What is scalability in cloud computing?

Cloud Management

December 20, 2023 • 5 min read

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, businesses increasingly rely on cloud computing to fuel their operations and stay competitive. When we ask what is scalability in cloud computing, it’s important to remember that adopting a cloud migration isn’t something that is fixed, it evolves as your business evolves. Cloud computing scalability has emerged as a game-changer, offering a flexible and dynamic approach to resource management. In this article, we delve into the cloud computing scalability benefits as well as provide a definition of what is and what circumstances prompted a need for scalability.  

What is cloud scalability?

Cloud scalability, often referred to as “elasticity,” is a fundamental feature of cloud computing that empowers businesses to seamlessly adapt their computing resources in response to varying workloads and demands. It’s the ability to effortlessly scale up or down resources, such as virtual machines, storage, or services, to ensure optimal performance, cost-effectiveness, and resource utilization.

Organizations that rely on on-premise storage, would have the expensive and time-consuming tasks of overhauling their entire infrastructure when they need to scale. That is the beauty of the cloud, it opens the door to many opportunities that are vital for businesses. Cloud users already have access to the servers they need to scale. This flexibility is achieved with virtualization. 

Types of scaling for the cloud 

Horizontal scalability 

Horizontal scalability is a method of increasing the capacity and performance of a system by adding more identical resources, such as instances, to distribute the workload. In this approach, new instances are added to a system to handle increased demands, making it capable of handling higher traffic or processing loads. 

Vertical scalability 

Vertical scalability, often referred to as “scaling up,” is the process of increasing the capacity and performance of a system by enhancing the resources of existing components, such as upgrading CPU, memory, or storage on a single server or instance. It involves making a single resource more powerful to handle increased demands rather than adding more identical resources. Vertical scalability is typically achieved by upgrading the resource capability (CPU, Memory, Instance type, etc), which can be limited by the constraints of a single instance and may be costlier compared to horizontal scaling. It’s useful for applications with consistent, predictable workloads that require higher performance without significantly changing the architecture.

What are the benefits of scalability in cloud computing?

An infographic with iconography depicting the benefits of cloud computing scalability.

1. Cost efficiency

One of the primary benefits of cloud computing scalability is cost efficiency, saving your business from the costs associated with on-premise over-provisioned storage and compute solutions. Traditionally, companies had to over-provision resources to meet peak demands, resulting in underutilization during off-peak periods. By taking advantage of cloud scalability, you pay only for the resources you use, avoiding unnecessary costs. This pay-as-you-go model helps businesses reduce capital expenditures and allocate resources more effectively.

2. Enhanced performance for maintained customer satisfaction

Cloud scalability ensures that your applications and services run smoothly, even during traffic spikes. Whether you experience a sudden surge in website visitors or a high demand for your e-commerce platform, the cloud can instantly allocate additional resources to handle the increased load. This guarantees consistent performance and a positive user experience, ultimately benefiting your business reputation.

3. Improved flexibility for demand peaks and falls 

Adapting to changing market conditions and customer demands is essential for any business. Cloud scalability provides the flexibility to expand or shrink your infrastructure with minimal effort. As your business grows, you can seamlessly add new servers or services to support your operations. You can also downsize during quieter periods, saving on operational costs.

4. Resource optimization

Cloud computing scalability enables efficient resource management. It ensures that your IT resources are fully utilized, reducing waste and enhancing overall productivity. By automating the allocation of resources, you can optimize the use of computing power, storage, and network bandwidth to match your specific needs at any given time.

5. Robust business continuity and disaster recovery

Incorporating scalability into your disaster recovery and business continuity plans is essential. Cloud scalability provides redundancy and high availability. In the event of hardware failures or other disruptions, the cloud can seamlessly reroute your services to ensure minimal downtime and data loss, keeping your business operations resilient and secure.

6. Provides a competitive edge 

The ability to swiftly adapt and respond to changing market conditions provides a competitive edge. Customers value your resiliency. Scalable cloud resources enable quicker time-to-market for new products and services, allowing you to stay ahead of competitors and better meet customer demands. 

7. Achieve high availability 

Scalability in cloud computing plays a pivotal role in achieving high availability by dynamically adjusting resources based on demand. The ability to scale resources up or down ensures that applications can seamlessly handle varying workloads, preventing performance bottlenecks during periods of increased usage. This adaptability allows businesses to maintain continuous operations, reduce the risk of downtime, and enhance the overall reliability of their services. 

Use cases of cloud scalability 

Cloud scalability offers businesses the flexibility to adapt to changing demands and optimize their resources. Here are five use cases of cloud scalability showing why a business might need to scale:

Seasonal traffic surges

Many businesses experience fluctuations in website traffic or demand for their products/services throughout the year. For example, e-commerce sites often see increased traffic during holiday seasons. By utilizing cloud scalability, they can automatically allocate additional resources to handle the surge in demand, ensuring smooth operations without overcommitting to resources during the off-season.

Data processing and analytics 

Businesses often need to process large amounts of data for tasks like real-time analytics, machine learning, or batch processing. Cloud scalability allows them to scale up their computing resources when needed, enabling them to analyze data faster and more efficiently. This helps in making data-driven decisions and staying competitive in the market.

Software development and testing

Software development and testing can be resource-intensive processes. With cloud scalability, businesses can quickly provision additional development and testing environments on demand. This ensures that development teams have the necessary infrastructure to code, test, and deploy applications without waiting for physical hardware or being limited by fixed resources.

Disaster recovery and redundancy

Ensuring business continuity and data redundancy is essential. Cloud scalability enables businesses to set up failover and redundancy systems easily. In the event of a disaster or hardware failure, cloud resources can be rapidly allocated to maintain services and data integrity, minimizing downtime and data loss.

