Consumers want to meet their needs faster, get more information, see brighter pictures, and hear clearer sounds. Your web application’s ability to meet such expectations, as well as its potential to grow in time, depends on its scalability.
This article will help you understand what scalability is, explore large-scale web application development steps, considerations, challenges, and solutions.
Table of Contents
First of all, let’s start with the basic terms.
Scalability is the ability of an application to sustain consistent performance, despite how many people use it at the same time. Hence, a large-scale web app is one that can handle high volumes of data and traffic and can adapt to drastic load changes without affecting the quality of operations.
This can be evaluated on:
If you’re looking to develop a complex application, for example, a custom loyalty app, that can support many users at the same time, scalability is essential because:
If your web application can run 24/7 in different traffic and workload conditions, ultimately, this positively affects customer experiences and your profit. But is this necessary in every single scenario?
To answer this question, let’s get into an example.
Many social media influencers have faced the same problem when hyping up a new product release on their channels. They’ve directed followers to a website, and once the product they are promoting goes online, instead of selling out in 20 minutes, the website crashes under the storm of eager fans. So instead of teasing a restock date, they have had to film an apology video to pacify their customers.
This wouldn’t happen if their web app was ready for the increased load. A scalable app would let customers buy as many items as are in stock, at the same time, without crashing.
Your product doesn’t necessarily have to lead the hype. It may increase in popularity gradually. But if you expect your business to perform well, your web app should also be high-performing.
On the other hand, if you don’t have valid reasons to think it will grow, like in the case of newly launched start-ups, your app might not need this. Right?
The subsequent sections should help you figure out if your app needs it or not.
By now, you might be thinking that any and every application should be scalable from the start. But when you start a new project, there’s no guarantee of success. If you follow the lean software development approach, your main goal is getting a product to market and testing how it performs. Scalability is likely an unnecessary factor at this point.
Scaling the frontend and backend makes sense when you’re sure that your product will find a place on the market and continue to grow. The following stages describe the process of creating scalable apps out of existing web products.
Let’s dive straight into the process: identify your scalability needs and choose the right monitoring tools, infrastructure, architecture pattern, database, and framework.
If you already have an app, scaling could be costly. On the other hand, besides the issues with increasing traffic, if you intend to develop features to your system or make the existing ones more complex, the current functionality might not handle the changes.
Make sure that your expectations of scaling justify the expenses. And ensure that you’re not simply jumping on the bandwagon because everyone is talking about scalability.
How do you know if you need to build a large-scale web app? Here are a few questions that can help you decide:
After careful consideration, you decide that your application needs to be scaled. The next step is to decide what scalability issues you need to focus on. This can be done by tracking the following metrics:
To find problematic areas, you need app-monitoring tools to track related metrics. Some examples are AppDynamics, Stackify Retrace, and New Relic AMP.
Once you choose a tracking tool, perform tests for the above-mentioned metrics. If any of them show high results, you need to dig deeper into the problem and create test cases to scale your app.
These initial results are your benchmarks. Hold onto the tool you choose to keep tracking the metrics during and after developing a large-scale app.
If you use a PaaS, such as Amazon Web Service, Heroku, IBM Cloud, or Microsoft Azure, they have built-in monitoring tools. On this note:
Using a PaaS for a web app is recommended because cloud services take care of many aspects involved in web app development and maintenance. These aspects include the infrastructure and storage, servers, networking, databases, middleware, and runtime environment.
PaaS can make scaling easier since they offer auto-scaling, along with reliability and availability of SLAs.
If you don’t yet use a PaaS, consider AWS, Heroku, IBM Cloud, or MS Azure.
Choosing the right architecture pattern matters because some features of your app will depend on its scalability, while others will be essential only for certain users or at certain times and could be bundled as plugins.
The top four most used architecture patterns are:
1) Layered architecture
The name is pretty self-explanatory since apps with this architecture are built in layers. Each layer has its task, and data has to travel through each from top to bottom, where there’s usually a database.
This type is most suitable for:
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2) Event-driven architecture
Unlike in the layered architecture, this type consists of a central unit and modules that interact with data that’s particular to them. When an event triggers the central unit, it delegates the data to a module that’s dedicated to the data type.
Event-driven architecture is most suitable for:
3) Microkernel architecture
This type consists of a core system and plug-in modules that offer additional features and specialized processing to enhance the core functionality. A simple example of such architecture would be WordPress.
This type is most suitable for:
4) Microservices architecture
This is high-performance web application architecture that helps build flexible applications by making it a distributed system that loosely connects to individual web services via lightweight protocols.
With the microservices approach, you can develop, test, and deploy individual services without affecting the whole app.
Microservices architecture is most suitable:
The kind of database you choose will depend on the data types you need to store – relational or disconnected. In the first case, you will need a relational database, such as MySQL or PostgreSQL. For the latter, you’ll need a NoSQL database, like MongoDB.
Any database you choose should be easy to integrate into your app.
Application frameworks support graphical user interfaces and web-based application development. For example, they allow sharing of code for different modules, reducing developmental issues.
The success of your efforts to scale your web app will depend on how well you choose the infrastructure and architecture pattern to support a large scale.
Aside from the tools and patterns, there are a few more aspects of large-scale development that we recommend you take into account and implement:
After choosing all the tools and technology, and setting up appropriate processes, you can progress to designing your large-scale app.
When designing scalable web app architecture, another thing to decide is whether you’re scaling up or out:
Horizontal scaling is a better option for most purposes as it is easier to implement, cheaper to do, and results in better performance. Especially considering the growing popularity of using cloud databases in web app development.
There are a few components that allow large-scale application design to work:
We’ve mentioned microservices in web app architecture quite a bit through this guide. That’s because microservices architecture is the better option in terms of scalability. It ensures:
Whether you’re building an app from scratch or scaling an existing application, there are certain challenges you should be ready to meet and consider at the planning stage:
A better solution than doing everything on your own is hiring an expert in scaling applications, or for high-performance web development, who will help you reach your business goals in the best possible way. For that, Relevant Software has:
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Scalability is essential for successful web applications to meet growing market demands. If you want your business to succeed, your applications should be developed with scalability in mind. However, you can evaluate existing apps against scalability and improve them based on the issues you find.
Is large-scale web application development the best option for you?
There are a few challenges involved in building such apps. For example, the costs for hardware and software required to scale an app. It also requires expertise that your team might not have.
You can beat these challenges by hiring a team that has extensive experience in custom web development – Relevant Software. Here you will get:
Contact us for more details.