Software development has much in common with construction. Much like building a house brick by brick, developers write the code, line by line, in order to bring your ideas to life.
However, when building a house you have a clear task and need to follow a predefined plan. You cannot turn a bungalow into a skyscraper in the middle of construction by simply adding more floors. In the technology business, you need to be agile and ready to take on any market challenge in order to succeed. When building your software product, there is always a place for uncertainty. You cannot predict with 100% certainty if there will be only hundreds of users or a million of them. Similarly, it is difficult to forecast which features will be most used and which ones will be ignored.
Sometimes you actually need to turn your bungalow into a skyscraper. In order to do so without putting your whole business at risk, you need to plan for scaling your product from the very beginning.
Therefore, here are some tips for beginning.
The choice completely depends on the type of product you are going to build and your business needs. If you build a mobile application for multiple platforms and want to launch it fast, a cross-platform development tool, such as PhoneGap/Cordova, might come in handy. Besides providing a quick time-to-market, the solution allows you to implement the app logic once, then use it across multiple platforms. Maintaining and scaling such an application requires less time and effort compared to native solutions.
Obvious leaders in web frontend development are React and Angular. The latter is a powerful open-source framework built by Google. Angular is an extremely efficient tool, allowing you to reduce your codebase by up to 5 times. This makes it much easier to modify such applications. In addition, Angular is a very fast and efficient tool, typically used to build single-page applications, high-load web platforms, corporate collaboration, and communication tools.
Backend development offers a number of alternative technology stacks to choose from. From Node.js to enterprise-level Java, none of the technologies is perfect. However, there are a number of typical use cases for each one of them. For example, Node.js really shines in specific scenarios in real-time applications, such as social networks, chats, multimedia streaming/broadcasting, and data-intensive IoT solutions. Used by such giants as eBay, PayPal, GoDaddy, and Walmart, it has proven to be a great solution for building high-scale applications.
Well-designed software architecture is another component of a scalable product. The subject of a heated discussion, microservices architecture is an alternative to the traditional monolithic software design approach. It is a way to build software that is scalable and adaptive, by breaking a heavy monolithic product into a large number of manageable independent “services”. By distributing the tasks and processes between a large number of modules, you build a flexible and high-performing product.
As a result, each microservice within an application is relatively autonomous and can be modified or extended without affecting the rest of the processes or interfering with the app logic.
In addition, such distribution allows you to wisely allocate development resources and speed up the process. Engineers can work on different tasks simultaneously and synchronize the updates later. This also contributes to better project knowledge sharing if you decide to expand your engineering team.
Another important aspect of scalable product development is the infrastructure. When first launching your product, a single local server might work just fine. However, as the load increases, you might need to add more servers quickly. Buying and setting up additional hardware is a time- and cost-intensive task. With a cloud infrastructure, adding more servers to your product will only take a couple of clicks. Instead of a one-time, but significant investment, you will be able to choose the pricing plan that best fits your needs and pay as you go.
Moreover, cloud infrastructures have proven to be more reliable. While Amazon or Google do all the hard work keeping your servers running no matter what, you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to check whether your product is up or down.
Continuous delivery is much more than just an effortless way to deploy new product features and manage the codebase. It’s one of the key elements of an agile software development process.
When scaling a software product, the ability to deploy new features quickly and with minimum effort is crucial. To stay competitive, you need to deliver updates fast and often, which is impossible if you need a week to push that new feature to a production server.
This is where tools like Jenkins come in handy. Working as a single pipeline with the code repository (GitHub or similar), it allows you to build and test every new piece of code before deployment. Instead of multiple manual actions, which are pretty time-consuming and cannot guarantee 100% quality, due to the human factor, all processes are automated and performed in a single click. This, in turn, improves developer efficiency and contributes to rapid product growth.
Pokemon GO, a record-breaking augmented reality game, launched by Niantic earlier this year, attracted several millions of users the day it first launched. Despite multiple technical issues, reported by users all over the world, the game went viral and was able to retain its users. However, there were thousands of products that were not quite as lucky.
It is sad when your product is not as successful as expected. It is even more frustrating to see your potentially successful product fail because it was unprepared to handle the load. To minimize the risk of failure, build a solid growth strategy and plan. After all, product scalability does not end with architecture, infrastructure, and code. It only starts there.