Cloud Computing Scalability
Scalability in cloud computing is the ability to quickly and easily increase or decrease the size or power of an IT solution.
A scalable cloud is why you can sign up and use most cloud solutions in just a few minutes – if not seconds. It’s why you can add resources like storage to an existing account just as quickly.
There are usually two ways to scale a cloud solution up or down:
- Contact the cloud provider to request it
- Add the resources yourself via an online portal
Some cloud solutions can also be auto-scaled. This means you can set them up to scale up or down automatically based on certain conditions, like when your cloud solution is running out of storage space.
Key Features of Cloud Scalability
1) Grow or shrink. Scaling is a change in size. It can mean increasing or decreasing.
2) Sizeable difference. You don’t use a cool word like “scalability” to describe a minor change. It should mean adding a significant amount of users or data, or hardware-like assets such as vCPUs and vRAM.
3) Non-disruptive. Scaling doesn’t mean replacing. You’re adding resources to an existing deployment, so there should be minimal downtime or learning curve. Adding seats to your Google Apps deployment as you grow – that’s scaling. Switching to Office 365 because Google Apps can’t support you any longer, not so much.
4) Relatively fast. Not at all cloud solutions scale up in minutes or with the click of a button, but scaling with the cloud should at least be faster than buying and setting up the hardware yourself.
5) Relatively easy. If scalability was easy in every case, we’d all be AWS Architects making a sweet $100,000+ per year. But the architecture of the cloud still makes things easier than scaling locally. Without virtualization, you’d have to run your largest apps on expensive, difficult-to-maintain mainframes.
You Already Know, You Just Don’t Know It
Even if you’ve never heard the term scalability before, you’ve probably done some scaling of your own without realizing it. If you’ve ever done any of these things:
- Created a Gmail account
- Added storage to your Dropbox account
- Watched something on Netflix
Then you’ve done some scaling, at least in a limited, frontend sense. What you’ve done is create an IT resource – an email account, storage, or a streaming video – without buying any additional hardware.
There’s a lot happening behind the scenes here, too. With the Gmail example, Google’s cloud automatically sets aside space for your new email account – which it probably does millions of times per day, for its millions of other new users. Google is probably doing this without purchasing any new hardware, either. It probably has a surplus of hundreds or thousands of servers, all set up and ready to host millions of Gmail accounts.
6 Key Benefits of Cloud Scalability
It makes you feel like a god. There’s something pretty cool about being able to deploy thousands of servers or terabytes of data with a single click. You start to think, “Today, I deployed and configured all the servers I needed. Tomorrow…the world.”
It makes your job easier. Don’t tell your boss about this one, but adding resources with the cloud takes less time than doing it locally with physical hardware – a lot less time. You can then spend a lot of this extra time “working.”
Its makes disaster recovery easier. Not every business can afford a hot or cold site. But scalability allows any business to rebuild their IT in just a few hours; you just have to deploy new servers and copy over your data. It can take weeks, on the other hand, to rebuild your local IT with new physical servers.
It gives your business incredible speed and flexibility. Want to open a new branch? Add a new team? Start a new project or campaign? Scalability lets you add the IT resources for initiatives like this in minutes, not months.
It lets you avoid costly, disruptive migrations. You don’t want to deploy your IT on a platform, only to find that it can’t support you after several years of solid growth. With a scalable platform, you only migrate when you want to – not when your underlying platform lets you down.
It saves you money. There are no large upfront costs with the cloud. No $5,000+ servers, SANs, or networking equipment to buy. And you only pay for what you use. On a large scale, scalability reduces waste. It’s why cloud providers can offer secure, reliable business email hosting for $5 per month and still be in business.
Why Cloud Computing Is Scalable
Virtualization is what makes scalability in cloud computing possible.
Virtual machines (VMs) are scalable. They’re not like physical machines, whose resources are relatively fixed.
You can add any amount of resources to VMs at any time. You can scale them up by:
- Moving them to a server with more resources
- Hosting them on multiple servers at once (clustering)
The other reason cloud computing is scalable? Cloud providers already have all the necessary hardware and software in place.
Individual businesses, in contrast, can’t afford to have surplus hardware on standby.