NGINX stale-while-revalidate cluster

Joan Tomàs i Buliart joan.tomas at
Sat Jul 8 20:28:54 UTC 2017

Hi Peter,

yes, it's true. I will try to explain our problem better.

We provide a mobile solution for newspaper and media groups. With this 
kind of partners, it is easy to have a peak of traffic. We prefer to 
give stale content (1 or 2 minutes stale content, not more) instead of 
block the request for some seconds (the time that our tomcat back-end 
could expend to crawl our customers desktop site and generate the new 
content). As I tried to explain in my first e-mail, the 
works ok while the number of servers is fix and the LB in front of them 
does a URI load balancer.

The major problem appears when the servers has to scale up and scale 
down. Imagine that the URL1 is cache by server 1. All the request for 
URL1 are redirected to Server1 by the LB. Suddenly, the traffic raise up 
and a new server is added. The LB will remap the request in order to 
send some URLs to server 2. The URL1 is one of this group of URL that 
goes to server 2. Some hours later, the traffic goes down and the server 
2 is removed. In this situation, the new request that arrive to Server 1 
asking for URL1 will receive the version of some hours before (not some 
minutes). This is what we are trying to avoid.

Many thanks for all your feedback and suggestions,


Joan Tomàs-Buliart
On 08/07/17 15:30, Peter Booth wrote:
> Perhaps it would help if, rather than focus on the specific solution 
> that you are wanting, you instead explained your specific problem and 
> business context?
> What is driving your architecture? Is it about protecting a backend 
> that doesn't scale or more about reducing latencies?
> How many different requests are there that might be cached? What are 
> the backend calls doing? How do cached objects expire? How long does a 
> call to the backend take?
> Why is it OK to return a stale version of X to the first client but 
> not OK to return a stale version to a second requester?
> Imagine a scenario where two identical requests arrive from different 
> clients and hit different web servers. Is it OK for both requests to 
> be satisfied with a stale resource?
> It's very easy for us to make incorrect assumptions about all of these 
> questions because of our own experiences.
> Peter
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Jul 8, 2017, at 9:00 AM, Joan Tomàs i Buliart 
> <joan.tomas at <mailto:joan.tomas at>> wrote:
>> Thanks Owen!
>> We considered all the options on these 2 documents but, on our 
>> environment in which is important to use stale-while-revalidate, all 
>> of them have, at least, one of these drawbacks: or it adds a layer in 
>> the fast path to the content or it can't guarantee that one request 
>> on a stale content will force the invalidation off all the copies of 
>> this object.
>> That is the reason for which we are looking for a "background" 
>> alternative to update the content.
>> Many thanks in any case,
>> Joan
>> On 07/07/17 16:04, Owen Garrett wrote:
>>> There are a couple of options described here that you could consider 
>>> if you want to share your cache between NGINX instances:
>>> describes 
>>> a sharded cache approach, where you load-balance by URI across the 
>>> NGINX cache servers.  You can combine your front-end load balancers 
>>> and back-end caches onto one tier to reduce your footprint if you wish
>>> describes 
>>> an alternative HA (shared) approach that replicates the cache so 
>>> that there’s no increased load on the origin server if one cache 
>>> server fails.
>>> It’s not possible to share a cache across instances by using a 
>>> shared filesystem (e.g. nfs).
>>> ---
>>> owen at <mailto:owen at>
>>> Skype: owen.garrett
>>> Cell: +44 7764 344779
>>>> On 7 Jul 2017, at 14:39, Peter Booth <peter_booth at 
>>>> <mailto:peter_booth at>> wrote:
>>>> You could do that but it would be bad. Nginx' great performance is 
>>>> based on serving files from a local Fisk and the behavior of a 
>>>> Linux page cache. If you serve from a shared (nfs) filsystem then 
>>>> every request is slower. You shouldn't slow down the common case 
>>>> just to increase cache hit rate.
>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>> On Jul 7, 2017, at 9:24 AM, Frank Dias <frank.dias at 
>>>> <mailto:frank.dias at>> wrote:
>>>>> Have you thought about using a shared file system for the cache. 
>>>>> This way all the nginx 's are looking at the same cached content.
>>>>> On Jul 7, 2017 5:30 AM, Joan Tomàs i Buliart 
>>>>> <joan.tomas at <mailto:joan.tomas at>> wrote:
>>>>>     Hi Lucas
>>>>>     On 07/07/17 12:12, Lucas Rolff wrote:
>>>>>     > Instead of doing round robin load balancing why not do a URI
>>>>>     based
>>>>>     > load balancing? Then you ensure your cached file is only
>>>>>     present on a
>>>>>     > single machine behind the load balancer.
>>>>>     Yes, we considered this option but it forces us to deploy and
>>>>>     maintain
>>>>>     another layer (LB+NG+AppServer). All cloud providers have
>>>>>     round robin
>>>>>     load balancers out-of-the-box but no one provides URI based load
>>>>>     balancer. Moreover, in our scenario, our webservers layer is
>>>>>     quite
>>>>>     dynamic due to scaling up/down.
>>>>>     Best,
>>>>>     Joan
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