This post is sponsored by Arateg, a custom software development company helping SMEs and startups work smarter and grow with the help of tech.

Before building a digital solution to address end-user issues, business owners and C-level executives need to include software scalability in the main project requirements. If an app or website works as intended providing a seamless user experience, this doesn’t mean it will operate reliably under increased loads. The number of customers employing the product can grow by thousands or the platform may need to process massive arrays of data. As a result, the system may become partially or completely unavailable, costing you millions of dollars. In addition, unexpected errors can arise and worsen user experience.

Ensuring software scalability is especially important when the response time is critical, for instance, for healthcare and insurance companies. If a medical organization doesn’t provide the required care or recommendations on time, a patient may suffer from health deterioration.

What is scalability in software development?

Simply put, scalability is about handling a growing amount of work by adding resources—e.g., nodes, servers—to the system. Furthermore, a highly-scalable app or website can automatically manage the load by reducing or increasing resources. There are two ways to scale an app or website—horizontal and vertical.

Employing horizontal scaling, a company connects more machines to handle a growing amount of work. For this purpose, IT experts increase or decrease the number of servers depending on the load. Thus, this load is distributed between several servers. 

In vertical scaling, you add more power—including CPUs, memory, and/or storage—to the existing machines. By adding or removing resource instances, an organization can easily balance the load and elastically scale the platform.

Why do you need to ensure software scalability?

When a software system is difficult or even impossible to scale, you can encounter the following issues:

  • Downtime—a company can’t deliver services online when users can’t access a website or application during heavy loads. If the system is unavailable, it is hard to retain customers and convince them to make purchases. As a consequence, organizations suffer losses of millions of dollars.
  • Reduced performance—an increasing number of visitors can result in numerous requests that the platform has to simultaneously process.
  • Poor user experience—people are likely to stop using the product due to partial or complete service unavailability, errors, and slow content loading. A total of 57% of consumers abandon a website that doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
  • It is difficult to extend/modify the system—adding new modules or changing the existing business logic can consume a lot of time and lead to extra costs while performing upgrades with downtime.
  • Lower Google search rankings—If the system can’t handle increased loads, it may result in downtime. According to Shopping Cart Elite, an outage of 6 hours is enough to drop website rankings by 30% while this damage to rankings may last up to 60 days.

Since not all systems are intended to serve thousands of users and withstand heavy loads, let’s look at the list of solutions that should provide scalability by default.

What software solutions should be scalable by default?

As we have mentioned earlier, having scalable software is essential when a medical organization has to quickly respond to user requests and provide the necessary help on time. However, it is also crucial for many other industries, involving entertainment, banking, and e-commerce. When Amazon.com’s website went down for 45 minutes in 2013, the company lost $5 million. Today, just a 60-second downtime will cost Amazon over $223,000.

Software solutions that require scalability:

  • patient health portals
  • m-health apps
  • e-commerce websites
  • online delivery services
  • insurance apps
  • banking and finance software
  • social networking apps
  • e-learning platforms
  • online booking systems
  • mobile fitness apps
  • video and audio streaming platforms
  • gaming applications
  • big data analytics software
  • currency exchange platforms
  • investment portfolio management apps

To build a scalable system and minimize downtime, you should create a flexible infrastructure that will allow optimizing the use of resources and save costs. Contact Arateg software experts to learn how to leverage a scalability-first approach. The consultation is free of charge.

When should you focus on software scalability?

C-level managers and business owners should focus on software scalability when planning project development. Before preparing a software requirements document for engineers, you should answer the following questions:

  • How many users do you expect to employ a digital solution within a year? Two years?
  • How much data will the website/application collect, store, and process?
  • How will the platform handle a growing amount of work while continuing to provide high performance and seamless user experience?

By assuring that a software system is fully scalable, you will be able to manage exponential growth without downtime while ensuring high availability and performance.

How can you build a scalable system?

To develop a scalable app or website, software engineers need to choose proper architecture and technology stack. For instance, it is difficult to scale and maintain a monolithic platform built on top of the outdated technology stack.

Architecture to create a scalable platform

1. Microservices

Microservices architecture is an approach to creating an application as a set of loosely-coupled services, each responsible for a certain feature or process. If some part fails to perform, this doesn’t affect the whole system. It is also possible to elastically scale the app by enabling auto scaling of resources up or down.

Amazon, eBay, SoundCloud, Zalando, Uber, and Netflix have decided to use microservices in their projects. At Arateg custom software development company, we often recommend our customers to choose this type of architecture to achieve scalability, high availability, and fault tolerance.

2. Serverless

In a serverless architecture—also called serverless computing or function as a service (FaaS)—apps are hosted by the cloud service provider. You delegate server management, infrastructure maintenance, and system monitoring to a third-party vendor such as Amazon or Microsoft.

With serverless, it is much easier to enable software scalability as the platform will elastically scale depending on the load. Other essential advantages are zero time infrastructure administration and faster time-to-market.

The Coca-Cola Company, iRobot, Autodesk, and Thomson Reuters have already adopted serverless to address business and technical issues. At the moment, serverless architecture is one of the key cloud computing trends in 2021.

Frameworks to develop a scalable system

While some frameworks are limited to scalability, other technologies and frameworks help engineers build solutions that can easily handle a growing amount of work.

1. Django

Django is a Python’s framework contributing to rapid development and clean user-friendly design. Allowing software developers to perform many tasks faster, it also helps them enhance system scalability.

2. Node.js

Node.js is a cross-platform JavaScript (JS) runtime environment. This framework can process numerous requests at a time without failures or disruptions. The technology offers various functionality packages to optimize the work and improve software scalability.

3. Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails is another software development framework enabling engineers to build apps more quickly while saving quality. However, this technology has less capacity to run many complex asynchronous queries at a time in comparison with Node.js.

Learn more about choosing the tech stack to make a web app.

Conclusion

With a scalable system, you will prevent system downtime while ensuring a seamless user experience. As a result, your organization will boost user engagement, increase a customer retention rate, and increase revenue. 

Enabling scalability is especially important when you are experiencing heavy loads or aim to launch a product for thousands of users. This will allow you to not only prevent errors and improve performance but also gain a competitive advantage, since not all companies leverage a scalability-first strategy.

Creating a flexible infrastructure that can easily manage the load, software engineers won’t have to modify the app/website in the future, making it possible to maintain a growing number of users and process large amounts of data. As a consequence, you will significantly reduce costs.
If you want to build a scalable platform or need to improve the existing solution, contact Arateg team. They’ll get back to you within 1 working day and help address all issues. The consultation is for free.

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