Facebook’s audience has been steadily growing over the past five years. Given this dynamic, the platform must provide rapid and easy access to accounts without any difficulties. This is what scalability means in real life.

In a nutshell, a scalable system can raise or reduce cost and productivity according to the processing requirement of an application. Extra resources — either withdrawal or adding — do not compromise the integrity of an app. In other words, scalability is about adapting to load fluctuations without causing delays.

Scalability is important for a business due to several reasons. User inflow can slow down the app’s responsiveness. Adding new products to the app boosts load, therefore, new resources are required. Scalability helps alleviate server maintenance and reduces the cost of it when it surpasses the norm. Whatever the reason, an enterprise can scale its app architecture via various solutions.

Ways of scaling your app

Microservices. Amonolithic architecture uses a single code hosting platform and implies scaling in one dimension only. Microservices architecture means an app structure consisting of numerous connected services. Each of the services incorporated is relatively small, allowing for quick build time and ease of code management. An ability to deploy services autonomously results in increased flexibility. The size of services speeds up the project development, therefore, reducing project development time and boosting its agility.

Many companies have already see the benefits of microservices architecture. According to the Dzone report, 63% of companies working with microservices managed to enhance staff productivity, customer satisfaction, and achieve cost-effectiveness of IT tools and infrastructures. Overall, IT companies improved their scalability by 64% due to quicker releases, employee independence, and application resilience.

Cloud Storage. Enterprises that need extra data repositories can move their caseload to the cloud. Saving resources on distributed servers provides instant access to them at any time. Moreover, a business can expand the storage space when needed.

Caching. The solution is used for streamlining the system’s operations. Storing frequent requests results in small data storage allows for instant access to them, which significantly shortens waiting time for users. Cashing helps retrieve data much faster by creating multiple nodes. The more nodes, the faster a user accesses the data.

Microservices: the flip side

Despite its popularity and vast implementation, microservice architecture is characterized by certain challenges. You have to know them well before making the choice.

  • It is complex. At a first glance, microservices might seem quite easy in terms of management. However, in practice, architecture has its peculiarities. The services included in architecture are simple by themselves. But if we zoom out we see a sophisticated and complex system.
  • Technological richness. The variety of technologies included in architecture is linked to complex maintenance. Diverse technological stacks are used in microservices, therefore, diverse issues can arise. Working on this type of architecture implies using numerous frameworks and programming languages which makes it hard to orchestrate. In this case, it would be appropriate to resort to the standardization of the project. At the same time, you have to be very cautious and make sure the staff still has its flexibility. Standards can be applied, for instance, in logging.
  • The integrity of data. With microservices, data can be inconsistent. This happens because of each service’s autonomy. In this case, you should do your best and achieve data consistency in the end. Otherwise, you will face problems pertaining to incorrect and dubious data.
  • Maintaining interoperability. Microservices are of distributed nature, therefore, it is difficult to keep their consistency. When you develop enhanced versions of the product, it will definitely influence the corresponding services.
  • Testing is complex. With microservice architecture, it is not easy to create a testing environment. Developing a monolithic or multilayered application is one thing. But when you make a small service connecting it with similar small services, there has to be a different approach. Existing tools sometimes are not suitable for creating microservices. Since a complex system has its boundaries, it is difficult to restructure the current code across them. When a web app is scaling at a fast pace, it is rather hard to test the service with a view to dependencies.
  • Lack of expertise. The complexity and richness of microservices require having a robust and skilled team — with vast experience and varied skill sets. Moreover, you might want to consider applying log correlation, this would help with getting access throughout the whole infrastructure.

Making your scaling effective

A scalable application architecture demands businesses to understand the specific tips and requirements. First and foremost, make sure the architecture design works correctly even when the entire scale changes up to twenty times. State-of-the-art technologies that have not been tested and are not, necessarily, reliable and might result in unexpected outcomes. To avoid database overload, use caches to store resources or cut the open connections. All in all, be smart about your storage: keep the data that is absolutely essential for the company or app.

To boost the performance of an application, consider dissociating processes into non-synchronous queues by fewer employees. Since in-memory communications require less time, it would be helpful to restrict the interaction between network and app. Altering multiple variables concurrently might slow down the application’s work, therefore, work with one variable at a time. Last but not least, make sure testing and retesting are carried out consecutively using the same settings. For this purpose, automated testing is a handy tool.

Working methods of scaling IT resources

  • Make sure all partners approve scaling initiatives. Suppose your app is able to scale according to business needs. That means it is flexible enough and is already capable of business capabilities’ expansion. In this case, there is no need to improve the scaling ability. Therefore, in order to avoid unnecessary initiatives, discuss the issue with all stakeholders. Collect data reflecting the need in scaling (or absence of it) and share it with partners.
  • Use metrics to concretize requirements for scaling. After proving your application demands scaling, define the exact parts of it. For instance, it can be CPU time usage, network input or output time, memory utilization, etc.
  • Apply monitoring tools. Having identified the problematic areas, use the relevant tools to monitor app performance with a view to the abovementioned metrics.
  • Engage PaaS (platform as a service) provider. PaaS vendors provide hardware and software to clients empowering them to run business apps without their own infrastructure. This practice’s popularity is attributed to dealing with everything — vendors make sure repositories, databases, servers, networks, and what works properly.
  • Choose the appropriate architecture. Whether it is microservices, caching, or cloud storage, choose the one that suits your business demands.
  • Define the relevant database. After deciding upon an architecture, select the database. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in this matter, however, a few recommendations might help. Constantly monitor the app’s requirements to be aware of what you really need and what can be left out. You can resort to relational databases such as PostgreSQL or MySQL. Also, you can use MongoDB which is popular among developers working with agile methodologies.
  • Pick a programming language. Choosing the programming language is a step of great importance as it directly influences scalability. And so does the technological stack. Therefore, don’t hesitate to consult specialists to make decisions based on your company’s demands.

If you plan to expand your business, then it is time to start thinking about scaling. Be mindful about how you approach this initiative, what instruments you apply, and the choices you make. Involve people with expertise. Your thoroughness will help you grow along with your customers.