The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise

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A Comprehensive, Proven Approach to IT Scalability from Two Veteran Software, Technology, and Business Executives

In The Art of Scalability, AKF Partners cofounders Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher cover everything IT and business leaders must know to build technology infrastructures that can scale smoothly to meet any business requirement. Drawing on their unparalleled experience managing some of the world’s highest-transaction-volume Web sites, the authors provide detailed models and best-practice approaches available in no other book.

Unlike previous books on scalability, The Art of Scalability doesn’t limit its coverage to technology. Writing for both technical and nontechnical decision-makers, this book covers everything that impacts scalability, including architecture, processes, people, and organizations.

Throughout, the authors address a broad spectrum of real-world challenges, from performance testing to IT governance. Using their tools and guidance, organizations can systematically overcome obstacles to scalability and achieve unprecedented levels of technical and business performance.

Coverage includes

  • Staffing the scalable organization: essential organizational, management, and leadership skills for technical leaders
  • Building processes for scale: process lessons from hyper-growth companies, from technical issue resolution to crisis management
  • Making better “build versus buy” decisions
  • Architecting scalable solutions: powerful proprietary models for identifying scalability needs and choosing the best approaches to meet them
  • Optimizing performance through caching, application and database splitting, and asynchronous design
  • Scalability techniques for emerging technologies, including clouds and grids
  • Planning for rapid data growth and new data centers
  • Evolving monitoring strategies to tightly align with customer requirements
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This book is much more than you may think it is. Scale is not just about designing Web sites that don’t crash when lots of users show up. It is about designing your company so that it doesn’t crash when your business needs to grow. These guys have been there on the front lines of some of the most successful Internet companies of our time, and they share the good, the bad, and the ugly about how to not just survive, but thrive.”

–Marty Cagan, Founder, Silicon Valley Product Group

“A must read for anyone building a Web service for the mass market.”

–Dana Stalder, General Partner, Matrix Partners

“Abbott and Fisher have deep experiences with scale in both large and small enterprises. What’s unique about their approach to scalability is they start by focusing on the true foundation: people and process, without which true scalability cannot be built. Abbott and Fisher leverage their years of experience in a very accessible and practical approach to scalability that has been proven over time with their significant success.”

–Geoffrey Weber, VP of Internet Operations/IT, Shutterfly

“If I wanted the best diagnoses for my health I would go to the Mayo Clinic. If I wanted the best diagnoses for my portfolio companies’ performance and scalability I would call Martin and Michael. They have recommended solutions to performance and scalability issues that have saved some of my companies from a total rewrite of the system.”

–Warren M. Weiss, General Partner, Foundation Capital

“As a manager who worked under Michael Fisher and Marty Abbott during my time at PayPal/eBay, the opportunity to directly absorb the lessons and experiences presented in this book are invaluable to me now working at Facebook.”

–Yishan Wong, Director of Engineering, Facebook

"The Art of Scalability is by far the best book on scalability on the market today. The authors tackle the issues of scalability from processes, to people, to performance, to the highly technical. Whether your organization is just starting out and is defining processes as you go, or you are a mature organization, this is the ideal book to help you deal with scalability issues before, during, or after an incident. Having built several projects, programs, and companies from small to significant scale, I can honestly say I wish I had this book one, five, and ten years ago.”

–Jeremy Wright, CEO, b5media, Inc.

“Only a handful of people in the world have experienced the kind of growth-related challenges that Fisher and Abbott have seen at eBay, PayPal, and the other companies they’ve helped to build. Fewer still have successfully overcome such challenges. The Art of Scalability provides a great summary of lessons learned while scaling two of the largest internet companies in the history of the space, and it’s a must-read for any executive at a hyper-growth company. What’s more, it’s well-written and highly entertaining. I couldn’t put it down.”

–Kevin Fortuna, Partner, AKF Consulting

“Marty and Mike’s book covers all the bases, from understanding how to build a scalable organization to the processes and technology necessary to run a highly scalable architecture. They have packed in a ton of great practical solutions from real world experiences. This book is a must-read for anyone having difficulty managing the scale of a hyper-growth company or a startup hoping to achieve hyper growth.”

–Tom Keeven, Partner, AKF Consulting

The Art of Scalability is remarkable in its wealth of information and clarity; the authors provide novel, practical, and demystifying approaches to identify, predict, and resolve scalability problems before they surface. Marty Abbott and Michael Fisher use their rich experience and vision, providing unique and groundbreaking tools to assist small and hyper-growth organizations as they maneuver in today’s demanding technological environments.”

