Is no secret that sustainable growth is the ultimate goal of every business. Therefore, whether you are a software giant corporation or just a startup, the scalability of your software is a matter of life and death for your business.
Why? Well, because a messy software that is riddled with bugs and lags will disrupt your operations. This is a huge turn off for users that keeps businesses from growing.
That said, there are ways to make sure that the software you develop is scalable and can handle increased user traffic without breaking a sweat.
Tips to Improve Software Scalability
Software scalability is in direct relation to the scalability of the database system at the backend. So, you can’t have a scalable software without having a scalable database. This is where beginners often falter. They fail to realize the importance of database optimizations.
Once you have a scalable database in place, all you need to do is follow some industry standard practices to ensure your software is also scalable.
Improving Database Scalability
There are quite a lot of things you can do to improve database scalability. From horizontal scaling to optimizing the schema, database scaling is a cluster of optimizations that work hand in hand.
The following are some of the things that you can do to design a scalable database.
Optimized Schema Design
A database schema is the most performance-affecting part of database design. Database schema refers to the way a database is structured. In other words, a schema is a blueprint of the entire database. It describes how tables are structured, the way relations work between tables and the associated constraints.
You can now see why schema design is so important. A database with a poor schema will be flawed from the very beginning.
Here are a few things to consider to develop a good schema design:
- Shorter tables are almost always preferred
- Normalize database tables
- Don’t request more information than necessary e.g. refrain from using select *
- Operators like ‘%’ are a bad idea
- Stay away from using Join as much as possible
- Don’t perform individual queries if you can. Put off queries of similar type and perform them together to save resources. For instance, if you are doing delete on every page, put off doing deletes until all the pageviews are done and then perform them in a batch
- In the case of ORMs, beware of the N+1 problem
- For further performance gains, slightly denormalize data
This is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to schema design optimizations. So, if you want to go deeper there are a lot of resources online.
One of the biggest issues software programmers face during maintenance is the lack of resources. Most, if not all, of the performance-related issues, happen because the software has hit the server’s upper limit. That means the load/demand for resources is more than a single server can handle. So, to mitigate this situation two solutions exist:
- Vertical Scaling
- Horizontal Scaling
In vertical scaling, you increase the resources of a single server. For instance, you swap HDDs for SSDs, increase the number of CPU cores and increase the amount of RAM, etc.
On the other hand, horizontal scaling means adding more servers rather than increasing the resources of one. This way you can distribute the database over a network of resources and serve the visitors based on their geographical location. Not only this reduces the load on one single server, but it also does away with a single point of failure (which is the biggest problem with the Vertical Scaling).
Improving Software Scalability
Like I’ve said before, software scalability depends on database scalability. So, if you have a scalable database at the backend, there is very little that you need to do to make your software scalable.
Use the Right Technology
The first step in creating a scalable software is to use the right technology. When I say technology I am referring to the actual programming language that will be used for your software development.
So, choose wisely. For instance, C is a poor choice and so is C++. On the other hand, Java, C#, and Lisp are pretty great choices.
Hitting the database, again and again, is a performance bottleneck. It takes a lot of time and resources for a server to retrieve data from a database. And if you are retrieving the same information over and over again then it is a waste of server resources.
Therefore, implementing caching is an excellent way to save resources. In caching you make a copy of the most requested data in RAM. And whenever a visitor requests that data, your software serves up the cached copy rather than hitting the database. In short, caching can save you a lot of performance overhead.
Implement Security Features
Finally, upon expecting a surge in the number of visitors, you should implement security features to make sure this surge doesn’t bog down the whole system. Because there are instances where a sudden increase in the number of visitors can be a DDoS attack. Setting up firewalls, and CDNs, etc. can save you from a possible DDoS attack.
In the end, software scalability is largely dependent on database scalability. The more scalable your database system is, the more scalable your software system will be. So, focus more of your efforts on making your database as scalable as possible and the software will follow on its own. This will also help you minimize software maintenance as the fundamentals will be pretty solid.