The Only Way is Up: SQL Server Scale Up vs. Scale Out

Scaling your SQL Server brings a lot of confusion. The most common dilemma is probably this: Should you scale out and add more servers, or scale up and add resources to the ones you already have?

Scalability, in essence, is the ability of the system to support an increased workload without exactly changing its architecture. You have two options to improve the scalability of your SQL Server infrastructure, and they are scale up or scale out.

Scaling up is bulking up your existing servers with resources, such as memory and processors. Scaling out, on the other hand, is adding new servers to the infrastructure itself, which increases the system resources as data is divided through these new servers. Scaling up will help you gain performance advantages, but what you gain will show decreasing returns toward the end. Scaling out can help boost cluster performance, because load will now spread to more nodes.

Choosing Between Scaling Up and Scaling Out

Scaling out an SQL Server infrastructure across multiple systems is a complicated and difficult task to do. After all, it involves partitioned databases, federation and more. Therefore, when it comes to scalability, scaling individual systems up is the better choice before trying to tackle the out option.

Making the Scale-Up Process Easy and More Effective

First and foremost, hiring an expert for SQL Server consulting can help you scale up the infrastructure optimally. This expert will likely help you maximise the performance components of SQL Server, such as memory, CPU, disk storage and network adapters.

It also pays to ‘virtualise’ when it makes sense. While it might seem counterintuitive, virtualisation is actually a brilliant way to boost SQL Server performance.

Finally, upgrade the size of your storage systems (this is something too often overlooked). Remember that in the world of SQL Server, the speed of disk storage is king. Put your SANs or storage area networks on the other end of fast fibre optic connections and use fast SAN protocols.

Overall, when it comes to SQL Server scalability, the only way is up. Scaling up may not be easy, but with the help of experts and some of the tips mentioned above, you can make the process simple and effective.