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Developer Guide - PHP Controller

Caching a dynamic site like WordPress, WooCommerce, or other PHP Applications isn't easy.
Most pages can be cached, but some may not be cached as they are individual to each user, such as carts, checkouts, or customer areas.

The caching behavior, like the maximum caching lifetime or if a site path should be excluded from caching, is being controlled via a PHP Controller, which gets added when you enable Varnish Cache in the settings.

The Controller File

The PHP Controller for Varnish Cache is a PHP File that get prepended to the application via auto_prepend_file.

When you enable Varnish Cache, the PHP Controller gets added like other PHP Settings via NGINX VHOST.


For WordPress/WooCommerce, Laravel, Symfony, and other PHP Applications, we have a controller that can be found in the following git repository

When you create a site for an application that supports Varnish Cache, the right controller file gets automatically added to /home/$siteUser/.varnish-cache/.

The example below shows the PHP Controller File used for WordPress/WooCommerce.

You will find the varnish controller file in the site's home directory.


As mentioned earlier, the file gets added via auto_prepend_file, which means it's the first code that gets executed.

Varnish Cache is being controlled via the Cache-Control header.

By sending the following Cache-Control header, we say Varnish Cache to store a copy of the page for 604800 seconds before it gets expired.

Cache-Control: public, max-age=604800, s-maxage=604800

The controller decides if a page can be cached and is sending headers to Varnish Cache:

  • X-Cache-Lifetime
  • X-Cache-Tags
  • Cache-Control
Varnish Cache Response Headers

By checking the response headers of a page, you will find x-cache-age, x-cache-lifetime, and x-cache-tags.

The value of x-cache-age returns the age of the page in seconds stored in Varnish Cache and remains until x-cache-lifetime before expiring.

The controller's main function is to check if a page can be cached and to enrich the X-Cache-Tags before sending the headers.


At line 321, you see the callback $headerRegisterCallback registered.

The header_register_callback will be called when PHP starts sending output.


In this callback, additional tags are added and required for specific purge operations.


The register_shutdown_function callback $registerShutdownCallback is responsible for purge operations.
If a specific action is happening, e.g., someone is editing a post in the admin area, all pages for a specific cache tag get purged.

Custom Applications

You can set the caching lifetime to your needs for custom PHP Applications based on Laravel, Symfony, or other PHP frameworks.

For example, if you have a page that should only be cached for 10 minutes, you can call the static method setCacheLifetime.


For enriching cache tags, e.g., a list of product ids, you can call the static method addCacheTag.
Make sure that you use the cache-tag prefix in front.

$cacheTagPrefix = ClpVarnish::getCacheTagPrefix();
$cacheTag = sprintf('%s-%s', $cacheTagPrefix, 'my-cache-tag');

Developer Mode

When the developer mode is enabled, all purge requests are logged into the following log file:


To enable the developer mode, do the following:

  1. Login via SSH with the site user.

  2. Open the controller.php file:

nano ~/.varnish-cache/controller.php
  1. Tail the purge.log to see the purges:
tail -f ~/logs/varnish-cache/purge.log -n1000