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Digital Transformation – The Importance of Scalability

Planning your IT infrastructure is one of the most critical first steps for your business because it can lay the pathway for growth and new business possibilities when done well. Understanding what it means to “scale up” vs. “scale out”, and how this relates to the cloud vs. on-premises infrastructure will help you set this strategy effectively.

What is the objective of scalability?

The objective is to maximize the resources available for your application to achieve or sustain adequate efficiency. Choosing between the scale-up vs. scale-out approach depends entirely on the kind of infrastructure and workload you deal with, as well as the potential demand for expansion down the road.

Why move away from on-premises infrastructure?

Let’s say you want to build and maintain your on-premises infrastructure. But your business may grow faster than expected. Now you have a couple of choices:

  1. You can invest in extra capacity from the get-go, but this results in excess resources that will not be fully utilized until the demand increases to a matching level (as a result of company growth). This approach allows your business to handle the growing workload without interruptions. It takes advantage of economies of scale (e.g. volume discount when buying multiple pieces of equipment all at once vs. piece by piece every few years, think Costco). But depending on what you need, the initial cost may not be viable for a new business working with “anticipated demand”.How are you going to get access to the crucial data or IT resources?
  2. You can invest in what you need for the time being and leave upgrades for when the need arises, piece by piece. This approach requires contracting professionals to install and set up the new equipment every time (or maintain a team in-house). It would be much harder to do this on-demand promptly, as installation and setup of on-premises infrastructure typically take time. Economies of scale will be harder to achieve, workflows may be interrupted every time this happens, and there is no way to go back after you’ve purchased the new equipment. This approach keeps the initial cost lower but makes subsequent upgrades trickier and more expensive in the long run.

Moving a business’ necessary data, IT resources, or backup systems to the cloud is an appealing choice for any company concerned with business continuity if they cannot reach their servers.

Scale-out (vertical) VS scale-up (horizontal)

There are two main approaches to tackle increasing workloads, for simplicity, let’s take a web server as an example: ”Scale-up” addresses the problem by a larger, more efficient server with additional storage and computing capability, while the “Scale-Out” solution horizontally applies server units to the workload.

Scale-up and scale-out visual representation. Scale-up is improving the server with additional storage (the server becomes bigger and bigger) while Scale-out is adding more server units (1 server -> 3 servers-> 7 servers)

Scale-up and the cloud

The scale-up approach adds computing resources within systems rather than across networks, enabling high-speed communication and more effective data sharing. This approach is essentially how data centres of public cloud services like Azure are able to dynamically scale resources up and down while maintaining economies of scale.

By consolidating the expanding architecture into a single or a handful of scalable servers, you can minimize overall ownership costs, optimize processes, software and databases, and free up precious data centre space. A combination of virtual scale-up and scale-out capabilities would enable the workloads to adapt flexibly to market demand.

Azure Autoscale

Azure Autoscale is a built-in feature of Cloud & Mobile Services, Virtual Machines and Websites that helps applications perform their best when demand changes. For instance, you could have a web app or site that handles millions of requests during the day and none at night. AutoScale can scale your service by any of these – or by a custom metric that you define. To define your custom metric, you must understand the objective of scalability and the difference between “scale-up” and “scale-down.”

You won’t have to wait for a traffic surge to pull the app or web down. With a scheduled auto- scale, you can react before anything happens. Let’s imagine you’re running an online shopping store, and December Sales are coming. Tell the auto-scale to incorporate 10x more virtual machines in advance to accommodate the load.

With AutoScale, you won’t have to pay for the machines you’re not using. Do any of the testing and development take place on weekdays during the workday? Use auto-scaling to scale down all the virtual machines at night or on a weekend when no one’s around, and get them ready to go to work on Monday morning. The cloud is designed to be flexible such that you can be as cost-effective as possible.

Invero Fast-Track

If your business is growing faster than you can accommodate but uncertain about employing the cloud yourself, Invero can help kick-start your cloud migration journey alongside you. Invero can fast-track your cloud adoption journey to meet immediate digital business demands, maximize the business potential, and achieve a fast, cost-effective migration with no interruption in service. Contact us today to chat about your business’ goals in powering your digital growth.