Scalability has been one of the common denominators in enterprise architecture since the earliest days of computer networking. And for the vast majority of that time, the goal has been to scale up processing, storage and other factors from lower-order technology to higher.
But that trend may be coming to a close as new "scale-out" architectures increasingly can deliver more robust networking environments with only incremental hardware requirements.
MySQL and other open-source database firms are leading the charge with server replication and improved availability techniques that allow application access to wider pools of users using commodity hardware. A case in point is the BLOB (binary language objects) Streaming Architecture by Germany's SNAP Innovation. It provides a specialized stream-oriented protocol for the MySQL client/server geared toward large data objects, including pictures, video and MP3s.
Scale-out architectures also are credited with giving InfiniBand a new lease on life, cited by IDC as one of the enabling technologies, along with high-performance computing and virtual I/Os, that will quadruple InfiniBand HCA revenues by the end of the decade.
Storage systems are embracing scale-out as well. NEC's HydraStore system uses a combination of enhanced resiliency and continuous availability features with policy-driven data management services as part of an overall next-generation network solution suited for enterprises and carriers alike.
Implementing a scale-out architecture will require some changes in operational mindsets, however. MySQL offers a list of five common traps to avoid when scaling out, including continued reliance on synchronous data strategies and vertically scaled architectures.
With any luck, business growth will force substantial hardware investment at some point. What scale-out architectures do best is provide those incremental enhancements to help existing infrastructures cope with changing conditions without breaking the bank.