horizontal vs vertical scaling

Horizontal vs. Vertical Scaling: A Comparison

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When hosting applications it's not always easy to predict with any amount of certainty what the future will bring. What sort of traffic will your infrastructure have to support?

It's become essential for businesses to be able to adapt to anything. Luckily, that's one of the main strengths of cloud-based computing. 38% of business owners report that enhancing their ability to respond to disasters is one of their principal motivations for migrating to the cloud.

But how should you best configure your cloud infrastructure to be ready for anything? Here, we look into horizontal vs vertical scaling to understand which configuration is best to help future-proof your digital products and services.

Horizontal Vs Vertical Scaling: Which One's Right For You?

Let's start our analysis of horizontal vs vertical scaling with a little side-by-side comparison. Understanding the differences and similarities between these two compute scaling models will help give you a clearer idea of which configuration is right for your organization.

What Is Vertical Scaling?

Vertical scaling is adding more resources to your current system. These resources can include more CPU, RAM, or storage capacity. Vertical scaling is also sometimes referred to as vertical scalability or "scaling up."

The technical definition of vertical scaling is adding increased capabilities to one component of a system. Increased memory or processing power is the most common example of vertical scalability. Increased storage capacity is another typical example of vertical scaling used by most companies.

Vertical scaling is most often used by small- and medium-sized businesses. One common application of vertical scaling would be to purchase one very powerful computer and using it to host virtual machines.

What Is Horizontal Scaling?

Horizontal scaling, on the other hand, is a lot like how it sounds. It's increasing the elasticity and scalability of your infrastructure by adding compute systems to your network. Horizontal scaling is also sometimes referred to as "horizontal scalability" or "scaling out."

Clustering your servers is one typical example of horizontal scaling. It's also a good illustration of why this approach is so appealing for network admins. When your system becomes overly taxed, you can add more servers to the cluster.

Horizontal scaling is virtually limitless. The only constraint is the number of servers to which you can connect. Even more, scaling out can happen on the fly. It's the perfect solution for preparing for unexpected eventualities.

Apache Cassandra is based on horizontal scalability, for instance. Cassandra is built with hundreds of connectivity nodes spanning multiple data centers. This redundancy means there's no singular point of failure. Cloud-based servers design to scale horizontally are rugged and robust and prepared for virtually anything.

How To Choose Between Horizontal Vs Vertical Scaling

When it comes to technical challenges, there's no single right way to do things. Every business has its own set of factors that influence the chosen solution to a problem.

Still, there are such things as common technical problems, and some approaches to cloud-based computing will be more effective in dealing with these common problems in today's business world.

Vertical scaling has several limitations that can make it less-than-ideal. First of all, scaling up has limitations built-in to its very nature. Moore's Law indicates that physical computing itself can only be expanded so much. Motherboards and microprocessors can only support so many transistors.

The other main problem with scaling up is it requires your business to be fully-formed to be truly useful. You'd have to know all of the potential issues and hurdles your business will face ahead of time to make sure you have enough processing power and storage capacity. For example if Zoom relied on vertical scaling when Covid hit, they wouldn't have been able to respond to the massive increase in demand from everyone suddenly working from home and needing to host meetings online. Horizontal scaling is what makes unexpected spikes in demand manageable.

You'd have to have all of your resources right out of the gate, as well. As much as we'd all love to buy all of the processors and hard drives to construct the world's most powerful server, many businesses don't have those kinds of resources when they're first starting.

With horizontal scaling, you can add new components to your system as the need arises. You can continually upgrade, as well, as your income stream becomes more stable and dependable if you're running a lean startup.

Another reason that horizontal scaling is preferable to scaling up is it lets your app or digital business be ready for outages. Downtime can cost even small businesses $10,000/hr. That's not even considering the damage to your reputation that might also occur.

If you're offering a digital product, service, or app, its usefulness is entirely contingent upon staying online. It doesn't take very long for a customer to get the idea your app doesn't work and abandon it altogether. The digital world is highly competitive in virtually every arena, so there are bound to be numerous competitors who would be more than happy to take your place.

One final reason that horizontal scaling is preferable to vertical is it means you don't end up paying for things you don't need. Scaling out means you can add resources when you need them. That means you don't have to pay to host terabyte storage resources that are sitting empty.

You can bump up your capacity in case of spikes or surges. Then you can scale back again once things return to normal.

Horizontal scaling lets you be prepared for anything and save time and money at the same time!

Are You Looking To Migrate Your Applications To the Cloud?

The business world is moving at the speed of thought. You've got to be ready for anything at any time and be able to accommodate a global customer base plus employees located all over the world.

If you're looking for a trusted AWS partner to help you get set up or expand your cloud capacity, learn more about our services and see how we can help you!