–Joseph M. Potenza, Attorney, Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780137030422
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 12/30/2009
  • Pages: 559
  • Sales rank: 1,472,866
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher are founding partners of AKF Partners, where they advise companies on scaling technology platforms, organizations, leadership, and processes. Previously, Marty was COO of the advertising technology startup Quigo, where he was responsible for product strategy and management, technology, and client services. Marty also spent nearly six years at eBay, most recently as SVP of Technology and CTO. Mike spent two years as CTO of Quigo, serving as President during the transition following its acquisition by AOL. Prior to that, Mike led a development organization of more than two-hundred engineers as Paypal’s VP of Engineering and Architecture.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xxi

Acknowledgments xxiii

About the Authors xxv

Introduction 1

Part I: Staffing a Scalable Organization 7

Chapter 1: The Impact of People and Leadership on Scalability 9

Introducing AllScale 9

Why People 10

Why Organizations 11

Why Management and Leadership 17

Conclusion 20

Chapter 2: Roles for the Scalable Technology Organization 21

The Effects of Failure 22

Defining Roles 23

Executive Responsibilities 25

Organizational Responsibilities 29

Individual Contributor Responsibilities and Characteristics 32

An Organizational Example 35

A Tool for Defining Responsibilities 37

Conclusion 41

Chapter 3: Designing Organizations 43

Organizational Influences That Affect Scalability 43

Team Size 46

Organizational Structure 55

Conclusion 60

Chapter 4: Leadership 101 63

What Is Leadership? 64

Leadership–A Conceptual Model 66

Taking Stock of Who You Are 67

Leading from the Front 69

Checking Your Ego at the Door 71

Mission First, People Always 72

Making Timely, Sound, and Morally Correct Decisions 73

Empowering Teams and Scalability 74

Alignment with Shareholder Value 74

Vision 75

Mission 78

Goals 79

Putting Vision, Mission, and Goals Together 81

The Causal Roadmap to Success 84

Conclusion 86

Chapter 5: Management 101 89

What Is Management? 90

Project and Task Management 91

Building Teams–A Sports Analogy 93

Upgrading Teams–A Garden Analogy 94

Measurement, Metrics, and Goal Evaluation 98

The Goal Tree 101

Paving the Path for Success 102

Conclusion 103

Chapter 6: Making the Business Case 105

Understanding the Experiential Chasm 105

Defeating the Corporate Mindset 109

The Business Case for Scale 114

Conclusion 117

Part II: Building Processes for Scale 119

Chapter 7: Understanding Why Processes Are Critical to Scale 121

The Purpose of Process 122

Right Time, Right Process 125

When Good Processes Go Bad 130

Conclusion 131

Chapter 8: Managing Incidents and Problems 133

What Is an Incident? 134

What Is a Problem? 135

The Components of Incident Management 136

The Components of Problem Management 139

Resolving Conflicts Between Incident and Problem Management 140

Incident and Problem Life Cycles 140

Implementing the Daily Incident Meeting 141

Implementing the Quarterly Incident Review 143

The Postmortem Process 143

Putting It All Together 146

Conclusion 148

Chapter 9: Managing Crisis and Escalations 149

What Is a Crisis? 149

Why Differentiate a Crisis from Any Other Incident? 150

How Crises Can Change a Company 151

Order Out of Chaos 152

Communications and Control 157

The War Room 158

Escalations 160

Status Communications 160

Crises Postmortems 161

Crises Follow-up and Communication 162

Conclusion 163

Chapter 10: Controlling Change in Production Environments 165

What Is a Change? 166

Change Identification 168

Change Management 170

The Change Control Meeting 178

Continuous Process Improvement 178

Conclusion 179

Chapter 11: Determining Headroom for Applications 183

Purpose of the Process 184

Structure of the Process 185

Ideal Usage Percentage 189

Conclusion 192

Chapter 12: Exploring Architectural Principles 195

Principles and Goals 196

Principle Selection 199

AKF’s Twelve Architectural Principles 200

Scalability Principles In Depth 204

Conclusion 208

Chapter 13: Joint Architecture Design 211

Fixing Organizational Dysfunction 211

Designing for Scale Cross Functionally 214

Entry and Exit Criteria 217

Conclusion 219

Chapter 14: Architecture Review Board 221

Ensuring Scale Through Review 221

Board Constituency 223

Conducting the Meeting 225

Entry and Exit Criteria 228

Conclusion 230

Chapter 15: Focus on Core Competencies: Build Versus Buy 233

Building Versus Buying, and Scalability 233

Focusing on Cost 234

Focusing on Strategy 235

