For many companies choosing migration to the cloud over the use of on-premises architecture offers the ability to scale quickly and easily. But what does scalability in cloud computing actually mean?  

In this publication, we try to answer this question. With the help of our expert – Radosław Czebreszuk, we take a closer look at the types of scalability and the main reasons to incorporate that solution in an organisation.  

What is cloud scalability?  

Scalability in cloud computing refers to the possibility of increasing or decreasing IT resources. It helps to scale assets, such as network capabilities, computing power and storage capacity, as needed to meet changing demand and without any disruption to the business. Importantly, organisations can go back to the original configuration once the need for additional requirements ends. This cloud computing solution can be deployed quickly and easily with third-party cloud vendors that leverage already existing infrastructure. Unlike scaling the on-premises infrastructure, this process no longer requires weeks or months of work.  

Types of scaling in cloud computing  

There are two main types of Cloud scalability, horizontal and vertical. The choice between these two approaches should depend on current needs and future requirements for the product and the organisation. Therefore, it is important to understand what each type has to offer.  

Horizontal scaling – scaling out or in, involves adding or removing extra servers to the cloud infrastructure. Splitting traffic between two or more instances, can spread the load across more machines and therefore enhance the availability of our service. Horizontal scaling is easier to manage automatically, and easier to accomplish without downtime. Thanks to additional instances, this solution can also ensure better functioning in cases of natural disasters or major technical failures. 

Vertical scaling – scaling up or down, refers to adding or diminishing power in an already existing instance. It focuses on improving memory, storage or processing power to cope with increased workloads. This approach does not require any modification of the code. However, it may affect product performance or caused downtime. Vertical scaling allows for better optimisation of resources relative to the actual time of use, which if done correctly can help lower cloud costs. 

Those scaling types do not exclude each other, and if needed they can be combined. For example, organisations can scale up vertically until the server limit is reached, and then clone the server to add further resources if necessary. This variation can be a good option for businesses with more unpredictable environments because scaling both up and down as well as in and out allows you to remain more agile.  

Cloud scalability vs cloud elasticity 

Cloud vendors can provide both scalable and elastic solutions. Although these two terms sound similar, they do not always mean the same thing. If we think of elasticity in the sense that a resource is elastic, then the two cloud functions mentioned above are not equal.  

In this context, elasticity in the cloud is the ability of the existing systems to expand or contract in response to dynamically changing web traffic and processing demands. An elastic system has the capability to automatically adjust to match resources with the need in real-time. It is a good solution for firms that experience variable and unpredictable workloads and have ever-changing demands on infrastructure services.  

On the other hand, scalability, as previously mentioned, is more about adding or diminishing hardware resources to meet changes in demand. A scalable cloud solution enables consistent and long-term growth, while an elastic solution responds to more immediate, variable spikes in demand.  

Both those cloud solutions can be crucial for the business. However, when choosing either of them, it is worth considering whether your website traffic is random or predictable. It is also worth noting that scalability is more prominent in private clouds, while elastic cloud solutions are more commonly used in public clouds.  

Benefits of cloud computing scalability  

Knowing what scalability is now, we can take a closer look at what good it can do to the product and organisation.  

The main advantage of a scalable architecture is the ability to handle increases in traffic or heavy loads. It allows the achievement of high availability and performance and adjusting things already existing in an organisation to the current needs. A scalable system can also help keep the product running at the most pressured moments and can result in easier monitoring, feature updates, and debugging. 

As the major cloud scalability benefits, we can list the following: 

Convenience – Changes in product capacity can be made in a few clicks and the setting up of physical hardware is not required. This saves time that can be spent on other important tasks.  

Speed and flexibility – Scaling assists is an easy adjustment to business growth and modification. It allows quick responses to any spikes in demand and allows a better class of resources to be used only for the time that is actually needed.  

Cost efficiency – With resource scaling in cloud computing, organisations can dodge the costs of purchasing unnecessary expensive equipment. Additionally, good optimisation of the resources makes it possible to pay less and only for the things actually used and according to the time during which they are needed.  

Disaster recovery – Scalability can help to reduce costs of disaster recovery, by providing already maintained secondary data centres.  

Why and when to use cloud computing scalability?  

Scalability is often one of the reasons for migrating to the cloud. The same as any scalable, flexible business model, it helps to meet changing needs with ease and therefore allows faster growth. Scalability can also support the achievement of uninterrupted performance while responding appropriately, quickly, and cost-effectively to the need for increased or decreased memory, and processing requirements. 

The use of mechanisms related to scaling should be most beneficial for companies with some sort of traffic peak. Those types of organisations may create their own specific way of scaling the resources. For example, by defining a range from minimum to maximum traffic in which the service should scale. 

Over to you 

Organisations have many options and compelling reasons to apply cloud scalability. The solution can help achieve operational and business goals and ensure that the company remains competitive in the market.  

If you need to implement a scalable solution in your environment or simply want to know more about the topic, feel free to contact our Cloud Engineering team. 

About the author

Magdalena Jędrzejowska

Magdalena Jedrzejowska

Business Researcher