What Does Scalability in Cloud Computing Mean?
The word scalability in cloud computing gets bandied about quite a bit these days, but what does it mean to you and why should you care? When it comes to IT, scalability refers to the ability of infrastructure to scale up (or down) as resources and demand grow—without causing a decline in performance.
Scalability in cloud computing means flexibility, enabling your business to better respond to needs as they arise. It’s a crucial factor in helping your business grow and succeed. More users, more bandwidth, more storage—what your infrastructure can handle today, may not work tomorrow.
To stay competitive, businesses large and small must be agile, adaptable, and perhaps most importantly, scalable. And this includes scalability in cloud computing.
There’s More Than One Way to Grow: Scaling Up and Out
Choosing a cloud solution that scales with your business is critical. When adding resources for a particular application, there are two aspects of scalability to consider: vertical scaling and horizontal scaling.
Vertical scalability, or “scaling up,” is the first step to increasing capacity and enhancing performance. It means improving a single node or machine in your system. For example, installing a bigger hard drive or adding more RAM to a server. Giving your “hamster” a bigger wheel, so to speak.
Thanks to the Cloud, vertical scaling isn’t your only option.
Imagine that your hamster and his shiny new wheel are powering a smartphone charging station. He’s running his little legs off on his big shiny new wheel, and each person who needs their phone charged is getting a steady, powerful charge—but a line is starting to form. He is running as fast as he can, but he can only charge a few phones at once.
This is equivalent to your shiny new in-house server doing its best to process an increasing number of requests at once. So, what can you do?
Hyper-Scale Hosts: AWS, Google, and Azure
Public Cloud giants exist for your on-demand, dynamic, enormous scalability needs. They take pooled, shared physical resources and serve them up to you in a virtualized environment accessible over a public network, like the internet.
AWS, Google, Azure, and other providers own and manage the data centers and resources, and users essentially pay to access an almost infinitely scalable platform to run their most volatile or fast-growing workloads. Many of your communications technology and applications (like Office 365) are powered by these massive data centers.
Public Cloud users share the cost of infrastructure and (theoretically) pay only for the resources they use, which keeps costs low.
Scaling Out Through Horizontal Scaling
This is where horizontal scaling, or “scaling out,” comes in. Horizontal scaling is a much more recent tactic enabled through cloud computing, virtualization technology, and distributed architecture.
Tens, hundreds, or even thousands of “hamsters” all running together, with more waiting in the wings if the demand should increase. Now all your customers can charge their phones at once without overworking your hamster. And you didn’t have to turn away one single customer.
With the right applications and management, distributed computing and virtualization that is capable of true scalability can make the difference between sink or swim.
Scalability in Cloud Computing Can Light Up Your Business
One of the best aspects of the Cloud today is that it’s now affordable for businesses of any size. In fact, a scalable cloud solution can save money over the on-premise alternative because you only pay for what you need at any given moment. If it’s a low traffic day and server requests are minimal, you’re not paying the electrical and hardware costs of keeping dozens of expensive and power-hungry servers running around the clock and a team of people to watch over them “just in case.”
You’ve probably heard of SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions, but everything these days is becoming “aaS-ized”. Communications technology solutions such as UCaaS (unified communications-as-a-service) and CCaaS (contact-center-as-a-service) offer businesses a pay-as-you-go usage option, eliminating the need for costly hardware and software.
What does scalability in cloud computing mean for both the small business and global enterprises? Imagine it’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday and your website is hit with a barrage of users eager to take advantage of your offerings. Your customer service line is slammed with customer inquiries. If your technology infrastructure is built to peak capacity (or endless capacity in this case), you can sit back and watch the purchases roll through the door.
But failing to prepare to deliver during these spikes can lead to a loss of revenue now, but probably in the future too. Poor performance erodes customer confidence, discouraging customers from ever coming back.
With the Cloud, you can rest easy knowing you will deliver reliable performance to each and every visitor or user, without making huge investments in hardware, software, or resources.
The Cloud Brings Scalability to the Little Guys
The opportunities that scalable cloud computing creates for the modern business are innumerable and surprisingly affordable. The ability to scale can save you the nightmare of having to switch providers or start from scratch down the line. Being able to scale on demand, and have a provider manage scaling for you, removes a tremendous burden on your business and staff, all while saving you money.
Scalability in cloud computing isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. The Cloud platform simply enables software architects and engineers to write applications and interact with users in ways that were previously impossible or at least cost-prohibitive to all but the largest companies.
Today, the playing field has been leveled. Small businesses can have their applications running on the same systems as large enterprise, and for much less money than trying to build it all in-house.
Begin With a Strategy
Rather than go at it alone, consider turning to a trusted IT management team who can walk you through the necessary steps.