Are you a startup struggling with meeting user demand on your web application?
Or are you an established business seeking to efficiently plug business holes with excellent user experience regardless of the number of app users at any given time?
You’re in the right spot.
The benefits of scaling your web application, regardless of your situation, abound. Some of them are
- Reducing the frequency of downtime is a phenomenon capable of hurting business reputation and brand.
- Cutting down on the costs of developing an app.
- Adapting the ever-changing needs of your network infrastructure.
- Astronomical growth in the process of building products that solve big problems for millions of people.
…and it isn’t just millions. You don’t need to look far to see the beauty of scalable web applications. We have Amazon with over a 2.7billion monthly visits as of June 2021. Facebook sits in the 3rd position as the most visited web application country, and worldwide. For the last 3 months, the numbers haven’t dropped below 17billion visitors per month.
All thanks to the scalability of web applications.
In this article guide, we’ll take you through a smart, yet simple, the process of scaling your app design efforts the right way.
And we’ll start with why…
Know Why You Need To Scale
To scale your web app design efforts is to be forward-thinking from the start of your design process. You don’t want to make decisions that are potentially costly down the line. A good example of such decisions would be the type of scalability you choose to implement in your design efforts, which can be improved through a process called Design Ops.
Should you add more CPU and/or RAM power to your existing machine?
Or would you rather just add another node to your network?
The former, also known as vertical scaling, would be susceptible to downtime when you need to have those upgrades in the future. While the latter, horizontal scaling, won’t impede performance or user experience when upgrading.
And while the benefits of scaling could include handling more load or reducing costs, the biggest scaling mistake you can make is to scale when you don’t need to. It costs money and the juice might not be worth the squeeze as you’d negatively impact your tech business. You need to first examine if you need to scale up.
So how do you diagnose your need for scale?
Ask yourself a few questions –
- What are your options when there’s a sudden and unforeseen surge in users and load?
- What marketing/sales efforts are you engaging in that could significantly increase users and load in the near future?
- At the current rate of lead generation and customer retention, how long would it take to fill your servers?
- How flexible is your current storage plan?
Answering these questions would give a picture of your web application’s scalability needs.
Measure Your Web Application’s Performance
According to Peter Drucker, one of the most influential thinkers on management and business optimization, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Measuring performance at this stage of scaling your web application is basically putting metrics to your diagnosis.
You have to measure how quickly your web application can handle an increase in web traffic. Also known as load balancing, this process helps you know the point where any increase in user traffic would negatively affect the performance of your web application. Another important metric is the speed at which you can get your systems running after a breakdown as a result of increased users and load.
Ask yourself a few more questions…
How much time does it take to transfer data from one process to another?
- You’re trying to figure out your network inputs and outputs here.
What are the operations that occur at the physical disk?
- You’re trying to figure out your disk inputs and outputs.
Do you experience high CPU usage?
- If this is the case, then your web application is experiencing performance problems as a result of increased users and load.
How much of your RAM is used per unit time?
- The more memory is used the closer you get to the point where any increase in users or load would impede performance.
Now that we have data, it’s time to find app-monitoring tools to make sense of it all. That’s the only way to know where scalability can be applied to achieve web application goals.
Use App Monitoring Tools To Process Performance Metrics
How can you increase and maintain customer satisfaction, improve end-user experience, and cut downtime and costs regardless of load without application performance monitoring?
You see, application performance monitoring tools give you an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your web application. In the context of this article guide, these tools show business opportunities to scale your web design system.
They do this by observing the health, capacity, and activities of the software and hardware components of your web design system and then giving insights on how to intelligently scale your web application to accommodate growth.
There are some good performance monitoring tools out there including Splunk, New Relic, Data Log, Dynatrace, AppDynamics, Stackify Retrace, and more. There are also PaaS and IaaS tools like Heroku and AWS that have application monitoring features as well. Once you choose your AMP solution, measure the metrics we’ve discussed earlier. There’s also an external factor of managing the employees’ time better with time tracking tools like apploye.
Notice high scores on any of these metrics?
