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Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites

Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites [Kindle Edition]

Martin L. Abbott , Michael T. Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


“Once again, Abbott and Fisher provide a book that I’ll be giving to our engineers. It’s an essential read for anyone dealing with scaling an online business.”

Chris Lalonde, VP, Technical Operations and Infrastructure Architecture, Bullhorn


“Abbott and Fisher again tackle the difficult problem of scalability in their unique and practical manner. Distilling the challenges of operating a fast-growing presence on the Internet into 50 easy-to understand rules, the authors provide a modern cookbook of scalability recipes that guide the reader through the difficulties of fast growth.”

Geoffrey Weber, Vice President, Internet Operations, Shutterfly


“Abbott and Fisher have distilled years of wisdom into a set of cogent principles to avoid many nonobvious mistakes.”

Jonathan Heiliger, VP, Technical Operations, Facebook


“In The Art of Scalability, the AKF team taught us that scale is not just a technology challenge. Scale is obtained only through a combination of people, process, and technology. With Scalability Rules, Martin Abbott and Michael Fisher fill our scalability toolbox with easily implemented and time-tested rules that once applied will enable massive scale.”

Jerome Labat,VP, Product Development IT, Intuit


“When I joined Etsy, I partnered with Mike and Marty to hit the ground running in my new role, and it was one of the best investments of time I have made in my career. The indispensable advice from my experience working with Mike and Marty is fully captured here in this book. Whether you’re taking on a role as a technology leader in a new company or you simply want to make great technology decisions, Scalability Rules will be the go-to resource on your bookshelf.”

ChadDickerson, CTO, Etsy


Scalability Rules provides an essential set of practical tools and concepts anyone can use when designing, upgrading, or inheriting a technology platform. It’s very easy to focus on an immediate problem and overlook issues that will appear in the future. This book ensures strategic design principles are applied to everyday challenges.”

Robert Guild, Director and Senior Architect, Financial Services


“An insightful, practical guide to designing and building scalable systems. A must-read for both product-building and operations teams, this book offers concise and crisp insights gained from years of practical experience of AKF principals. With the complexity of modern systems, scalability considerations should be an integral part of the architecture and implementation process. Scaling systems for hypergrowth requires an agile, iterative approach that is closely aligned with product features; this book shows you how.”

Nanda Kishore, Chief Technology Officer, ShareThis


“For organizations looking to scale technology, people, and processes rapidly or effectively, the twin pairing of Scalability Rules and The Art of Scalability are unbeatable. The rules-driven approach in Scalability Rules makes this not only an easy reference companion, but also allows organizations to tailor the Abbott and Fisher approach to their specific needs both immediately and in the future!”

Jeremy Wright, CEO, and Founder, b5media

Product Description

50 Powerful, Easy-to-Use Rules for Supporting Hypergrowth in Any Environment


Scalability Rules is the easy-to-use scalability primer and reference for every architect, developer, web professional, and manager. Authors Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher have helped scale more than 200 hypergrowth Internet sites through their consulting practice. Now, drawing on their unsurpassed experience, they present 50 clear, proven scalability rules—and practical guidance for applying them.


Abbott and Fisher transform scalability from a “black art” to a set of realistic, technology-agnostic best practices for supporting hypergrowth in nearly any environment, including both frontend and backend systems.


For architects, they offer powerful new insights for creating and evaluating designs. For developers, they share specific techniques for handling everything from databases to state. For managers, they provide invaluable help in goal-setting, decision-making, and interacting with technical teams. Whatever your role, you’ll find practical risk/benefit guidance for setting priorities—and getting maximum “bang for the buck.”


•  Simplifying architectures and avoiding “over-engineering”

•  Scaling via cloning, replication, separating functionality, and splitting data sets

•  Scaling out, not up

•  Getting more out of databases without compromising scalability

•  Avoiding unnecessary redirects and redundant double-checking

•  Using caches and content delivery networks more aggressively, without introducing unacceptable complexity

•  Designing for fault tolerance, graceful failure, and easy rollback

•  Striving for statelessness when you can; efficiently handling state when you must

•  Effectively utilizing asynchronous communication

•  Learning quickly from mistakes, and much more

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1866 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (4 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00503D1TY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #185,588 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super 9 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 list 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 they 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.
* Pass on multi-phase commits if possible as they are difficult to scale.
* Smart reminders when it is really important to use aschronous models (integrating with 3PP frameworks, when there is a temporal constraint).

