Horizontal vs Vertical Scaling in the Cloud Overview

Ask yourself this question: have you ever sized an application, then purchased the equipment, only to find that you max out the capacity a few months later? If you said yes, join the thousands of business owners who experienced similar situations.

When you sized your application, you had to convince upper management they needed to spend more money and bust the budget. That's not even the worst situation. Now you have to do that all over again. Managers will need to justify to shareholders why profits are going to suffer. They won't take this situation lightly.

If you get approval for the new equipment, you will likely be implementing what is known as vertical scaling. The exercise involves adding more computing power to replace the servers that can no longer handle the current capacity.

Here are a few other questions to consider. What happens when you get a surge of business activity that will cause you to max out your new servers again? What happens if you max out to the point where larger computing power is unavailable? Vertical scaling can only go so far in helping you cope with the sizing requirements.

Horizontal and Vertical Scaling in AWS

When you move your operations to the cloud, you will benefit from the inherent scaling features of cloud providers. But you need to choose the right options to get the most out of your scalable solutions. These options usually include horizontal and vertical scaling on the cloud.

Cloud services offer both options. There is still only so much computing power you can demand with vertical scaling. The cloud provider can't produce more power if it's not available from hardware or software vendors. Therefore, vertical scaling is limited as a solution even with cloud providers. The only saving grace is the cloud provider spends their capital rather than you having to spend company money.

The biggest scaling benefit provided by cloud providers is via vertical scaling. With vertical scaling, you are offered a fleet of servers that work together to manage the workloads. You bring them online via your dashboard, or you have your cloud provider manage them via automation.

Horizontal scaling may still be useful. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have high computing requirements that standard configurations cannot handle. Processor-intensive applications or analyzing big data may be candidates for vertical scaling.

Types of Cloud Scalability

When you implement scaling, you'll be faced with doing it manually, scheduled, or automatic. With manual scaling, you'll need to allocate a technology person to manage the scaling. For small computing needs, this scenario may be viable. The technologist will need to be trained to scale applications and determine whether to use vertical, horizontal scaling or a combination.

If your peak business processes happen during the same periods every year or season, you may choose to use scheduled scaling. You won't have to depend on human intervention with this option. Although it's better than manual scaling, it is not optimal to determine exact computing requirements. For that, you'll need automated scaling.

Automatic scaling is provided as a feature of most major cloud service providers. The advantage of this method is that you can approach the scaling from every aspect of your operations. You can scale your database, front-end processes, CPU needs, memory, and disk space. It is a set it and forget it scenario. It's likely to be the most cost-effective, too. When you have an automated process that monitors each component, the process can adjust instantly. Since you usually only pay for what you use, you can see how this is an optimal cost scenario.

The optimizations would inherently improve any time your cloud provider implements new technologies. This provision would not likely be possible with an on-premise solution. Most companies don't have the luxury of implementing the latest technologies. Cloud providers must do so to remain competitive.

Horizontal scaling can make it easier to set up redundancy and failover. By implementing using multiple availability zones, cloud services provide companies with virtually no downtime. While redundancy may be possible using vertical scaling, it is not as robust or manageable as horizontal scaling. The solution would likely involve multiple servers but often in the same data center or availability zone. If you have horizontal scaling features available, you are usually better off taking advantage of those features.

Horizontal scaling is usually implemented using clustering and distributed processing. The solution adds more servers to the clusters and the distributed system.

One advantage that vertical scaling has over horizontal scaling is the data transfer mechanism. Horizontal scaling must rely on the network, which is slower than vertical scaling's inter-process communication mechanism. That's because vertical scaling usually involves upgrading from a smaller server to a larger one. The interaction between programs and data is contained on the same server.

The choice between using horizontal scaling and vertical scaling will depend on the applications and a company's computing needs and budget. There does not exist a one-solution-fits-all. Companies will need to understand their applications and data and estimate how their business will grow.

Horizontal and Vertical Scaling in AWS

Many businesses don't have the expertise to assess their computing resources. While the cloud can help them solve some of their problems, it requires the right skill set to ensure that you implement the right solution when you migrate to AWS.

At Eplexity, we can help you implement a solution that works for your business. Our experts will analyze your current operations and create a strategic plan to take full advantage of the scalability features offered by your cloud provider. Contact us today to learn how to get started!

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