Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: 'Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites'

I absolutely love Technical Architecture. It is something that requires high standards in engineering to do well.  In 'Scalability Rules', Martion Abbott and Michael Fisher detail 50 tips, where each tip communicates a simple or sophisticated idea in a few short pages. Their ideas are based from real world experience of working with over 200 internet architectures.

Performance and its cousin Scalability are always an important part of any software architecture and while some cynics will say some of the tips in this book are common sense, there's plenty of really good advice that if adhered to would certaintly lower the probability of scalability issues which are nearly inevitable at some stage in the life of a project.

Among my favourites tips:
  • Put Object caches on their own tier. This makes it easier to size their hardware needs - object caches typically need a lot of memory. It it easier to organise and control this when they have their own tier.
  • Pass on multi-phase commits if possible as they are difficult to scale.
  • Smart reminders such as when it is really important to use aschronous models (integrating with 3PP frameworks, when there is a temporal constraint etc).
I wouldn't just recommend individuals to read this book, I would recommend teams read it. Some important ideas such as spliting up system processing by something like customerId are given concrete names such as Z-Axis splits. The would help teams speak start speaking the same language when communicating ideas. It would also help to remind teams that some simple things such as using logfiles, monitoring your system properly and not relying on QA to find faults that should be found earlier are very important and should not be forgotten.

In summary, there are not too many good books on software architecture and this is certainly one of the best I have read. I have already read parts of it 3 times and I am sure I will be referring to parts of it again.

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