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Scalability In the Cloud Era Isn't What You Think 75

Esther Schindler writes "'Scalability' isn't a checkbox on a vendor's feature chart — though plenty of them speak of it that way. In this IT Expert Voice article, Scott Fulton examines how we define 'scalability,' why it's data that has to scale more than servers, and how old architectural models don't always apply. He writes, 'If you believe that a scalable architecture for an information system, by definition, gives you more output in proportion to the resources you throw at it, then you may be thinking a cloud-based deployment could give your existing system "infinite scalability." Companies that are trying out that theory for the first time are discovering not just that the theory is flawed, but that their systems are flawed and now they're calling out for help.'"
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Scalability In the Cloud Era Isn't What You Think

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  • Nice URL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @03:06PM (#32173100)

    It says ad right there so there isn't any question.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @03:13PM (#32173180)

    Given "marketecture" speak is what got us into this cloud mess in the first place, perhaps fighting back with "marketecture" is appropriate.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @03:49PM (#32173642) Homepage Journal

    So one is going to have to learn a totally different way to do everything and then deal with a new set of problems.
    Which is why IBM is still selling ZSystems running DB2 :)
    That being said I have not used much in the way of key-value database in a complex application. Frankly it sounds like a real pain.

  • by c0d3g33k ( 102699 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @04:17PM (#32174118)
    Both. (Marketecture and not grokking with fullness, that is.)

    Marketecture part: The delusional fantasy that because one is able to talk about things in a new way, old problems affecting scalability no longer apply. Very true. The marketers believe it. The foolish customers believe it. Anyone who has a clue runs for the hills.

    Not grokking with fullness part: You've accurately grokked the "every (idiot) thinks that if ..." part. What you haven't grokked is the details. In place of your speculation, just substitute that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    The fantasy I see over and over again whenever a "new" paradigm changing technology comes along is that problems which were hard using the 'old' approach are suddenly eliminated merely by virtue of doing things in a "new" way. The fantasy is that having the 'insight' to recognize the awesome potential of the magical new approach is somehow superior to having the discipline to *fully* understand the problem and solving it decisively and intelligently. The latter is often viewed as not worth the effort or offering a "poor return on investment". The delusion is that effort is better spent on looking for a loophole that doesn't require any understanding because the new approach will magically make the hard problem go away so nobody has to expend any real effort. Doing things 'in the cloud' is one of those magic new approaches that substitutes for actually engineering a solution in an informed way.

    Even if a new approach reduces the effort previously required for certain tasks, it invariably brings with it new problems that have to be understood in order to avoid being bogged down.

    History shows that folks who solve the hard problem wipe the floor with those who are looking for shortcuts. FedEx (solved the logistics problems associated with rapid delivery to anywhere), Southwest Airlines (solved the logistics problems associated with low cost regional air travel), Walmart (developed a satellite network to track inventory and sales chain-wide). Google (a better algorithm for search). Etc.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @04:32PM (#32174346)
    I'll bite, what's the "cloud mess"? In the olden days, we mocked slashdot story submitters who linked to videos because their ISP account, or university account, could never handle it. There wasn't really a way for an individual to share a video with thousands of people. Now we just upload to youtube, and viola, it works. Scalability issue solved. How many computers does it take to accomplish that? Where are they? Are they all in one place? It's a cloud, most of us don't know and don't care. It's good.
  • Re:the "Cloud" (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @04:54PM (#32174714)

    A cost that isn't visible in the short term. Thus, it's invisible to the poeple making the decisions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @09:47PM (#32177954)

    So... you think that Youtube just popped into existence one day, perfectly scalable? People had to design a horizontally scalable video distribution platform. True, it works very well.

    But that's irrelevant. Companies are coming online with products and thinking "I'll just host it in The Cloud(tm)!" Then they start looking at "Cloud services". And they think that their application will Just Work(tm) in The Cloud(tm).

    Technology people know it doesn't work like this. Products, applications, and architectures need to be designed to be horizontally scalable. The "cloud mess" is people thinking that the cloud can actually solve any of their problems in application design. "The Cloud" is a term that is hugely misunderstood, and while this article screams marketspeak, it actually addresses some of that misunderstanding.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe