Monday, April 03, 2006

Vogels on Scalability

Last December I participated in a bit of a debate about scalability. My main point (I was agreeing with Jeremy Wright at the time) was that good software has scalability designed in from the beginning. To quote myself: may actually succeed and build something that people eventually use. Many people. If you are going to make it available on the web, and you're not designing for scalability, then you just aren't planning for success: you're planning for failure.
Well, on Thursday my sentiment was echoed by a pretty powerful voice: Werner Vogels, CTO of

In his post A Word on Scalability Vogels sums it perfectly:
Why is scalability so hard? Because scalability cannot be an after-thought. It requires applications and platforms to be designed with scaling in mind, such that adding resources actually results in improving the performance or that if redundancy is introduced the system performance is not adversely affected.
Right on! I couldn't have said it better myself (even though I tried).

Vogels goes on to talk about the difficulties inherent in scaling: one he comes up with is the heterogeneity that creeps in when systems are expanded by adding hardware.
Heterogeneity means that some nodes will be able to process faster or store more data than other nodes in a system and algorithms that rely on uniformity either break down under these conditions or underutilize the newer resources.
It's a good point, and it's another compelling reason to use grid behind your SOA or SaaS. Why?

Because when you use a grid infrastructure, you don't have to write the code to handle the heterogeneity. Rather than have to write the algorithms to distribute your code, use a grid system that was designed for that task. It will ensure that your newer, high powered servers are utilized to their fullest potential and will also use your older servers as effectively as they can be used.

Vogels is right. Scalability is difficult. Scalability is important. My suggestion? Throw a grid at it!

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