Grow As You Go: Why Consider Scalability?

November 13, 2019

Grow As You Go: Why Consider Scalability?

Scalability is a key concept at the heart of everything we do at Swipe iX. There really is very little value in systems that aren’t able to adapt to handle changing needs, and we want to make sure that what we build now has a long and useful life for our clients in the future. In this post we will be sharing the first part of a conversation we had with Deon Heunis, our CTO, to gain a bit more insight into scalability in general and what it means in our world.

Let’s start with the basics. How exactly would you define scalability?

Simply put, scalability is the ability of a system to automatically adapt to the needs of its users, whether that’s a single person, 1,000 or 100,000. Take into consideration that this should happen while maintaining the same speed and responsiveness, regardless of the current load.

Why is it important to consider when creating a system?

As a business grows, its main objective is to continue to meet market demands. If you do not have a way to handle these increases, you can lose efficiency and the quality of your service or products can suffer. That can lead to poor customer relations and a lowered business reputation. It’s also a financial consideration. Scalability allows you to only pay for the infrastructure you need at any given time, which has a direct impact on your operational costs.

What kind of technologies help to enable scalability?

A major consideration here is cloud computing, which is why it’s such a key focus for us. It enables the on-demand delivery of resources like computing power, database storage and applications (amongst others), through a cloud services platform via the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. That means you can easily access a large pool of virtualised resources that can be dynamically provisioned to adjust to a variable workload. 

In the physical world, you have to build infrastructure based on best guesses and averages. Think about a highway, and how it can only support three or four lanes of vehicles at any given time. In peak traffic, you get traffic jams and frustration and then in the middle of the night there is hardly anyone out. In a digital world, you don’t have this problem because you can flex infrastructure to meet your needs. In this analogy, it would mean the highway would only have a single lane when there’s low traffic, but 1,000 lanes when it’s busy. 

So how exactly does a business benefit from scalability?

I’ve already mentioned the ability to seamlessly grow your business, as well as the cost savings involved, but there are other benefits as well. For a start, you only need to invest in infrastructure like data centres and servers when you know exactly how you’ll be using them, allowing for a level of experimentation without upfront costs. You benefit from the economies of scale too. We make use of AWS systems, for example, which aggregate the needs of hundreds of thousands of users and bring down the individual cost as a result. 

Using cloud technologies like those offered by AWS means you can also be much more agile as you develop, because new resources are available to developers in minutes. Lastly, you can grow your business globally with very little effort. Using a virtual infrastructure makes it much easier to deploy an offering to new regions, and ensures everyone has the same experience of your brand.

What happens when it’s not properly considered?

Think about major shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Every year there will be news of some businesses suffering as a result of their site crashing – and this is something we often see locally too. Many of our retail and service brands will advertise a large sale or other event and very often the system gets overwhelmed, causing a fair amount of frustration and bad PR for the business. A key global example that comes to mind is the Walmart crash in 2018. Technical issues affected an estimated 3.6 million shoppers over a period of around two and a half hours, and they lost an around $9 million in sales as a result.

Scalability is not just theoretical for us, but something that has really made some of our most significant projects a success. In our next post we'll dive a bit deeper into scalability, specifically in the Swipe iX context, so don't forget to subscribe! Until then, if you’d like to know more about our business and how we could help you harness the power of scalability, feel free to get in touch.

Sharen van Lill

Marketing Manager

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