Troubleshooting 503 error caused by necessity to change default Varnish settings

This article provides solutions for troubleshooting 503 error caused by certain Varnish Cache default values not being enough for your store.


If the length of cache tags used by Adobe Commerce exceed Varnish’s default of 8192 bytes, you can see HTTP 503 (Backend Fetch Failed) errors in the browser. The errors might display similar to the following: “Error 503 Backend fetch failed. Backend fetch failed”


To resolve this issue, increase the default value of the http_resp_hdr_len parameter in your Varnish configuration file. The http_resp_hdr_len parameter specifies the max header length within the total default response size of 32768 bytes.

If the http_resp_hdr_len value exceeds 32K, you must also increase the default response size using the http_resp_size parameter.
  1. As a user with root privileges, open your Vanish configuration file in a text editor:

    • CentOS 6: /etc/sysconfig/varnish
    • CentOS 7: /etc/varnish/varnish.params
    • Debian: /etc/default/varnish
    • Ubuntu: /etc/default/varnish
  2. Search for the http_resp_hdr_len parameter.

  3. If the parameter doesn’t exist, add it after thread_pool_max .

  4. Set http_resp_hdr_len to a value equal to the product count of your largest category multiplied by 21. (Each product tag is about 21 characters in length.) For example, setting the value to 65536 bytes should work if your largest category has 3,000 products. For example: conf -p http_resp_hdr_len=65536 \

  5. Set the http_resp_size to a value that accommodates the increased response header length. For example, using the sum of the increased header length and default response size is a good starting point (e.g., 65536 + 32768 = 98304): -p http_resp_size=98304. A snippet follows:

    code language-none
    # DAEMON_OPTS is used by the init script.
        -f ${VARNISH_VCL_CONF} \
        -p thread_pool_min=${VARNISH_MIN_THREADS} \
        -p thread_pool_max=${VARNISH_MAX_THREADS} \
        -p http_resp_hdr_len=65536 \
        -p http_resp_size=98304 \
        -p workspace_backend=98304 \
        -s ${VARNISH_STORAGE}" \

Health check timeouts health-check-timeouts

If you disable the cache while Varnish is configured as the caching application and while Adobe Commerce is in developer mode, it might become impossible to log in to the Admin.

This situation could happen because the default health check has a timeout value of 2 seconds. It could take more than 2 seconds for the health check to collect and merge information on every health check request. If this occurs in 6 out of 10 health checks, the Adobe Commerce server is considered unhealthy. Varnish serves stale content when the server is unhealthy.

Because Admin is accessed through Varnish, you cannot log in to Admin to enable caching (unless Adobe Commerce becomes healthy again). However, you can use the following command to enable cache:

$ bin/magento cache:enable

For more information about using the command line, see Get started with command-line configuration.