Then it’s time for deeper diagnostics to find the problem and test cases for increasing the capacity of your web application. Continuity with your AMP tool of choice would give contextual value to other test runs in the future.
And now, to infrastructure…
Choose Infrastructure For Your Web Application
How you build your web application would determine how successful it’ll be in the context of scalability. Presenting your compilation of various functions and features as a group of individual services or microservices, that interact using APIs, is a better option for future scalability as opposed to a monolithic application.
Application infrastructure is the sum of all the operational and computational components that are vital to the development, implementation, and maintenance of web applications. It’s uniquely tailored to your web application’s features, capacity, and user-app demands. It includes servers, data storage, application monitoring, logging capabilities, and application security services.
Using Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud products like AWS, MS Azure, IBM Cloud, and Heroku, make scaling your web application easier as they come with reliability and the presence of SLAs. It’s a productivity hack for developers who are involved with web app development and maintenance.
PaaS products open the door to a myriad of benefits for your web application. Some of them include…
- It cuts administrative costs as it helps provide great features that make self-service possible. A delight for early-stage start-ups.
- It makes the development and maintenance of your web application easier with tools that support teams of developers working together on a project.
- It’s instrumental in widening the bottle-neck of entry into building web applications through reduced skill requirements.
- It reduces capital requirements for in-house servers as your web application rents cloud space managed and maintained by professionals.
- It offers on-demand flexibility for your web application’s user needs. It’s easy to scale up or down with the ebb and flow of consumer traffic.
… it’s the easiest way to design applications that scale reliably.
Decide On Your Architecture Pattern
Your web application should be designed in such a way that it is flexible to the changing demands of its users without a drop in user experience. The pattern of such web design is your architecture.
There are many architecture patterns used to design web applications. We’ll look at the Monolithic and Microservices architectures.
The monolithic architecture is a design pattern that creates self-contained software that has interdependent and interconnected components. And although such an architecture choice has its benefits, such as easier debugging, it doesn’t favour web applications that would scale.
On the other hand, microservices architecture patterns help build distributed systems with loosely connected components. They best suit fast-growing web apps and websites with smaller components. It also can encourage a more effective and efficient work model for a tech team with members working from different parts of the world.
It’s Time To Choose your Database
When choosing a database for your web application, there are a couple of criteria your choice should pass. Of course, scalability is the top priority of this article guide, but there are other features that are just as important.
If you want to improve the internal analytics capability of your web application. You should opt for using a data warehouse as a central repository for data storage.
Whether you choose to use a database or opt for a data warehouse, both should be evaluated o following factors:
Your database of choice should come with support for multiple writes and multi-architecture. Its services have to be accessible to you at all times. And it should have options for multiple data replicas.
It shouldn’t have latency problems. Check for Queries per second (QPS). And see if it has more advanced storage features.
Ask these questions…
Does your database of choice foil SQL injections and data leaks? Do they meet audit requirements?
How easy is it to scale using your database of choice? Your database should make both horizontal and vertical scaling easy to implement.
Operational and Maintenance Costs
There should be support for troubleshooting, performance tuning, backup and restore. Your database of choice should offer fair costs for migrations and upgrades, a helpful community, and a reliable and alert system.
Depending on the type of data you’re working with, you’ll need a relational or disconnected database. For the former, we have PostgreSQL and MySQL. And for the latter, there’s MongoDB and NoSQL.
Pick A Suitable Framework For Scale
Once you have your infrastructure, architecture and database figured out, it’s time to choose your framework.
You could create your own, or learn how to be a good developer or designer yourself, but it’s of course way too time-consuming.
Frameworks, just like the other steps we’ve examined, can impede or promote the scalability of your web application. There are a couple of good frameworks that I suggest for a scalable web application project.
- Angular JS
- Ruby on Rails
There are many honourable mentions when it comes to scaling your design efforts. One would be a clean code. It affects the sustainability of the overall design.
Another would be testing. Well executed load and performance testing throughout the process of product development would go a long way in making scaling an easier endeavour.
I’d love to know what you’ve done so far to ensure the scalability of your web application and how this guide has helped you adjust.