A question of Scale

time to read 2 min | 256 words

One of my routine set of questions when I am coming to a new codebase is: "What is the expected load on the system?" or "How big do you need this to scale?"

I have several variant of the question, including, "What precentage of your budget is dedicated for scaling scenarios?"

In plenty of cases, the answer that I get is vague. There is not definite scaling requirements, but the client want to be able to scale. Here are a few rule of thumbs that will help you to know if scaling is even an issue at this stage of the game.

  • If you can't came up with a number for the scaling scenario, you don't need to scale. A number isn't 10,321 concurrent connected users with a peak of 28,154 users. A number is "ten thousands to fifty thousands requests", "Fifteen million visitors a day", etc. You need to have an overall idea, otherwise, you don't need to scale.
  • If you are replacing an old (slow) system, and you don't know the numbers, you don't need to scale.
  • If you are planning of scale-as-we-go approach, but you don't have a way to measure usage (and usage is more than just requests per second), than you won't be able to scale.

Designing for scale has a cost associated with it, not a high one, if you are doing things correctly, but it is there. Be aware of unnecessary scaling efforts.