Scalability in Cloud Computing: What is it and Why is it Important?


Cloud computing and the allied technologies have been taking over the IT sector, with every major player shifting their servers on clouds. As predicted in top reports by CISCO and some other firms, more than 90% of the global companies would be soon relying completely on cloud services for their day-to-day businesses. This shift is further boosted by the presence of major cloud platforms offered by IT giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM.

As the competition on the cloud space intensifies, it also becomes imperative for the firms across the globe to make their cloud computing softwares and platforms more adaptable to changing business needs, fluctuations in demand and certain other functions.

To help them with this, the “Scalability” feature of Cloud Computing comes to rescue, which allows firms to add or reduce their IT resources, in accordance with the changing demand.

Due to its benefits, scalability is gaining popularity, and now forms an essential part of the curriculum of various cloud computing certification. But what exactly is scalability? Many students stay ignorant about the details of this feature and often confuse it with other features of cloud computing like “Elasticity”. Here, in this article, we will be discussing in detail about what scalability exactly is and how it is making the workload of organisations easier.

What is Scalability in Cloud Computing?

Simply described, Scalability is that feature of cloud computing systems, which allows you to add more IT resources, or reduce them, whenever the demand asks for it. The fluctuations in the market and business operations lead to an increase or decrease in load, and scalability helps the system to adapt to such a change.

Scalability is one of the 10 major characteristics of a cloud computing system which include:

  1. Scalability
  2. Automation
  3. Security
  4. Ease of Maintenance
  5. Economical
  6. Self-Service and On-Demand
  7. Good Network Access
  8. Availability and Resilience
  9. Reporting Service
  10. Pooling of Resources

Scalability operations on a cloud computing system can be performed in 3 major ways: Vertical, Horizontal, and Diagonal.

Vertical Scaling

Vertical scaling is the process of enlarging or diminishing the capacity of an existing resource of the system, without making any change in it (or its code). This can happen in cases like shifting a resource to a higher level machine/lower level machine, or like when you expand the capabilities of your servers by adding more devices.

Horizontal Scaling

In case of horizontal scaling, you don’t expand or diminish a resource, rather pick an instance of that resource and break the logic into smaller pieces. These can then be operated parallel to each other within the same infrastructure. Horizontal scaling is also known as Out/In Scaling. If you change the number of nodes in a computing system, that is an example of horizontal scaling.

Diagonal Scaling

Though less popular, diagonal scaling is a combination of both horizontal and vertical scaling. It begins when you first expand the capabilities of resources through vertical scaling. However, when there is no further scaling possible, you add more resources, thus performing horizontal scaling.

Scalability vs Elasticity: Many people confuse these 2 terms as one and the same thing, when they are discussed in the context of cloud computing, though they are not.

  • Scalability is that feature which allows your system to adjust resources with change in load or demand. Elasticity of the system indicates how easily you can add or remove those resources.
  • While Scalability gives stability and focuses on long term aspects, Elasticity is concerned with market dynamics and is required on a spontaneous basis.
  • Businesses which have almost predictable variations in load should prefer Scalability, while those being susceptible to immediate spikes in load, traffic, etc. should prefer the Elasticity

What is the Importance and Benefit of Scaling in Cloud Computing?

We have discussed a lot about what kinds of scaling exist and how they perform. Let’s now have a look at the exact benefits which you get through the scalability feature of your cloud computing systems.

Saving Costs

By optimising their resources as per the need of the market and the load the servers are getting, firms can save a lot of bucks. There is no additional equipment required to perform scalability with cloud computing platforms, thus avoiding any kind of additional charge. Furthermore, this is an in-built feature and no hidden charges are there unless you are looking for something more.


Performing scaling through cloud computing systems is indeed flexible and requires only a minimal effort. The fast process helps you to scale your resources as per the changing needs and new emerging challenges. One more feature is that you can also easily swap between different types of clouds, i.e., Private Cloud, Public Cloud or a Hybrid Cloud.

Adjusting Storage Capacity

With Scalability, you can easily adjust your resources and also the storage required for them. For businesses having uncertain prospects and for new emerging players in an industry, who are not sure of their performance in the coming year or the quarter, Scalability helps to save costs by optimising storage capacities.

Scalability is an add-on to a generic cloud computing service, which in itself provides so many benefits to operators like:

  • Reduced maintenance costs of physical servers
  • Ease of accessing resources
  • Better security by providers of services

How to Perform Scalability on a Cloud Computing System?

There are various methods of performing scalability in cloud computing systems and that depends majorly on what kind of cloud service you are using, whether a private, public or a hybrid cloud. The 2 major ways of performing scalability are:

  • Contacting your cloud support team and asking them to do it on your behalf.
  • Yourself engaging with the online portal and performing scalability on your own.

In addition to this, many systems also have the feature of “auto-scaling”, where you can input some pre-filled data and instruct the system to perform up-scaling, down-scaling, out-scaling, or in-scaling, as per your code.

The cloud space is attracting new companies due to such features only. Scalability has helped many new emerging businesses and also the existing players in situations like pandemic lockdown. Without this, many enterprises would have been forced to shut down due to shortage of resources or excessive costs.

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