I wouldn't just recommend individuals to read this book, I would recommend teams. 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 help to remind teams that some simple things such as using logfiles, monitoring your system and not relying on QA to find faults 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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing the rule framework helps immensely! 24 May 2011
By Soumen Sarkar - Published on
I am sharing a small practical example to illustrate the worth of this beautiful book! I recently joined a company which is the leader in web application acceleration and performance management, streaming media services and content delivery. Many of the rules in this collection helped me to grasp the scalability architecture and principles at my new job very quickly, few are listed below:

Rule 4 -- Reduce DNS Lookups
Chapter 6 -- Using Caching Aggressively (several rules)
Rule 16 -- Actively Use Log Files
Rule 29 -- Failing to Design for Rollback Is Designing for Failure

The fact is if you consider yourself a scalability/infrastructure/cloud architect or manager, this book is a must. I have experienced first hand the rule of "Failing to Design for Rollback Is Designing for Failure" ... so I have deep appreciation of the authors great service in codifying the technical-management scalability framework.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable and well-written 21 Jan 2012
By Paul Gehrman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I liked this book so much I read it twice so that I'd get the maximum benefit from its recommendations. The authors clearly have strong real world experience so their recommendations seem highly relevant. I also like the way the book is organized into 50 rules that you can absorb in small chunks. I was also impressed with the quality of the writing - clear, grammatically correct, and very meaty without a lot of fluff or overly technical jargon.

With regard to the specific recommendations in the book, I was very pleased to see "Don't Overengineer the Solution" as Rule 1. In my experience, this is by far the biggest problem in software today and is the biggest cause of not only scalability problems, but performance, maintainability, and extensibility problems as well.

My only small quibble with the book is the lack of a discussion of object relational mapping technologies. As the authors note several times, the database is usually the most difficult component to scale. I think that is absolutely true. Given that fact, I think the database needs to be fully tuned and optimized and this includes the data access code. As other authors have noted (and my own experience confirms), ORM generally performs and scales very poorly. Not to mention it often represents "overengineering". Therefore, I expected at least some discussion of that issue.

With that small criticism aside, I highly recommend this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solutions the Work to Real World Problems 19 May 2011
By Bob Sanguedolce - Published on
I always like books that give me information I can use and make me look smart all at the same time. Scalability Rules is just that kind of book.

It offers clear, understandable and most importantly, implementable solutions to the real problems in building high-traffic web sites. Reading Scalability Rules is like hiring Abbott and Fisher to solve your site performance problems. The book's flow and and coverage sound just like they're talking to you in your conference room about your own website.

Also, I really applaud the book's layout recognizing that different technical team members are looking for different information. For instance, manager's are directed to some chapters while other sections are focused on software developers and technical operations folks.

A great read, technically brilliant and incredibly helpful.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rules you should know. 22 Feb 2012
By Steven Marlow - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The quality of information in this little book is fantastic, but despite the notion mentioned in the book about being able to read it all on a cross-country flight, no one should do that! Well, you could, but I have more highlighted text and notes written across what little white space there was to suggest this book inspires as well as informs. Next time I read thru it though I will try and follow the suggested chapters since reading them from front to back does give an unorganized feel. I hope for the next printing they break everything down into only a few sections grouped by target audience instead of the choose your own adventure style it has now.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scalability Rules to Develop By 21 Oct 2012
By Adnan Masood - Published on
Having listened to Marty Abbot and Michael Fisher methodically dissect scalability bottlenecks and hash out fault isolation in large scale enterprise systems, I decided to pick up "50 Principles for Scaling websites" with high hopes and wasn't disappointed.

