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Introduction

Recently, Taylor Swift’s fans were in for a huge disappointment when Ticketmaster’s website crashed. The website was probably not prepared for billions of system requests. The website crashed at least 5000 times. Many fans have sued the ticketing company.

The number of system requests may have been unprecedented, but this fiasco is a reminder to build scalable web applications. The main benefit of a web application is it should be operational 24/7/365. It should be able to handle website traffic at its peak. Every website crash could lead to hundreds and thousands of dollars in loss for the company.

That’s why website scalability is so vital. Scalability ensures that the application’s database and backend can handle the growth in customer base and system requests. Lack of scalability could lead to revenue loss and reputational damage. Scalability ensures that the website runs smoothly and creates a positive customer experience. It prevents customers from abandoning the website.

However, there are various challenges that companies could face while building scalable web applications. Web developers should keep an eye on them and find ways to resolve them.

Challenges And Solutions For Building Scalable Web Applications

1. Architecture is not scalable

 Challenge: Architecture is one of the leading reasons for an application’s poor scalability. Take monolithic architecture, for instance. It uses a single codebase for multiple functionalities. Hence, it works well for small applications. It starts posing challenges when developers add more features and functionalities to the application to meet customer demands. It can’t keep up with the load.

Solution: The application’s architecture must be scalable. It should aid web applications to adapt according to market demands and traffic spikes. Microservices architecture comprises a collection of small services with individual codebases. Each of them has its logic and database to perform specific functions. There’s no dependency on other modules. So, as the application grows more complex and adds additional functionalities, the application continues to work smoothly.

2. Lack of performance load testing

Challenge: Load testing is as crucial as other forms of testing as it assesses the performance of the application and systems under real-life load conditions. Developers simulate the environment, users, and data and place the application under maximum load to verify if it can manage real-life traffic spikes. Unfortunately, load testing is also one of the ignored forms of testing. Developers don’t often prioritize load testing as the product features are limited and traffic is small in number. Unless there’s no load testing, the developers cannot predict and fix the issues in the application.

Solution: Load testing can help developers predict the issues and take pre-emptive actions to ensure that the application functions smoothly. Developers must create real-world scenarios that an application will likely encounter, set benchmarks, and test the application with maximum load to find the root cause for the application’s poor performance. Continuous testing will help developers identify and fix the underlying problems at every stage and ensure that the application runs smoothly at all times despite traffic spikes.

3. Inability to distribute traffic

Challenge: Developers cannot rely on a single server to support the entire workload. An overworked server could slow down the work, drop requests, and lead to frequent crashes. The inability to distribute traffic could affect the application’s performance and customer experience.

Solution: Load balancing is vital for scaling applications.
Load balancers eliminate the over-reliance on a single server. It distributes the workload evenly across multiple servers. It is useful when a website attracts high traffic and attends to hundreds of user requests simultaneously. The load balancer will use multiple servers to balance these requests. In fact, large-scale applications use servers that are close to the customer’s geography to balance the load. However, use more than one load balancer to route traffic between the different servers efficiently. Over-reliance on a single load balancer could also hinder the application’s scalability.

4. Poor code quality

Challenge: Poor code quality can severely impact an application’s scalability. A good code is scalable. It does not require constant modifications to manage workloads or maintenance. The quality of a code suffers when developers don’t audit them regularly. It could also suffer when developers don’t update the libraries, language versions, third-party services, etc. while updating a system. A lack of code hygiene could increase technical debt and affect the application’s scalability and security.

Solution: Good code hygiene is crucial for an application’s scalability. Audit the codes regularly, review them, and update or rewrite the parts that hinder the application’s scalability. Remember to update the libraries, languages, and third-party integrations while updating the application to maintain consistency in code.

5. Poor database management

Challenge: Database management has to be good to improve the application’s scalability. The application should be able to perform any number of database queries and organize tasks efficiently. However, an over-complicated database schema, poor database engine, and poor indexing can affect database management and impact the application’s scalability.

Solution: Start by choosing the right database engine to scale the application. Next, select a database schema that can manage any number of transactions per second. Developers should also choose between relational and unstructured databases according to the application’s architecture and data type. The database should be able to work and integrate seamlessly with the application. Developers must also conduct regular database audits to ensure that the database can organize tasks and perform more queries efficiently.

Best Practices For Building Scalable Web Applications

Apart from addressing these challenges, here are a few best practices companies can implement to build scalable web applications.

1. Define the metrics

Metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, latency, and network throughout help determine the application’s scalability. CPU usage, for instance, checks the balance between the workload and processing power. Define the metrics helpful to business and monitor them continuously to identify and fix issues and enhance customer experience.

2. Choose third-party integrations

Multiple third-party integrations can bloat the application and affect its scalability. They can also lead to operational failures. Choose only those integrations that are secure and integrate seamlessly with the application.

3. Choose suitable frameworks and tools

Some frameworks are not suitable for building scalable applications. Choose the ones that work well with the application’s programming language, infrastructure, and architecture. Similarly, use tools that can monitor the metrics, code quality, etc. to improve the application’s scalability.

4. Choose the right technology partner

Building a scalable application, monitoring it, and continuous improvement is a humongous task. It can’t be done alone by an in-house team. A technology partner can help with these activities. Choose the right technology partner who understands the company’s needs and goals and build scalable products.

At Pratiti, we provide end-to-end services such as product development, product support, and staff augmentation to enable non-tech founders to fulfill their vision.
To know more about our services, contact us.

Nitin
Nitin Tappe

After successful stint in a corporate role, Nitin is back to what he enjoys most – conceptualizing new software solutions to solve business problems. Nitin is a postgraduate from IIT, Mumbai, India and in his 24 years of career, has played key roles in building a desktop as well as enterprise solutions right from idealization to launch which are adopted by many Fortune 500 companies. As a Founder member of Pratiti Technologies, he is committed to applying his management learning as well as the passion for building new solutions to realize your innovation with certainty.

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