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What Is Cloud Scalability, And Why Does It Matter?
Cloud computing has radically modified the framework of IT infrastructure over the past decade, with many organizations dispensing with in-house solutions and transferring their operations entirely to the cloud. Given its many significant benefits to businesses, scalability is one of the principal driving factors in this widespread cloud migration. Whether traffic or workload conditions increase or decrease suddenly or progressively over time, a scalable cloud solution equips businesses to react appropriately and judiciously to adjust their storage capacity and computing power in order to optimize system performance.
When your data storage is physically restricted, your ability to expand your IT infrastructure to meet demands is severely hampered. However, when you operate in the cloud there are no limits to the physical size of your server environment. This permits you to start small and nourish the growth of your business over time, without any interruptions to your workflow or costly, unanticipated changes. Simply put, scalability enables your IT environment to be flexible enough to deliver precisely the right amount of computing power and storage capacity you need, whenever you need it.
Occasionally, scalability is inaccurately used as a synonym for growth. In reality, market demand isn’t steady. Even flourishing businesses might experience times when there is more or less demand. That’s another great thing about scalability – you can downsize resources as needed just as easily as you can scale up.
In traditional data center operations, adding extra server space involves having to acquire, equip, install, and configure the hardware, then assess both the infrastructure and application in advance of making it available in production. Apart from the purchase and maintenance costs, this process expends a considerable amount of time and resources, in addition to the inevitable downtime it causes during production rollout. After all this, if your demand decreases, the organization has no alternative other than to absorb the costs.
What Is Cloud Scalability?
Cloud scalability is the ability to increase or decrease IT resources, capacity, or infrastructure to meet the changing demands of your business.
If you’ve ever created a Gmail account, added storage to your Dropbox account, or watched something on Netflix, you’ve done some scaling – at least in a limited, front-end sense – even without realizing it. Essentially, what you’ve done by executing any of these actions is create an IT resource – an email account, storage, or a streaming video – without purchasing any additional hardware.
How Is Cloud Scalability Achieved?
Virtualization involves the creation of virtual assets – such as servers, desktops, operating systems, storage devices, and other network infrastructure – using resources that are traditionally bound to physical hardware. Virtualization is what makes scalability in cloud computing possible.
Unlike physical machines whose provisions are relatively fixed, virtual machines (VMs) are exceptionally flexible and can be easily scaled up or down. VMs can be transferred to a different server or hosted on numerous servers simultaneously. Workloads and applications can also be shifted to larger VMs as needed.
3 Types of Scaling in the Cloud:
There are three primary ways of scaling in the cloud:
This gives you the ability to expand (“scale up”) or shrink (“scale down”) the capacity of your server to adapt to changing workload volumes. This is accomplished by adding or removing resources. This type of scaling has an upper limit based on the capacity of the server or the machine being scaled. Scaling beyond that point often requires significant downtime. With vertical scaling, no code is changed and no infrastructure is added – only the number of resources needed.
This allows you to provision additional servers and configure them to work together as a single system in order to spread out the workload across machines for optimal performance. This is also referred to as “scaling in” or “scaling out,” depending on whether you are increasing or decreasing your infrastructure. In practical terms, horizontal scaling is superior, as it’s much easier to accomplish without downtime and it’s also simpler to manage automatically.
This combines elements of vertical and horizontal scaling. Each individual method is capable of solving different scalability issues, so it’s not a matter of choosing which one is “better.” The idea is to scale exactly to your business demands, which often involves both vertical and horizontal scaling. You grow (vertically) within your existing infrastructure until you hit the tipping point, at which point you can simply add more resources in a new cloud server (horizontal). Diagonal scaling delivers tremendous flexibility for variable workloads that require additional resources for specific periods of time.
6 Key Benefits of Cloud Scalability:
Facilitates Disaster Recovery
In the event of a disaster (natural or otherwise), scalability allows a business to rebuild its IT infrastructure in just a few hours. You merely have to deploy new servers and copy over your data. By comparison, it can take weeks to rebuild your local IT with new physical servers.
Incredible Speed & Flexibility
Scalability allows you to add the necessary IT resources for your business initiatives – whether you’re opening a new branch, adding a new team, or starting a new project or campaign – in minutes, hours, or days, not months or years. When demand is reduced, you can easily return to your original configurations.
