How to Setup Drupal with Apache and Varnish on Ubuntu Linux

This article describes steps one can take to install Drupal CMS on Ubuntu Linux with Apache and Varnish proxy servers.

Running Drupal on Nginx with Varnish support can improve your site performance. When looking for a fast and easy way to speed up your Drupal websites the steps below are a good place to start.

When dealing with high-traffic Drupal websites or blogs you may want to implement some kind of caching mechanism to speed up the sites.

One of the popular proxy servers that are also caching servers is Varnish. If you want to build a fast Drupal site with lots of web traffic, setting up Varnish as a proxy caching server will go a long way.

How to install Drupal with Apache and Varnish on Ubuntu Linux

As described above, Running Drupal on Nginx with Varnish support can improve your site performance. When looking for a fast and easy way to speed up your Drupal websites the steps below are a good place to start.

Below is how to set up Drupal with Apache and Varnish proxy servers on Ubuntu Linux.

Install Apache

First, install Apache. To do that, run the commands below:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install apache2

Next, run the commands below to stop, start and enable the Apache2 service to always start up with the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop apache2.service
sudo systemctl start apache2.service
sudo systemctl enable apache2.service

Install Varnish

Now that Apache is installed, run the commands below to install Varnish. By default, Varnish packages are available in Ubuntu repositories.

sudo apt-get install varnish

After installing Varnish, the commands below can be used to start, stop and enable Varnish to always start up when the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop varnish.service
sudo systemctl start varnish.service
sudo systemctl enable varnish.service

Switch the Apache port to 8080

By default, Apache listens on port 80. Since we want Varnish to listen for all traffic coming to port 80, we will have to configure Apache to use another port number instead.

For this article, we will configure Apache to listen on port 8080. To do that, open the Apache default port configuration file at /etc/apache2/ports.conf and change the Listen value to 8080.

sudo nano /etc/apache2/ports.conf

Then make sure the file has these lines. Save when done.

# If you just change the port or add more ports here, you will likely also
# have to change the VirtualHost statement in
# /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf

Listen 127.0.0.1:8080

Next, open the Apache2 default virtual host config file.

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf

Then make the highlighted change below.

<VirtualHost 127.0.0.1:8080>

Save the file and exit.

After that, run the commands below to disable the Apahce2 default site.

sudo a2dissite 000-default.conf

Then restart Apache2

sudo systemctl restart apache2.service

Now Apache default site is disabled.

Install MariaDB

To install MariaDB run the commands below.

sudo apt-get install mariadb-server mariadb-client

After installing, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable the MariaDB service to always start up when the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop mysql.service
sudo systemctl start mysql.service
sudo systemctl enable mysql.service

After that, run the commands below to secure the MariaDB server by creating a root password and disallowing remote root access.

sudo mysql_secure_installation

When prompted, answer the questions below by following the guide.

  • Enter current password for root (enter for none): Just press the Enter
  • Set root password? [Y/n]: Y
  • New password: Enter password
  • Re-enter new password: Repeat password
  • Remove anonymous users? [Y/n]: Y
  • Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n]: Y
  • Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n]:  Y
  • Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n]:  Y

Install PHP 7.1 and Related Modules

PHP 7.1 isn’t available on Ubuntu default repositories. to install it, you will have to get it from third-party repositories.

Run the commands below to add the below third-party repository to upgrade to PHP 7.1

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php

Then update and upgrade to PHP 7.1

sudo apt update

Run the commands below to install PHP 7.1 and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.1 libapache2-mod-php7.1 php7.1-common php7.1-mbstring php7.1-xmlrpc php7.1-soap php7.1-gd php7.1-xml php7.1-intl php7.1-mysql php7.1-cli php7.1-mcrypt php7.1-zip php7.1-curl

After installing PHP 7.1, run the commands below to open the Apache2 PHP default file.

sudo nano /etc/php/7.1/apache2/php.ini

Then make the changes on the following lines below in the file and save. The value below is a great setting to apply in your environments.

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
memory_limit = 256M
upload_max_filesize = 100M
max_execution_time = 360
date.timezone = America/Chicago

Create Drupal Database

Now that you’ve installed all the packages are installed, run the commands below to create a blank Drupal database.

Login to the MariaDB database server

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called drupal

CREATE DATABASE drupal;

Create a database user called drupaluser with a new password

CREATE USER 'drupaluser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'new_password_here';

Then grant the user full access to the database.

GRANT ALL ON drupal.* TO 'drupaluser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'user_password_here' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Finally, save your changes and exit.

FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
EXIT;

Download Drupal Latest Release

Next, visit the Drupal site and download the latest package. or run the commands below to download and extract Drupal content.

