Scale Up or Scale Out? Find the Right Approach for Your Business

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What is Database Scalability and Why Do You Need It?

Scaling simply refers to expanding your computing resources to handle the exponential growth of work. It is the capacity of a system or a network to increase the output as load increases. Under heavy loads, the database can slow or even fail, crippling your business operations. Database scalability enables a database to grow to a larger size to support more transactions as the volume of business and/or customer count grows. Vertical database scalability and horizontal scaling are two effective ways to turn your fundamentally flawed database into an agile and powerful framework. Let’s explore the strengths and weaknesses of these two models and how they work to accommodate the rapid growth in data volume and traffic.

The Difference between Vertical Database Scalability and Horizontal Scaling

With vertical scaling, you upgrade the capacity of the existing database server, adding more physical resources such as storage, memory, and CPU. The benefits of vertical scaling include:

  • Retaining application compatibility, so no code changes are needed
  • Reduced administrative efforts -- as you only need to manage a single system
  • Taking advantage of today’s cost-effective and efficient server components
  • Reduced software costs, as they are typically charged on the cores

Horizontal database scaling increases capacity by spreading the load across more, smaller database servers. Enterprises can reduce costs with this approach by employing less sophisticated resources and hardware components to accommodate variable workloads. Hosting data across several databases and freeing up the resources for system maintenance increases I/O concurrency and reduces the load on the existing nodes. The benefits of horizontal scaling are:

  • Taking advantage of cheaper, smaller systems
  • Supporting linear increases in capacity on the fly
  • Improved resiliency because operations straddle multiple, discrete systems – no failure will take down all operations

While both these kinds of scalability come with advantages, each also comes with its own set of limitations. Vertical scaling is hard to deliver quickly and is not fully equipped to handle highly variable workloads. Horizontal scaling requires replication for data synch and that the applications connecting to the cluster be updated to direct traffic appropriately to the various servers.

Horizontal scaling is best served when complemented by a load-balancing program which is responsible for the distribution of user requests among back-end nodes in a cluster. From maintaining each machine and redirecting requests to checking network overhead and responding to requests, the database load balancing software plays a vital role as an intermediary component in this architecture.

It is important to choose the approach that suits your requirements and see if the model fits your application. Simply splurging on new hardware is not the solution. Determine whether your operational requirements can be fulfilled by fine-tuning the features and functionalities of a single machine or by increasing its capacity. If that does not work, scaling out may be the right approach, or you can consider using a combination of both scale up and scale out.

How to Go About It

Pick a platform that makes your work easy and supports node creation. Finally, the use of load balancing software that can be seamlessly deployed into your environment will enable auto failover, query-level caching and performance optimization. Being an easy-to-use open source database, MySQL is among the most popular choices of database that comes with a low cost of ownership. Enterprises can capitalize on MySQL and launch applications for almost every business vertical – be it real-estate, e-commerce, software services, retail, finance, hospitality, healthcare or manufacturing.

For MySQL databases, enterprises have a few choices of load balancing software to complement the database architecture, including MaxScale and ScaleArc. Both offer read/write split and a query firewall – where MaxScale focuses on the open source community, ScaleArc has enriched its platform to better suit the needs of commercial organizations.

The ScaleArc software, for example, supports:

  • App-transparent auto-failover, by queueing transactions during database failover and avoiding application errors.
  • Easy caching, with auto-cache invalidation and no need for code changes. Save your developers the time and hassle by leaving the caching to ScaleArc, so your developers can focus on creating new capabilities that boost your business.
  • Connection management and pooling, authentication offload, and surge queueing. The software efficiently manages simultaneous connection bursts while ensuring complete protection to servers even with excessive workloads.

To learn more about ScaleArc for MySQL, click here.

From handling replication conflicts and addressing database issues to ensuring seamless deployments and enabling instant failover, this load balancing software does it all without requiring changes to the app or database. Enterprises need to get smarter with a load balancing software that simplifies the job of app developers and saves them from needless complexities. For more information on ScaleArc, please visit our website at

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