Scalability Rules: Principles For Scaling Web Sites by Martin L. AbbottScalability Rules: Principles For Scaling Web Sites by Martin L. Abbott

Scalability Rules: Principles For Scaling Web Sites

byMartin L. Abbott, Michael T. Fisher

Paperback | August 30, 2016

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Fully updated! Fifty Powerful, Easy-to-Use Rules for Supporting Hyper Growth

“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.”

–Chad Dickerson, CTO, Etsy

Scalability Rules, Second Edition, is the easy-to-use scalability primer and reference for every architect, developer, network/software engineer, web professional, and manager. Authors Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher have helped scale hundreds of high-growth companies and thousands of systems. Drawing on their immense experience, they present 50 up-to-the-minute technical best practices for supporting hyper growth practically anywhere.


Fully updated to reflect new technical trends and experiences, this edition is even easier to read, understand, and apply. Abbott and Fisher have also added powerful “stories behind the rules”: actual experiences and case studies from CTOs and technology executives at Etsy, NASDAQ, Salesforce, Shutterfly, Chegg, Warby Parker, Twitter, and other scalability pioneers.


Architects will find powerful technology-agnostic insights for creating and evaluating designs. Developers will discover specific techniques for handling everything from databases to state. Managers will get invaluable help in setting goals, making decisions, and interacting with technical teams. Whatever your role, you’ll find practical risk/benefit guidance for setting priorities, translating plans into action, and gaining maximum scalability at minimum cost.


You’ll learn how to

  • Simplify architectures and avoid “over-engineering”
  • Design scale into your solution, so you can scale on a just-in-time basis
  • Make the most of cloning and replication
  • Separate functionality and split data sets
  • Scale out, not up
  • Get more out of databases without compromising scalability
  • Eliminate unnecessary redirects and redundant double-checking
  • Use caches and CDNs more aggressively, without unacceptable complexity
  • Design for fault tolerance, graceful failure, and easy rollback
  • Emphasize statelessness, and efficiently handle state when you must
  • Effectively utilize asynchronous communication
  • Learn from your own mistakes and others’ high-profile failures
  • Prioritize your actions to get the biggest “bang for the buck”
Martin L. Abbott is a founding partner of AKF Partners, a growth consulting firm focusing on meeting the needs of today’s fast-paced and hyper-growth companies. Marty was formerly the COO of Quigo, an advertising technology startup acquired by AOL in 2007. Prior to Quigo, Marty spent nearly six years at eBay, most recently as SVP of ...
Title:Scalability Rules: Principles For Scaling Web SitesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6.9 × 0.6 inPublished:August 30, 2016Publisher:Pearson EducationLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:013443160X

ISBN - 13:9780134431604


Table of Contents

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xxi

About the Authors xxiii


Chapter 1: Reduce the Equation 1

Rule 1—Don’t Overengineer the Solution 3

Rule 2—Design Scale into the Solution (D-I-D Process) 6

Rule 3—Simplify the Solution Three Times Over 8

Rule 4—Reduce DNS Lookups 10

Rule 5—Reduce Objects Where Possible 12

Rule 6—Use Homogeneous Networks 15

Summary 15

Notes 16


Chapter 2: Distribute Your Work 19

Rule 7—Design to Clone or Replicate Things (X Axis) 22

Rule 8—Design to Split Different Things (Y Axis) 24

Rule 9—Design to Split Similar Things (Z Axis) 26

Summary 28

Notes 28


Chapter 3: Design to Scale Out Horizontally 29

Rule 10—Design Your Solution to Scale Out, Not Just Up 31

Rule 11—Use Commodity Systems (Goldfish Not Thoroughbreds) 33

Rule 12—Scale Out Your Hosting Solution 35

Rule 13—Design to Leverage the Cloud 40

Summary 42

Notes 42


Chapter 4: Use the Right Tools 43

Rule 14—Use Databases Appropriately 47

Rule 15—Firewalls, Firewalls Everywhere! 52

Rule 16—Actively Use Log Files 55

Summary 58

Notes 58


Chapter 5: Get Out of Your Own Way 59

Rule 17—Don’t Check Your Work 61

Rule 18—Stop Redirecting Traffic 64

Rule 19—Relax Temporal Constraints 68

Summary 70

Notes 70


Chapter 6: Use Caching Aggressively 73

Rule 20—Leverage Content Delivery Networks 75

Rule 21—Use Expires Headers 77

Rule 22—Cache Ajax Calls 80

Rule 23—Leverage Page Caches 84

Rule 24—Utilize Application Caches 86

Rule 25—Make Use of Object Caches 88

Rule 26—Put Object Caches on Their Own “Tier” 90

Summary 91

Notes 92


Chapter 7: Learn from Your Mistakes 93

Rule 27—Learn Aggressively 95

Rule 28—Don’t Rely on QA to Find Mistakes 100

Rule 29—Failing to Design for Rollback Is Designing for Failure 102

Summary 105

Notes 106


Chapter 8: Database Rules 107

Rule 30—Remove Business Intelligence from Transaction Processing 109

Rule 31—Be Aware of Costly Relationships 111

Rule 32—Use the Right Type of Database Lock 114

Rule 33—Pass on Using Multiphase Commits 116

Rule 34—Try Not to Use Select for Update 118

Rule 35—Don’t Select Everything 120

Summary 121

Notes 122


Chapter 9: Design for Fault Tolerance and Graceful Failure 123

Rule 36—Design Using Fault-Isolative “Swim Lanes” 124

Rule 37—Never Trust Single Points of Failure 130

Rule 38—Avoid Putting Systems in Series 132

Rule 39—Ensure That You Can Wire On and Off Features 135

Summary 138


Chapter 10: Avoid or Distribute State 139

Rule 40—Strive for Statelessness 140

Rule 41—Maintain Sessions in the Browser When Possible 142

Rule 42—Make Use of a Distributed Cache for States 144

Summary 146

Notes 146


Chapter 11: Asynchronous Communication and Message Buses 147

Rule 43—Communicate Asynchronously as Much as Possible 149

Rule 44—Ensure That Your Message Bus Can Scale 151

Rule 45—Avoid Overcrowding Your Message Bus 154

Summary 157


Chapter 12: Miscellaneous Rules 159

Rule 46—Be Wary of Scaling through Third Parties 161

Rule 47—Purge, Archive, and Cost-Justify Storage 163

Rule 48—Partition Inductive, Deductive, Batch, and User Interaction (OLTP) Workloads 166

Rule 49—Design Your Application to Be Monitored 169

Rule 50—Be Competent 172

Summary 174

Notes 174


Chapter 13: Rule Review and Prioritization 177

A Risk-Benefit Model for Evaluating Scalability Projects and Initiatives 177

50 Scalability Rules in Brief 180

A Benefit/Priority Ranking of the Scalability Rules 200

Summary 202


Index 205

Editorial Reviews

Praise for the First Edition of Scalability Rules   “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, GM of Data Stores, Rackspace   “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, VP, 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.” —Chad Dickerson, 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, CTO, ShareThis   “For organizations looking to scale technology, people, and processes rapidly or effectively, the twin pairing of Scalability Rules and The Art of Scalability is unbeatable. The rules-driven approach in Scalability Rules not only makes this 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