Media streaming 

Streaming services experience variable demand throughout the day, with peak loads during popular shows or live events. Scalable cloud infrastructure can be used to dynamically allocate more server capacity and network bandwidth to ensure smooth video streaming for users, no matter how many people are watching simultaneously.

How to achieve cloud scalability? 

Cloud scalability takes careful planning, execution, and monitoring. As your cloud infrastructure grows, there is more to manage, eating into your time. You need to ensure you have full control and visibility over it so you’re not neglecting security in one area and cost optimization in another, whilst adhering to your company procedures in the cloud. This is why we created the tool StackZone, a cloud management platform that aims to simplify all aspects of cloud management, making it easy to achieve cloud best practices straight away with a seamless deployment. Here is how StackZone helps you to achieve cloud computing scalability:

Proactive auto remediations and alerts protect you 

StackZone is powered by both automation and auto-remediation, maximizing your cloud security around the clock, which is essential as you scale. StackZone will implement Multi-Factor Authentication, making it easy to uphold a Zero Trust policy and manage Identity and Access Management for a growing number of users. By automating your cybersecurity settings, you prevent misconfigurations that occur due to human error, and this vastly reduces your risk level. The hundreds of remediations that take place, such as ensuring each of your Amazon Machine Images is never public, means that you’re one step ahead of emerging threats, which is an essential approach to managing cloud security. 

No risk goes unnoticed; we have different alerts that detect when something may be wrong with your infrastructure, or that there may be a security vulnerability. These alerts can prioritize where your attention needs to be to secure your workloads in the cloud. Also, all your traffic is handled through the network account rather than going directly to the Auto Scaling Group. This increases your control over network resources, simplifies security audits, facilitates incident response, and streamlines resource accountability, contributing to a more secure and well-organized cloud infrastructure. 

Ensures standardization across your growing infrastructure 

StackZone ensures there is consistency and standardization across your workloads so there is compliance with industry standards, cloud best practices, and your business’ standards with no mistakes. This is achieved with 24/7 monitoring, alerting you when your attention is needed. The autoremediations serve as instant resolutions so if something isn’t standardized, the StackZone console can resolve it before you notice it! If you activate an AWS feature, StackZone will automate the deployment of this feature across your workloads so you don’t have to manually do this, leaving no room for error. As you scale, your task list for cloud management grows with it so naturally, certain needed configurations are forgotten. StackZone takes a proactive stance to prevent this. 

Provides complete visibility in one place 

As you scale, it’s important to make empowered decisions that support your business. Whether this is about your cloud budget, or who has access to what resources, StackZone aggregates your key cloud management metrics in the user-friendly console. You can see your compliance score and all your log history in a few clicks so you’re never second guessing. The tool saves all your Load Balancers logs in the Log Archive account. You have access to all your logs for Application Load Balancer in one centralized place. This is really useful because if you need to check what happened with your Auto Scaling Group or with your high availability infrastructure, you can go ahead and check on the logs in a specific place. You can search by month or by day. 

Perfects your cloud architecture from day one so you’re ready to scale 

A huge milestone to achieve for cloud best practices is using the cloud landing zone architecture that StackZone sets up in days with its deployment, as opposed to the usual time frame of 2+ months if you were doing this manually. 

A cloud landing zone serves as an ideal architecture for organizations scaling up in the cloud. It offers a structured and secure foundation for effectively managing and governing cloud resources as they grow. Landing zones emphasize security and compliance, with controls for identity and access management, encryption, and auditing to meet regulatory requirements. They promote consistency and standardization, reducing configuration errors and vulnerabilities. Resource isolation, tagging, and cost control practices simplify scalability, allowing for the addition of new accounts and resources without compromising security. Additionally, landing zones support multi-region, high-availability strategies and encourage automation, operational efficiency, and governance for large-scale cloud operations.

Expert guidance for cost optimization

Cloud costs begin to mount when simple mistakes are made, so as you scale, there is a larger scope for mistakes. Before you know it, your cloud bill has suddenly spiraled and you’re not sure why. With 24/7 monitoring, StackZone alerts you when a change is needed so you’re fully aware of every cost optimization opportunity to take your cloud budget further. 

For example, if someone made a mistake and misconfigured the autoscaling group, by deleting certain instances and not the EBS volumes that accompany these EC2 instances, you would keep being charged for the no longer needed EBS volumes. This would be identified straight away by StackZone and put an end to, helping to keep your cloud costs carefully managed. 

The cost optimization software also uses the cost-saving feature of AWS AutoSpotting to automatically reconfigure AutoScaling groups for it to scale based on Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, leaving a static and predefined number of on-demand instances to ensure availability. By swapping out on-demand instances with spot instances, you create savings because spot instances are considerably cheaper in terms of hourly runtime cost. The reason why spot instances are cheaper is that cloud providers can use spare or unused capacity in their data centers. Spot instances are not only cost-effective but they’re designed to be used for a short period of time, making it easy to scale down when demand decreases. They can be terminated with very little notice so you’re not stuck in a lengthy agreement. 

A summary of what is scalability in cloud computing

Cloud computing scalability is a cornerstone of modern business operations. It empowers businesses to optimize costs, enhance performance, and adapt to evolving market conditions. It’s important to maintain performance levels, resilience, and business procedures as you scale and StackZone helps you do this. The cloud management platform provides the visibility needed to manage your growing workloads, and proactively maintain it at the standard it needs to be to not exceed your cloud budget, to effortlessly achieve best practices, and to be in control of threats, in a way that is time-saving for you. See the console for yourself to see how it can empower your business.  

This article was written by Gastón Silbestein, Co-Founder of StackZone

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