After downloading, run the commands below to extract the downloaded file and move it into a new Drupal root directory.

cd /tmp && cd /tmp && wget https://ftp.drupal.org/files/projects/drupal-8.4.2.tar.gz
tar -zxvf drupal*.gz
sudo mv drupal-8.4.2 /var/www/html/drupal

Then run the commands below to set the correct permissions for Drupal to function properly.

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/drupal/
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/html/drupal/

Configure Apache

Finally, configure the Apache2 configuration file for Drupal. This file will control how users access Drupal content. Run the commands below to create a new configuration file called drupal.conf

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/drupal.conf

Then copy and paste the content below into the file and save it. Replace the highlighted line with your domain name and directory root location.

<VirtualHost *:8080>
     ServerAdmin admin@example.com
     DocumentRoot /var/www/html/drupal
     ServerName example.com
     ServerAlias www.example.com

     ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
     CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

      <Directory /var/www/html/drupal/>
            Options FollowSymlinks
            AllowOverride All
            Require all granted
      </Directory>

</VirtualHost>

Save the file and exit.

Enable Drupal virtual host

After configuring the Virtual Host above, enable it by running the commands below

sudo a2ensite drupal.conf
sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo a2enmod env
sudo a2enmod dir
sudo a2enmod mime

To load all the settings above, restart Apache2 by running the commands below.

sudo systemctl restart apache2.service

Set up Varnish to use port 80

Now that port 80 is free, let’s configure Varnish to use that port instead. To assign port 80 to Varnish, run the commands below.

Varnish default configure file is located at /etc/default/varnish

Open it by running the commands below:

sudo nano /etc/default/varnish

Then look for the config block under Alternative 2 and make the highlighted changes as shown below.

## Alternative 2, Configuration with VCL
#
# Listen on port 6081, administration on localhost:6082, and forward to
# one content server selected by the vcl file, based on the request.
#
DAEMON_OPTS="-a :80 \
-T localhost:6082 \
-f /etc/varnish/default.vcl \
-S /etc/varnish/secret \
-s malloc,256m"

Save the file when you’re done.

Next, run the commands below to open the default.vcl file

sudo nano /etc/varnish/default.vcl

Then add the highlighted lines shown below under sub vcl_recv and sub vcl_backend_response

# Default backend definition. Set this to point to your content server.
backend default {
.host = "127.0.0.1";
.port = "8080";
}

sub vcl_recv {
if (req.url ~ "^/status\.php$" ||
      req.url ~ "^/update\.php" ||
      req.url ~ "^/install\.php" ||
      req.url ~ "^/apc\.php$" ||
      req.url ~ "^/admin" ||
      req.url ~ "^/admin/.*$" ||
      req.url ~ "^/user" ||
      req.url ~ "^/user/.*$" ||
      req.url ~ "^/users/.*$" ||
      req.url ~ "^/info/.*$" ||
      req.url ~ "^/flag/.*$" ||
      req.url ~ "^.*/ajax/.*$" ||
      req.url ~ "^.*/ahah/.*$" ||
      req.url ~ "^/system/files/.*$") {

    return (pass);
}

if (req.url ~ "(?i)\.(pdf|asc|dat|txt|doc|xls|ppt|tgz|csv|png|gif|jpeg|jpg|ico|swf|css|js)(\?.*)?$") {
    unset req.http.Cookie;
   }

if (req.http.Cookie) {
   
    set req.http.Cookie = ";" + req.http.Cookie;
    set req.http.Cookie = regsuball(req.http.Cookie, "; +", ";");
    set req.http.Cookie = regsuball(req.http.Cookie, ";(SESS[a-z0-9]+|SSESS[a-z0-9]+|NO_CACHE)=", "; \1=");
    set req.http.Cookie = regsuball(req.http.Cookie, ";[^ ][^;]*", "");
    set req.http.Cookie = regsuball(req.http.Cookie, "^[; ]+|[; ]+$", "");

    if (req.http.Cookie == "") {
      unset req.http.Cookie;
}
    else {
      return (pass);
    }
}

sub vcl_backend_response { 
if (bereq.url ~ "(?i)\.(css|js|jpg|jpeg|gif|png|ico)(\?.*)?$") {
        unset beresp.http.set-cookie;
    }
} 

Save the file and close.

When you’re done, restart Varnish and Apache2

sudo systemctl start apache2.service
sudo systemctl start varnish.service

Next, run the commands below to start Varnish if it won’t start.

sudo /usr/sbin/varnishd -a :80 -b localhost:8080

After that, open your browser and browse your domain name to launch the WordPress configuration wizard.

http://example.com

And you should see the WordPress setup wizard

varnish drupal ubuntu

Follow the wizard until you’ve successfully set up WordPress.

That’s it!