An App Scaling Guide to Level Up Your Application

Tyler Au
7 minutes
May 23rd, 2024
Tyler Au
7 minutes
May 23rd, 2024

What is App Scaling?

Think of your favorite application- maybe it’s Instagram, maybe it's Netflix, one thing is certain: there are countless other users on that app at the same time as you. Instagram, for example, hosts over 200 billion active users every month, with 500 million of those users checking their feeds daily. To ensure that Instagram is able to handle its usual traffic, along with random traffic spikes, Meta engages in routine application scaling. Although not foolproof, app scaling provides Instagram with the means to handle traffic, provide high uptime, and guarantees (for the most part) high availability.

Application scaling refers to increasing an application’s ability to handle influxes in users,data, and other resources while maintaining high performance and reliability. The example above is just one case towards increasing your application scalability: if 1 billion users suddenly flooded Instagram on top of their already 500 million daily users without proper scaling, Instagram would simply shut down. By operating Instagram with app scalability in mind, Meta is able to accommodate demand spikes (both predicted and random) and handle increased workloads, without sacrificing Instagram’s performance and reliability.

With approximately 5.35 billion internet users, the need to build a scalable app is at an all time high. Many businesses are setting the foundation for scalability in the early development stages of their applications and solutions, using architectures and tech stacks that require little maintenance to scale once the company is ready. With internet usage only increasing, scaling apps is quickly becoming a top priority for all companies both big and small.

Why Does Application Scale Even Matter?

Let’s turn the clock back to 2019. In December 2019, the conferencing platform Zoom had a steadily growing consumer base of 10 million users. With the global lockdown, by April 2020, Zoom’s daily users grew by 2,900%, reaching 300 million users, while still actively growing in 2024. Zoom’s revenue from 2020 to 2022 grew over 600%, going from 623 million USD to 4.10 billion USD in the span of 2 years. 

Zoom is a great example of why application scaling is so important; if the company wasn’t ready for growth by the beginning of 2020, it would’ve lost out on important users and revenue. 

Companies will looking into scaling their applications for a variety of reasons, though the most common being:

  • Slow load times
  • Drastic traffic increases
  • High application and website error rates

While the reasons above entail scaling only in response to scalability issues, preemptive application scaling yields a handful of long-term benefits outside of the application itself .

The Benefits of Scaling Applications

Improved App Performance

Whether you’re looking to scale your web application or buffing a mobile app, scaling is crucial for the long-term performance of your apps. 

Introducing scaling capabilities into your application early means that your application is more stable from the get go, allowing it to tackle traffic and demand spikes headfirst while reducing the risk of downtime and data loss. Application scalability also injects tons of customizability into your application, allowing you to adjust your app based on business needs as well as feedback from users and stakeholders. 

Scalable apps also consumed resources efficiently and subsequently streamline maintenance, making backend application handling a breeze.

Wholistic Positives to the User Experience

Picture this: your favorite app Instagram is suddenly down for 10 hours, what is your likely next step?

For most users, an application outage would mean to jump ship and use a different app in the meantime, typically a competitor.

Scalable applications deeply affect the user experience and life cycle at different stages. 

Consumers using a scalable web app, for example, can enjoy high performance, faster response times, and reduced downtime, ensuring a pleasant user interactions. A reliable app builds user trust and satisfaction, with positive user feedback and reviews pushing more attention to your app while introducing new desired features and fixes to add. Higher app enthusiasm and engagement results in a steadily growing user base. All just by making sure your application performs well.

Increasing Business Value

Zoom’s drastic 2,900% revenue increase was an unexpected opportunity that the company was able to capitalize on by scaling their application. While opportunities like this are hard to come by, having a scalable application generates tons of business value from the get go.

As with the case of Zoom, having a reliable and scalable application draws more users in while keeping loyal users. These users not only drive revenue, but also identify gaps within your application that you can address by adding new features and integrations, evolving your application as a whole. In addition, users that trust your company and their services are more likely to branch off into different apps offered by your company. 

Scaling your application presents tons of opportunities to save on costs as well. Scaling optimizes how resources are allocated and consumed by your application, making sure you’re only spending on what you need when you need it. An application that is primed to handle anything that comes its way is also one that is able to streamline the maintenance on both the front and back ends, driving down your costs ever further. 

The Challenges of Scaling Applications

Despite scaling being the natural “next step” for many growing businesses, and a requirement for many established companies, many struggle with scaling their applications, for reasons such as:

Outdated or Unsupportive Architecture

Applications built on legacy architectures may find difficulty in scaling. Without shifting from older architectures, developers may find code problems and bottlenecks within attempting to scale and with trying to implement new features that users want. In addition, an older architecture might not be flexible enough to support app scaling, leading to even more problems and downtime.

To combat this, companies can look towards implementing either a monolithic architecture or microservices

Lack of Resources

Scaling an application is certainly crucial to many business operations and growth, however, the process isn’t easy.