“Not Built Here” Phenomenon 236

Merging Cost and Strategy 237

AllScale’s Build or Buy Dilemma 240

Conclusion 242

Chapter 16: Determining Risk 243

Importance of Risk Management to Scale 244

Measuring Risk 245

Managing Risk 252

Conclusion 255

Chapter 17: Performance and Stress Testing 257

Performing Performance Testing 257

Don’t Stress Over Stress Testing 264

Performance and Stress Testing for Scalability 270

Conclusion 271

Chapter 18: Barrier Conditions and Rollback 273

Barrier Conditions 274

Rollback Capabilities 278

Markdown Functionality–Design to Be Disabled 282

Conclusion 283

Chapter 19: Fast or Right? 285

Tradeoffs in Business 285

Relation to Scalability 289

How to Think About the Decision 290

Conclusion 295

Part III: Architecting Scalable Solutions 297

Chapter 20: Designing for Any Technology 299

An Implementation Is Not an Architecture 300

Technology Agnostic Design 300

The TAD Approach 306

Conclusion 308

Chapter 21: Creating Fault Isolative Architectural Structures 309

Fault Isolative Architecture Terms 310

Benefits of Fault Isolation 312

How to Approach Fault Isolation 317

When to Implement Fault Isolation 319

How to Test Fault Isolative Designs 321

Conclusion 322

Chapter 22: Introduction to the AKF Scale Cube 325

Concepts Versus Rules and Tools 325

Introducing the AKF Scale Cube 326

Meaning of the Cube 328

The X-Axis of the Cube 328

The Y-Axis of the Cube 331

The Z-Axis of the Cube 333

Putting It All Together 334

When and Where to Use the Cube 336

Conclusion 337

Chapter 23: Splitting Applications for Scale 339

The AKF Scale Cube for Applications 339

The X-Axis of the AKF Application Scale Cube 341

The Y-Axis of the AKF Application Scale Cube 343

The Z-Axis of the AKF Application Scale Cube 344

Putting It All Together 347

Practical Use of the Application Cube 349

Conclusion 354

Chapter 24: Splitting Databases for Scale 357

The AKF Scale Cube for Databases 357

The X-Axis of the AKF Database Scale Cube 358

The Y-Axis of the AKF Database Scale Cube 362

The Z-Axis of the AKF Database Scale Cube 365

Putting It All Together 367

Practical Use of the Database Cube 370

Conclusion 374

Chapter 25: Caching for Performance and Scale 377

Caching Defined 378

Object Caches 381

Application Caches 384

Content Delivery Networks 389

Conclusion 390

Chapter 26: Asynchronous Design for Scale 393

Synching Up on Synchronization 393

Synchronous Versus Asynchronous Calls 395

Defining State 401

Conclusion 405

Part IV: Solving Other Issues and Challenges 409

Chapter 27: Too Much Data 411

The Cost of Data 412

The Value of Data and the Cost-Value Dilemma 414

Making Data Profitable 416

Handling Large Amounts of Data 420

Conclusion 423

Chapter 28: Clouds and Grids 425

History and Definitions 426

Characteristics and Architecture of Clouds 430

Differences Between Clouds and Grids 434

Conclusion 436

Chapter 29: Soaring in the Clouds 439

Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing 440

Where Clouds Fit in Different Companies 448

Decision Process 450

Conclusion 453

Chapter 30: Plugging in the Grid 455

Pros and Cons of Grids 456

Different Uses for Grid Computing 461

Decision Process 465

Conclusion 467

Chapter 31: Monitoring Applications 469

“How Come We Didn’t Catch That Earlier?” 469

A Framework for Monitoring 472

Measuring Monitoring: What Is and Isn’t Valuable? 478

Monitoring and Processes 480

Conclusion 481

Chapter 32: Planning Data Centers 483

Data Center Costs and Constraints 483

Location, Location, Location 485

Data Centers and Incremental Growth 488

Three Magic Rules of Three 490

Multiple Active Data Center Considerations 496

Conclusion 498

Chapter 33: Putting It All Together 501

What to Do Now? 502

Case Studies 505

References 509

Appendices 511

Appendix A: Calculating Availability 513

Hardware Uptime 514

Customer Complaints 515

Portion of Site Down 516

Third-Party Monitoring Service 517

Traffic Graph 518

Appendix B: Capacity Planning Calculations 521

Appendix C: Load and Performance Calculations 527

Index 535

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    Read this book before it's too late

    Please note that I am basing these comments on an early version of the manuscript that I had the opportunity to review:

    One of the most difficult challenges in the Internet era is "surviving success." Yes, you may think this is a good problem to have, but that's little consolation if your company goes under because you couldn't scale your business or your software. If you've come up with something promising, and your business is off to a good start, then I can only hope you don't read this too late.

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