Microscalability

I like to talk and think about application scalability but sometimes feel that my ambitions just don’t stack up to ‘real’ scalability. I am in awe of the scalability issues that are discussed and dealt with by the usual scalability suspects – Facebook, Twitter and so on. My idea of scalability is a lot more modest, and at least practical, than some of the cases discussed on highscalability.com.

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when the when a smaller scalability problem was given the nod over at highscalability.com with the post Peecho Architecture – Scalability On A Shoestring. Even though it was a only guest post, and Todd ‘The Hoff’ Hoff and Lori ‘F5 Friday’ MacVittie are not talking about this kind of sclability, rubbing shoulders with bigger scalability concerns gives microscalability some credibility.

To me, a lot of the cloud principles are particularly relevant with microscalability. It is the smaller applications without huge budgets that cannot afford to put in, say, an Oracle grid, even though it is technically possible. Microscalability is where the patterns are learned and applied for most developers. Microscalability probably makes up the bulk of scalability instances, that collectively dwarf the problems of the big scalability case studies. People who work on cost effective platforms have to deal with pooling connections to databases, using cache effectively, referencing jquery libraries hosted elsewhere, optimising database access, degrading services during peak times – a whole host of little problems with big architectural implications, which they solve every day to make their systems more scalable.

Microscalability may never be as glamorous as high scalability but it does deserve some attention. After all, of the thousands of customers being signed up by Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace and other providers, very few of them need hundreds of servers, but almost all of them need to learn more about scalability.

Simon Munro

@simonmunro

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  1. Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 8/4/2011+ - Windows Azure Blog

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