varnish cache. If this field has only one value, the cache was populated by the request, and this is counted as a cache miss

  • Vary - The inbound HTTP request headers that need to be taken into account when caching a single URL. The most common example is Accept-Encoding — a header that browsers usually send to websites to indicate whether they want the returned page compressed using gzip or the deflate compression algorithm. This can prevent serving gzip-compressed pages from cache to older browsers that do not support it.

Other headers

Varnish on Acquia Cloud also contains headers that enable caching for some HTTP response codes, in instances where this behavior is necessary. The header is:



Acquia strongly recommends against using these headers as they may compromise the stability of your website.

Your Acquia load balancers cache all HTTP 301 and HTTP 404 responses for a minimum of 15 minutes to prevent cache stampedes and general performance degradation under high-traffic scenarios, such as load tests and DDOS attacks. This behavior may theoretically be undesirable in some cases; setting the X-Acquia-No-301-404-Caching-Enforcement HTTP response header can be used to bypass this requirement.

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