scale myth

Joshua Allen of Better Living Through Software talks here about a phenomenon I’ve railed on in the past. The Scale Myth.

During the height of the dot-com bubble, you could sidetrack any business discussion by saying, “Yes, but, will it scale?“. The common perception was that Internet scale was at least two orders of magnitude larger than brick-and-mortar scale, and if a business launched without being able to sustain a bazillion transactions per second, they were soon out of business. People abandoned all reason when those words were uttered.

In fact, I think decision-makers have to be careful, because certain vendors can make a whole lot of cash by making you panic about scalability. RFID is unique enough, and it is big, so decision-makers could potentially be tricked into believing that the rules have completely changed. But before you go spend $10 million on hardware, run the models and figure it out for yourself. And remember, a terabyte of storage costs $1,000 dollars today, and we all learned some lessons about excess capacity during the Internet boom. Think.

I wonder how many internet startups would still be around if they had invested in making a better product rather than overly fancy servers (cough) with quadruple redundancy.

Good architects combined with good tools build solutions that can be cheaply scaled using commodity techniques in the vast, vast majority of cases.

The “certain vendors can make a whole lot of cash by making you panic about scalability” comment reminds me of a certain large vendor my company visited recently.  


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