“Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites” review

Recently I decided to get into the habit of reading IT books regularly. To start with, I wanted read something about building scalable architectures. I did a quick research on Amazon and chose Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites by Martin L. Abbott, Michael T. Fisher. Based on comments and reviews, it was supposed to be more on the technical side. I was slightly disappointed in this aspect. However, I think this is still a worthy read.

The book is divided into 13 chapters. Each of the chapters contains several rules. What stroke me is that these rules are very diverse. We’ve got some very, very general advice that could be applied to any kind of software development (e.g. Don’t overengineer, Learn aggressively, Be competent). We’ve got stuff for CTOs or IT directors in large corporations (e.g. Have at least 3 data centers, Don’t rely on QA to find mistakes). There are also some specific, technical rules – what I was after in the first place. I’m not convinced mixing these very different kinds of knowledge makes sense since they are probably targeted to different audiences (which is even acknowledge by the authors in the first chapter).

Some of the rules felt like formalized common sense, backed with some war stories from the authors’ experience (e.g. AFK Cube). However, some of the stuff was indeed new to me. It was also interesting to see the bigger picture and the business side of things (potential business impact of failures, emphasis on the costs of different solutions, etc.).

I think the book is a great choice if you are a CTO of a SaaS startup or a freshly promoted Architect without prior experience of building scalable apps (having the experience would probably teach you much then the book). If you are a Developer who wants to get some very specific, technical advice then the book will serve well as an overview of topics that you should learn more deeply for other sources (such as database replication, caching, load balancing, alternative storage systems). Nevertheless, I think the book is a worthy read that will broaden your perspective.

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