Server clusters allow businesses to smoothly scale their infrastructure without over-investing in expensive hardware.
In a very real way, consumer-facing front-end web applications have become the face of modern businesses. We can no longer think of a “website” as merely an adjunct to offline marketing, customer relationship management, and transaction processing operations. Over the last decade, the web has become the pivot around which other business operations revolve. No longer a static locus of one-way communication, websites have developed into web applications and rich web services that are deeply integrated into the day-to-day life of a company.
As a consequence, the deployment and management of a constantly available and high-performing consumer-facing web presence is as crucial to business continuity and growth as supply chain management, logistics, and product development. Even if all other business operations are running smoothly, a poorly performing web presence can become a bottle-neck that imposes intolerable limitations on the effective leveraging of those operations for revenue generation.
All businesses experience growing pains as they scale, but skillful management teams can steer companies through those periods without overstretching available resources or getting so far ahead of themselves that their expenditure outstrips their ability to generate an adequate ROI.
In a business environment where the web is the privileged interface between companies and consumers, avoiding both under- and over-investment in the infrastructure supporting that interface is crucial.
Under-investment often takes the form of failing to deploy sufficient redundant infrastructure to cope with growth. Businesses require that their sites and services perform adequately in the short-term. They neglect to account adequately for mid-term and long-term growth and for potential hardware failure. When an inflection point occurs in a business’s growth, that shortsightedness frequently leads to poorly performing web applications, squandering growth opportunities and frustrating users.
On the other hand, businesses can make huge expenditures in scaling up their infrastructure by investing in very powerful and expensive servers. While better than doing nothing at all, in this case, businesses may have more idle capacity than is necessary for adequate redundancy and scaling. For businesses that need to be agile and keep their assets fluid, this sort of investment ties up resources that could be better put to use elsewhere. Even worse, high-grade servers depreciate in value quickly and require constant maintenance and management.
Just as skillful business managers steer a course between the horns of the growth dilemma, so must devops and IT managers ensure that they deploy enough technology to meet the needs for growth without blowing their budget by over-investing.
The best way to steer that course in the data center is to use server clusters, essentially scaling out rather than scaling up. Clusters of low-cost servers allow a business to scale quickly by adding inexpensive additional nodes to the cluster without excessive spending on very high-grade servers that will sit idle.
Clusters of inexpensive servers provide the redundancy that businesses need in case of unexpected growth or hardware failure, and allow for a smooth atomic scaling process that minimizes capital investment.