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  • Writer's pictureKamil Zawadzki

Types of scaling the hosting architecture systems; horizontal and vertical scaling

Webchefs_Software _for_humans_scaling_types_article

Handling system overloads is a challenging aspect of a developer's work. User numbers can surge unexpectedly, causing servers to struggle. To avoid this, it's crucial to have a scalable hosting architecture. This involves choosing between two scaling methods: horizontal or vertical. Deciding which one to use depends on the specific needs and structure of the system.

What is scaling?

Scalability means enhancing a server's performance as user numbers and data volume expand. The system should manage the growing workload effectively. For instance, if the user count jumps from 1,000 to 10,000, the hosting must still support the increased load. Achieving this requires scaling, which can be done either vertically or horizontally.

Horizontal scaling

Horizontal scaling, or adding more servers to a network, helps manage increased demand by distributing the workload across multiple instances. This approach is cost-effective because it allows for gradual resource expansion—more capacity can be added simply by purchasing additional servers, avoiding the need for expensive, underutilized spare capacity.

However, the cost savings come with challenges. Ensuring smooth operation in a multi-server environment becomes crucial when a program operates across multiple servers rather than a single machine. This may require significant adjustments to the software to make it compatible with a distributed architecture. Adapting the system for horizontal scaling can be complex and, in some cases, impossible.

Vertical scaling

Vertical scaling offers a straightforward approach by enhancing the existing server's capacity, either by upgrading its components like processors and memory or replacing it with a more powerful one. This method affects only a single instance, simplifying the process without requiring significant changes to the application. Upgrades can be made with minimal developer effort, and servers only need to be physically replaced in the final step, usually without adapting the application to new resources.

However, vertical scaling has its limitations and drawbacks:

  • Expansion is capped by the maximum capacity of the server hardware; it's impossible to surpass the machine's built-in limits.

  • Upgrading or replacing the server often results in downtime, especially when transitioning to a different machine size.

  • The cost factor is significant. Upgrades or new servers become progressively more expensive, and maintaining a backup server with equivalent capabilities adds to the overall expenses, leading to higher costs.

Which to choose?

When deciding between vertical and horizontal scaling, many organizations employ both strategies. Initially, vertical scaling is preferred to maximize the existing server's capacity. Once this approach reaches its limit, the focus shifts to horizontal scaling by adding more server instances.

Before settling on a scaling method, it's essential to evaluate your present and future needs, as well as the expertise of your development team. Each option comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. Ideally, the scaling strategy should be overseen by a professional who can thoroughly analyze your requirements and guide you toward the most advantageous choice.

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