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What is Auto Scaling?

What is Auto ScalingOne of the most significant advantages of cloud computing and hosting is its ability to scale quickly and meet last minute needs. Server provisioning speeds vastly surpass those of traditional hosting solutions, meaning package upgrades can be applied almost instantaneously. Auto scaling takes this flexibility to the next level, but what exactly is it?

Auto scaling has started to make waves throughout the hosting world as a service that allows for seemingly limitless flexibility in hosting solutions. While there may be limitations, it does have its advantages. For many websites and eCommerce stores, such a service manages to address issues with inconsistent site traffic demands. For others, it provides them with room to grow their online presence without having to commit before they start to see the benefits of that growth.

What is Auto Scaling?

Auto scaling is a cloud computing technique designed to ensure a website provides a safe margin of resource expandability beyond what traditional hosting would offer.

In 2009, a paper was released by several professors at the University of Berkeley, outlining how the elasticity of resources in the Cloud would lead to the end of overprovisioning and better access to digital resources. They described three primary reasons for why cloud computing would change the online world.

  • The illusion of infinite computing resources
  • The elimination of up-front commitments
  • The ability to pay for cloud computing resources on a short-term basis

Today, all three of these things have a become a reality and with them, so too has auto scaling. Instead of having a set number of resources allocated to a website for a set duration of time, it’s now possible to expand user capacity as and when it’s needed. With several cloud providers, auto scaling falls under a managed service that is handled for you.

“Auto scaling lets you plan for the future without having to make an investment before you start seeing growth.”

Nexcess is no exception and offers cloud hosting with auto scaling as standard on all packages.

How Auto Scaling Works

How does Auto Scaling Work?

In a very broad sense, auto scaling works by allocating additional resources from a resource pool. This is largely implemented through the use of software.

PHP Threads and auto scaling

Nexcess Cloud Auto Scaling triggers by analyzing PHP threads every minute, to see if demand outstrips supply. Once demand exceeds capacity, PHP threads are automatically scaled to the next package’s level. Auto scaling then re-tests requirements every 10-minutes until it is no longer needed.

The Pros and Cons of Auto Scaling

While auto scaling is a relatively new feature, the benefits are multitude for businesses of any size. Here, we’ll run through a few of the advantages auto scaling brings to your website.

Address Variable Traffic Demand

Few sites see consistent traffic 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Auto scaling provides businesses with the ability to address these traffic fluctuations.

For instance, imagine that a small business owner known as Jerry finds himself with performance issues on Saturdays. Through analyzing traffic, he finds that Saturdays are particularly busy periods on his website, with several conversions being made on this day. He wants to upgrade to a larger hosting solution, but after a cost-benefit analysis, he doesn’t think that it would be worth it because of the other six days of the week. If he could adjust his cloud hosting resources on only Saturdays, then it would be.

Auto Scaling variable demand capacity

He can with Nexcess Cloud Auto Scaling. All he needs to do it leave the feature enabled (auto scaling is enabled by default). On Saturdays, auto scaling will automatically adjust user concurrency capacity and he’ll be able to reap the rewards of customer and conversion increases. 

Reduce Cost

You only pay for the time you scale your cloud account. Higher tier services end up costing less as they’re only activated when they’re needed. With the example of Jerry above, higher user concurrency is only needed on Saturdays, meaning that for the rest of the week he’ll pay the standard rate for his base package.

If you’re unsure how often your server will be scaled, you can chart when traffic spikes often occur on your site with analytics software. From this, you’re generally able to predict when high traffic time periods are likely to occur and calculate as to whether it’s more cost effective to adopt auto scaling or upgrade your cloud solution.

Why your website needs auto scaling

Deliver a Consistent Experience

What happens when content goes viral? Being able to predict and plan for traffic spikes is great, but sometimes demand increases without any warning or pattern. The auto part of auto scaling handles these times for you.

The service makes sure that you’re able to deliver a consistent experience to all customers, regardless of when or how traffic volume increases occur. While this is especially useful during promotions and product specials, it really shines when something goes viral.

Auto Scaling Compatibility Issues

Auto scaling is usually designed independently of any applications running on a cloud server, meaning that if a cloud solution is capable of using auto scaling, then it’s likely that the application running on that solution will also benefit.

That being said, auto scaling can cause issues as a result of essentially ‘splitting up’ an application. Nexcess Cloud Auto Scaling does not have this issue due to the extensive testing and support offered by Nexcess. Nexcess Cloud Auto Scaling is 100% compatible with Magento, WordPress, WooCommerce, Expression Engine, and Craft. If you would like to use an alternative application, let us know and we’ll do our best to help optimize your cloud environment for use with auto scaling.

Auto Scaling Limits

Like everything, auto scaling has its limits. While some cloud providers are happy to allow scaling to huge extents, this can be bottlenecked by other system features (or cost substantially more).

Auto Scaling Capacity Table

In order to maximize benefit and minimize cost, we’ve created a solution that aims to balance auto scaling potential and efficiency. With the Nexcess Cloud, Scaling is limited by the base cloud solution you are scaling from. You can see how this affects different solutions above.

How to Enable Auto Scaling

For more information on the Nexcess Cloud and auto scaling, please refer to the Nexcess Cloud Auto Scaling documentation.

The Future of Nexcess Cloud Auto Scaling

As auto scaling continues to be built up, functionality will likely increase. The limitations shown above will continue to be expanded upon, offering websites running on Nexcess Cloud solutions increased flexibility. Stay tuned for updates.

Cloud hosting with auto scaling

Posted in: General, Nexcess