One of the first things you hear about the cloud is that it helps businesses grow because it improves their scalability. What is scalability really though? Why is it critical, and so critical, to business success? How does cloud technology fit into the picture of scalability?
Certification training firm Linux Academy defines scalability within computing as a characteristic of a “system in which every application or piece of infrastructure can be expanded to handle increased load.” It’s easier to understand the key reason scalability is important when you look at performance, via an example. Your web application might start to get attention on ProductHunt or a similar service (or for any other reason sees a sudden spike in use). Your servers then suddenly are inundated with an extreme load of requests – legitimate requests that you want to answer. In a scenario that is not highly scalable, such as a dedicated server handling all the traffic, your app or site may crash under the stress. You will lose credibility if your app experiences downtime. You also deliver poor UX during that time.
We will explore the many ways in which scalability is key to your general success and the operation of your IT systems – first briefly addressing the two key scaling approaches, horizontal and vertical.
Horizontal vs. vertical scalability
The two core approaches that are used to improve scalability and build up your infrastructure are the horizontal and vertical approaches:
- Horizontal scalability: In this form, you simply give more resources – in the form of central processing units (CPUs), upgrading to solid state drives (SSDs), or addition of random-access memory (RAM) – to an instance that already is implemented. This path is simple because your cloud host will already have the servers virtualized and configured.
- Vertical scalability: In this form, you increase the number of servers you have running so that you can distribute the load across more equipment. Horizontal scaling is necessarily more complicated than vertical because you need to sync all data, apps, and backups; plus, you must monitor, update, protect, and otherwise perform administration on additional machines.
How scalability delivers value to business
There are numerous ways that you can describe the real-world value of scalability; and since it is a core value of cloud (providing some of its flexibility and contributing to other key benefits), we can realize why this aspect of the technology has been so central to its popularity.
Benefit #1 – Speed
There is an untrue urban legend that it takes a year to paint the Golden Gate Bridge, the massive structure that spans a mile-wide strait connecting the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay, in an indefinitely repeating process. While the year-long bridge painting may be a myth, the notion that it is time to reassess your work and improve upon it after a year is accepted in many areas of business (as seen in the many organizations that perform annual IT risk assessments). Meanwhile, designing and building an on-premise data center could take you more than a year. If it takes you that long, it should be unsurprising that some components of it will be outdated by the time you launch it.
Benefit #2 – Mitigating bottlenecks and inefficiencies
Efficiency is a major challenge for business because it impacts your ability to expand now and in the future. You can make your business more efficient through scalability because the business is able to expand as demand allows, potentially into different locations on the planet – while remaining affordable. The efficiency of scalability, a capability that impacts all parts of your business, is seen in how it allows you to keep your production strong while limiting your costs.
Benefit #3 – Management consistency
As with efficiency, you are able to become more consistent holistically, throughout your management ecosystem, when you have optimized your scalability. The value of becoming more consistent almost cannot be overstated. It allows you to become more compliant with your own guidelines and governmental regulations (think the all-new General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, from the European Union), while also bolstering the amount of revenue you generate.
Benefit #4 – Future-proofing
Scalability matters because it readies you for the data challenges of the future. In fact, it is so central of a concern that CX consultant Benjamin Payne calls it “the most critical factor to consider when selecting a knowledge base solution.” The reason you are future-proofing your business is that anything you are doing to make your organization work better now should be able to stay with you as you develop without you having to switch horses midstream.
It becomes obvious that scalability is helpful for the future when you recognize the sheer pace at which data is expanding. Since data is now at a point that businesses are increasingly being overwhelmed by it (unable to use it to its full advantage), effective management of the data is a top priority. You need to properly maintain and safeguard the systems in which your data resides. Optimizing your scalability will allow you to stay relevant and on the path to your objectives at all times.
Benefit #5 – Meeting current needs
Scalability may sound like a flat yes-or-no prospect, but you are actually able to scale in the manner that best makes sense as you expand. Whatever your demand is at the moment, you can scale up or down as needed when you are using cloud infrastructure. Since you are building as you go rather than in single swipes, you can deviate from a single standard path, creating a hybrid cloud through private and public components and/or a multi-cloud environment that utilizes various vendors. By building the system you need as you go, you can get what you need for each segment of information – the right safeguards and space – in a seamlessly integrated yet sophisticated (and sufficiently diverse) infrastructure.
While scaling does not mean you are stuck to one approach or provider, it does mean your approach is generally more straightforward. In-house infrastructure, on the other hand, introduces so many complexities that you are not able to spend as much time on innovation because your focus is more squarely on maintaining your current systems.
Benefit #6 – Avenues for automation
Cloud’s scalability allows you, through a different service delivery model, to respond to demand on the fly – and through the work of a third party. By offloading that aspect of your systems, you are able to better automate your infrastructure, transferring workloads to underutilized parts of your infrastructure from ones that are overwhelmed.
Benefit #7 – Relevance of data
If you scale, you are able to maintain the efficiency that allows your application or website to remain relevant. In order to stay relevant, you must be able to assess what is there over time and update it as needed. Everything must grow holistically if you want your organization to be balanced – and that comprehensive approach is advanced through scalable cloud solutions.
Benefit #8 – Downturns or macro changes
If the economy were to slide into a recession or if other macrocosmic changes were to occur, you could hit a wall and go bankrupt. You can transition as you go if you have constructed a scalable business. Scalability is key here no matter whether you need contraction or expansion. If the market slows down suddenly and you have the ability to scale down quickly, you may find you collect more of the market since rivals will be sinking. However, you may simply need to scale back and stay smaller to weather an economic storm.
Benefit #9 – Flexibility
When you are relying on cloud systems rather than legacy ones to back your systems, you are able to benefit from flexibility that becomes possible when you innovate with cloud providers. The infrastructure is highly flexible, along with delivering a vast sea of memory capacity and impeccable performance. The scalability that becomes possible through third-party partnerships allows you to leverage your core strengths and tap into the expertise of technology vendors. The flexibility that is inherent in scalable solutions allows for better business agility to handle any turbulence or changes of the winds.
Part of the flexibility of scaling is in its reduction potential. Beyond the economic downturn notion discussed above, scaling will have its own benefits for you in allowing you to reduce scale as needed.
Benefit #10 – Business enablement
By making it possible for organizations to grow and shrink in the way that is best for current conditions, scalability is a business enabler. Consider the services that are entirely based on putting people together using IT services. Ride-sharing organizations do not have fleets of cars, only supply-and-demand infrastructure that allows drivers and passengers to connect. Provided the IT infrastructure is scalable enough to grow rapidly and in tune with demand, you can leverage that scalable computing structure to expand your business – using the cloud itself to propel your growth.
Moving forward with improved scalability
Are you in need of a highly scalable solution for your organization, to experience the many benefits described above? At Total Server Solutions, our cloud platform is built for optimal scalability, as well as incredible speed and reliability. Get the only cloud with guaranteed IOPS.