Skip to content
Dev Discovers

Understanding Vertical vs. Horizontal Scaling in System Design

system design2 min read

When designing a system, scalability is an important consideration. Scalability refers to the ability of a system to handle increasing amounts of work by adding resources to the system. There are two ways to achieve scalability: vertical scaling and horizontal scaling.

Vertical Scaling

Vertical scaling refers to adding more resources (such as CPU, RAM, or storage) to a single server in order to improve its performance. This is also known as scaling up. The idea is to make the server bigger and more powerful so that it can handle more requests.

An example of vertical scaling would be upgrading the CPU or RAM of a server. For instance, adding more memory to a server can allow it to handle more simultaneous connections.

Vertical scaling is relatively easy to implement, but it has some limitations. Eventually, there will be a point at which adding more resources to the server will no longer improve its performance. Additionally, vertical scaling can be more expensive than horizontal scaling, since it typically involves purchasing more powerful hardware.

Horizontal Scaling

Horizontal scaling refers to adding more servers to a system in order to improve its performance. This is also known as scaling out. The idea is to distribute the workload across multiple servers, so that each server handles a smaller portion of the overall load.

An example of horizontal scaling would be adding more web servers to a web application. When a request comes in, a load balancer distributes the request to one of the available servers. This allows the system to handle more requests overall, since there are more servers available to handle them.

Horizontal scaling can be more complex to implement than vertical scaling, since it requires distributing the workload across multiple servers. However, it offers some advantages over vertical scaling. For one, it is typically more cost-effective, since it involves purchasing additional, lower-cost servers instead of expensive hardware upgrades. Additionally, it can be more resilient, since if one server fails, the load balancer can simply redirect traffic to another server.

Choosing Between Vertical and Horizontal Scaling

When deciding between vertical and horizontal scaling, there are a few factors to consider. Vertical scaling is often a good option for smaller systems, where it is easier to add more resources to a single server. It is also a good option when the workload is unpredictable, since it is easier to adjust the resources of a single server as needed.

Horizontal scaling, on the other hand, is often a better option for larger systems or systems that are expected to grow quickly. It can handle larger amounts of traffic, and is typically more cost-effective than vertical scaling in the long run. It is also a good option when high availability is required, since it can distribute traffic across multiple servers.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use vertical or horizontal scaling will depend on the specific needs of the system, and the resources and expertise available to the design team.

© 2023 by Dev Discovers. All rights reserved.
Theme by LekoArts