Avoid Expensive, Disruptive Migrations
Scalability enables your business to accommodate increased workloads without disrupting or completely transforming your existing infrastructure. With a scalable IT platform, you only migrate to new infrastructure when you want to – not when your underlying platform lets you down. Scalability enables your business to accommodate larger workloads without disruption or complete transformation of existing infrastructure.
By migrating to the cloud, businesses can avoid the upfront costs of procuring costly equipment that could become obsolete in a few years. With a cloud service provider, you only pay for what you use, which helps minimize waste.
Having the capability to scale cloud resources up or down based on present needs eliminates a number of risks related to rapid growth. Consequently, a bad quarter or two won’t suddenly put the company in financial jeopardy, thanks to steady IT infrastructure costs.
Some applications can operate even more economically in the cloud and can often be migrated simply through “lift and shift” strategies. The money saved on computing infrastructure can then be reinvested in the company, helping to grow the business even more efficiently.
Greater Storage Capacity
Having sufficient storage space to accommodate the needs of a growing company — from saving important files and hosting applications to securely storing vital customer information — is essential.
While a fragmentary setup may only need a few terabytes of data to support your everyday needs, the system could quickly find itself struggling to manage significantly higher workloads and resources after a string of successes.
Instead of maintaining an ever-expanding conglomeration of hard drives that increases every time you take on a new client, your company can use cloud computing to scale its data storage plan to fit your current needs without incurring the out-of-pocket costs that come with expanding physical infrastructure.
With continued growth and increasingly complicated computing infrastructure, a business that operates in the cloud can continue to boost its capacity and capabilities without jeopardizing the enterprising efforts that made the business prosperous initially.
Oftentimes with just a couple of clicks, IT administrators can effortlessly deploy additional VMs which are available immediately, and which are tailored to the precise needs of your organization. This conserves valuable time for IT staff. In lieu of consuming hours and days configuring physical hardware, teams can concentrate their time and energy on takes that are more crucial to growing the business.
Best Practices for Determining Optimal Scalability
Fluctuating business requirements or skyrocketing demand often necessitate changes to your scalable cloud solution. But how much storage, memory, and processing power do you actually need? Here are a few reliable methods to help you determine how best to scale:
To ascertain a “right-sized” solution, continuing performance testing is vital. IT administrators must constantly calculate factors such as CPU load, memory usage, response time, and number of requests. Scalability testing also quantifies an application’s performance and ability to scale up or down depending on user requests.
Many cloud service providers offer auto-scaling options as part of their cloud solutions. This refers to the automatic scaling of a system’s capacity, either up or down, based on predefined conditions.
Auto-scaling continually keeps track of the performance of applications and automatically adjusts the capacity to sustain stable, uninterrupted performance and to ensure that businesses are only responsible for paying for the resources they use.
Load balancers offer another automated way of scaling up or down by allocating workloads across a variety of nodes in order to optimize resources.
A load balancer accepts all incoming application traffic and then acts as an usher to discover the best instance for each incoming request.
Additionally, most load balancers constantly monitor the health of each instance to ensure that traffic is only being sent to instances that are “healthy.” They can also transfer workloads they deem to be too heavy for a specific node, instead locating a less-burdened node.
Containers and container orchestration systems have rapidly become popular ways to create more scalable and portable IT infrastructure. Containers share a single kernel, yet they’re isolated from their surroundings. This confines issues to the single container, rather than the entire machine.
Containers require fewer resources and deliver greater flexibility than virtual machines because they can share elements such as operating systems and a number of other components. In this way, containers will operate the same way across platforms, and thus can be quickly and easily migrated between nodes.
Businesses these days operate on data. Unfortunately, the proliferation of data is walloping business IT environments and pressuring IT executives to make difficult decisions. If your business is scrambling to keep up with the necessary infrastructure for your expanding data, the practical solution is cloud migration. The most compelling motivation to do so is scalability.
Releasing the ties that bind you to your physical infrastructure — either partially (with a hybrid cloud environment) or fully — allows you to direct your attention toward building out your infrastructure in a more proactive, methodical, and economical way. By channeling the scalability of your cloud environment through these and other methods, you can advance more quickly and easily and remain agile all the while.
DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers a wide range of cloud hosting services to help reduce maintenance expenses and boost business efficiency. Whether you need virtual servers or virtual desktops and phone systems, we can help with that! Virtualization helps companies decrease maintenance spend and increase server utilization. If your business is considering moving to the cloud, give us a call today at 252.329.1382! We can make the migration process simple and painless, and you will start to see the benefits of cloud computing almost immediately!