Web-Scale IT Explained

IT - Web Scale IT

By Ahmed Banafa, Purdue Global Faculty
Published April 2015

The term "Web-scale IT" is defined as "a system-oriented architectural pattern that enables the rapid and scalable development and delivery of Web-based IT services leveraging agile, lean and continuous principles." Cameron Haight, Gartner's chief of research for infrastructure and operations, coined the term in 2014 as a way to describe the new ways organizations leverage technology to provide their customers with content quickly and at massive scale. Some of the biggest players include cloud service providers such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

A recent Gartner survey of CEOs found that senior executives now have an appetite to invest in IT and use technology to help gain a competitive edge. Speaking to Computer Weekly about these findings, Gartner fellow Mark Raskino said: "Business leaders tell us they recognize the need to invest in e-commerce, mobile, cloud, social and other major technology categories, and the capabilities they enable. That can't be done from within existing IT budgets alone."

There are three things to know about Web-scale IT, as noted in this article from from Forbes.com

  • Web-scale IT is a model:Rather than a technology, Web-scale IT should be considered a model "that encompasses the architectures and processes being used by large cloud services providers, including the adoption of industrial data centers, Web-oriented architectures, programmable management, agile processes, collaborative styles and a learning culture." 
  • Shift from scale-up to scale-out architectures: Organizations can now move away from the traditional "scale-up architectures" for "scale-out architectures" in a way to utilize cost-effective options such as open-source hardware. 
  • Focus less on rules and more on running lean: The Web-scale IT model allows organizations to focus on agile models as opposed to established frameworks. 

Web-scale IT infrastructure

According Computer Weekly, there are several recommendations for Web-scale IT infrastructure:

  • Use stateless application architectures and horizontally scaling infrastructure architectures to deliver web-scale IT capacity management.
  • Categorize and standardize workloads to balance the capacity of the IT infrastructure across services.
  • Make application product teams responsible for application self-instrumentation and analytics that empower near-real-time horizontal resource reallocation.
  • Use demand-shaping techniques to limit the unexpected capacity and performance impacts of releases.
  • Grow skills in the use of advanced analytics tools to gain a deeper understanding of application performance demands and constraints.

The future of Web-scale IT 

There is no doubt in our mind that Web-Scale IT is here to stay. But Web-Scale IT is not without its challenges. One of these challenges is ensuring high levels of service quality and delivery.

Gartner predicts that "[b]y 2016, the availability of capacity and performance management skills for horizontally scaled architectures will be a major constraint or risk to growth for 80 percent of major businesses." As such, it anticipates that web-scale IT methods may be found in half of global enterprises by 2017.

Another challenge about Web-scale IT is that it demands new thinking about security. McAfee predicts that web-scale efforts of hackers costs the global economy an estimated $400 billion, at a time when security giant Symantec has admitted that anti-virus software only prevents 45% of file-based attacks at best. 

The advent of web-scale IT, which by its very definition is designed to deliver massively scalable real-time applications and services, puts far more emphasis on the performance capabilities of an enterprise's existing web communications infrastructure. Companies clearly benefit from cost savings, but more significant advantages come from flexibility and reduced time to market, as well as expanded revenue-generating opportunities. 

Organizations that do not invest in Web-scale technology may find themselves at a disadvantage over their competitors, with slower operations, more downtime, and reduced ability to respond to changes in their market.