These fifty rules, some of them seemingly obvious and others with specific details serve as a hybrid guide of technical, organizational and managerial concerns regarding scalability in enterprise systems. These principles are broken down to address What, When to Use, How to Use, Why and Key Takeaways; I enjoyed this style of specifics better than their earlier book, the art of scalability which focuses more on people, processes and technology instead of the rules of scaling. There is indeed some vendor-specific-consultant-speak in 50 Principles for Scaling websites such as AKF cube but overall I found this manuscript to be fairly technology agnostic.

The use of term "scaling websites" was one of the key reservation I had regarding title of this book; not all enterprise systems are web centric and scaling middle-tier and avoiding big SOA mistakes would have made a more technically accurate title but probably not as lucrative as web. The rules begin with simpler maxims like Don't over Engineer the Solution, Design Scale Into the Solution (D-I-D Process), Simplify the Solution 3 Times Over and then get into specifics like Reduce DNS Lookups, Reduce Objects Where Possible and Use Homogenous Networks. I found fallacies of distributed computing being addressed in a well-rounded fashion by authors as they proceed into latency and boundary crossing concerns. Advices include work distribution to Split Reads and Writes, Split Different as well as similar things, Horizontal scalability, designing a Solution to Scale Out and Not Just Up with axioms like using Commodity Systems (Goldfish not Thoroughbreds), a time tested approach in most large scale distributed clusters.

This highly recommended reading for Tech-Ops, developers and architects goes on to recommending Scaling Out Data Centers, Design to Leverage the Cloud and info-sec concerns of firewalls. Health Monitoring is commended by Rule#16 "Actively Use Log Files" and functional-DRY principle is conversed as Don't Duplicate Your Work deliberating seemingly counter-intuitive ideas like Don't Check Your Work. I am glad that some well known (but not always well practiced) notions like limiting redirections also made it to this chapter. Caching is highly praised and has been heavily endorsed in chapter 6 while chapter 7 takes a solemn note on Learning from mistakes and one of my favorite rules, "Failing to Design for Rollback Is Designing to fail".

This ~250 page book is divided into 13 chapters and adheres to Martin Fowler's cover-to-cover reading constrains. Chapter 8 proceeds to deliberate on Database and examines relational integrity, cost of foreign key constraints, Right Type of Database Locks, Multi-phase Commits and avoidance of "Select for Update" notion. Interestingly it contains fillers like Rule 35 Don't Select Everything too which was surprising but probably having some SQL snippets throughout this chapter try to make up for missing specifics like snapshot isolation. Chapter 9 is focused on Fault Tolerance Design and Graceful Failures; with tips on graceful degradation and fault isolation. Rules include Design Using Fault Isolative "Swim Lanes", (identify) and Never Trust Single Points of Failure, Avoid Putting Systems in Series, Ensure You Can Wire On and Off Functions continuing on to next chapter which touches on the scalability Achilles heel, the one and only infamous functional arch-nemesis "state".

Having worked with various large scale clients (which we are reminded of throughout the book), authors at AKF partners have achieved a certain level of understanding and insight into system bottle-necks which is evident in their writings. Chapter 10 deals with "state" avoidance starting with Rule 40 "Strive for Statelessness". Next they proceed with recommending maintaining Maintain Sessions in the Browser When Possible and make Use of a Distributed Cache for States; guidance which likewise applies to web service design as it does to UI layer to avoid state gotchas. Chapter 11 delves into Asynchronous Communication and Message Buses where it promotes asynchronous communication and Message Bus scalability with AKF Scale Cube for message buses (surprise!) however rules like Avoid Overcrowding Your Message Bus leaves the reader wanting more concrete examples than generalities like "Physical fitness, for example, if taken to an extreme over long periods of time can actually depress the immune system of the body...". Authors then continue to Miscellaneous Rules bucket with items like Be Wary of Scaling Through 3rd Parties, Purge, Archive, and Cost-justify Storage, Remove Business Intelligence from Transaction Processing (which should have been a database rule) and Design Your Application to Be Monitored which can be merged with rule 16.

Chapter 13 is an overview of rules Rule Review and Prioritization and provides great summary and revision of what has been discussed. Additionally, each chapter concludes with a summary and end note containing significant number of references for further reading.

Like me, if you are looking for an intelligent, practical and perceptive guide/refresher for designing and building scalable systems, 50 rules should be your desktop companion.
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