Scaling requires tons of resources, on top of the ones required for normal app operations. Resources like storage and stronger computing power are needed to engage in scaling, which many companies aren’t able to afford.

Outside of tangible resources, some companies may have difficulty in scaling itself. Having a professional with knowhow on scaling is paramount to the success of your scaling efforts. An inexperienced approach to scaling may do more harm than good. To combat this, companies can hire short term experts to aid in scaling or work with companies to streamline the process.

Rising Costs

While scaling your application can drive your costs down in the long run, initial costs that app scaling can incur might have a hard hit on your budget. 

New hardware, hiring costs, software licenses, and even maintenance can be the bane of your existence for a bit as your application begins to scale- though the long-term savings balance it out. Considering and preparing for scaling in the inception phase of app development instead of overhauling your entire app post-development will make leagues of difference in scaling costs.

How to Go About Scaling Your App

Like how each business and their applications are unique, there are many different means of scaling your application. Depending on your business needs, your approach to scaling may be as simple as adding resources, or as complicated as overhauling your entire application’s architecture. Here are some common ways that developers go about scaling:

Vertical Scaling vs Horizontal Scaling

For many, scaling your application typically involves choosing one of these techniques: vertical scaling or horizontal scaling. 

Vertical scaling involves adding more resources or power to your current machines- an initial cost effective option for developers looking to grow their applications. Vertical scaling is a perfect option for low-effort yet effective scaling, with many developers scaling vertically due to lower complexity.

While vertical scaling saves users money initially, it also creates the risk of a single point of failure by consolidating computing power into a single machine. In addition, the confines of a single server creates resource scaling limitations. Vertical scaling also requires server downtime, if this is your preferred option plan accordingly.

Horizontal scaling sees developers adding more machines and servers, effectively distributing workloads through load balancers to dilute stress. With the addition of more machines, applications are able to scale quicker and nearly without limits, all developers need to do is add more machinery. Unlike vertical scaling, horizontal scaling has some degree of failure resistance, as more machines can be backed up and there isn’t a single point of failure.

Despite the pros of horizontal scaling, many developers struggle due to its complexity, often requiring tons of time and effort to implement. In addition, initial costs incurred are high due to machine costs, but will prove to be cost effective down the line. However, the strong performance of horizontal scaling makes up for the high costs and complexity.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Content delivery networks (CDNs) are distributed servers that cache content closer to user locations, thus speeding up delivery of web assets. CDNs work by storing (in this case “caching”) web assets in data centers, with users accessing these assets from servers closest to them for the fastest web experience possible.

Where CDNs fit on the topic of application scalability is through the distribution of web assets to global servers. By having assets already stored worldwide, CDNs effectively remove the need for setting up additional servers (as seen in horizontal scaling) while handling content handling and delivery around the globe. 

With CDNs, web apps enjoy increased traffic handling while reducing latency and load times, making it a formidable option when considering scale. 

Database Scaling

With higher application usage comes more data generated. To support the app itself, companies should be looking into the systems that support it, hence database scaling. 

Databases can be scaled through a variety of means, though two of the most common are replication and sharding/partitioning:

  • Replication: creating copies of databases that adds fault tolerance to your system while distributing client requests and database queries across all database nodes, increasing handling
  • Sharding/Partitioning: horizontal scaling method that sees large data sets being stored across different machines, allowing for limitless storage scaling

Reliable scaling comes when you combine replication and sharding, allowing you to replicate databases and improve performance.

Scaling Your App with Lyrid

Scaling your application is the natural next step for many companies once their apps start to gain traction, especially for startups. 

Companies like Zoom were able to scale at a moment’s notice and capitalize on unpredictable traffic spikes, but nowadays, many companies build their apps with scale in mind. Whether you’re putting our traffic fires or slow load times, or preparing for the day where scaling is necessary, app scalability will always be applicable. 

Whether your preferred method of scaling is vertical or horizontal, Lyrid has you covered. Our managed Kubernetes solution offers maximum (yet efficient) resource utilization, automated horizontal resource scaling, automated health checks, and much more. All of this, without actually having to worry over Kubernetes.

In addition, our engineering team helps companies transition to microservices, one of the preferred architectures for application scaling. Take Aido Health for example, after transitioning to microservices, Aido was able to reclaim hours that would normally be spent on infrastructure management. Transitioning to microservices has also drastically improved Aido Health’s pagespeed while decreasing their cloud spend!

One of our most exciting ventures that combines the scalability of Kubernetes with the reliability of a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) is an upcoming project using Percona Everest! While the project is still in alpha, we plan on using Percona Everest to turn our Kubernetes into a DBaaS, compiling multiple database operators into a single operator. If you’re interested in learning about some of the other open source solutions we’re using to scale your apps, click here!

To learn more about scaling your app with Lyrid, book a call with one of our product specialists!

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