MySpace, Microsoft and scalability

I was impressed when I learned at Mix06 last year that MySpace runs on Microsoft’s platform. After all, MySpace is one of the top 10 busiest sites on the web (currently 6 according to Alexa), and stuffed with dynamic content. So it makes a great case study for Microsoft.

Or does it? The downside of being so prominent is that problems with MySpace reflect badly on Microsoft’s platform. Thus you get articles like Larry Dignan’s MySpace: IT On a Wing and Microsoft Prayer.  

The article Dignan references describes how MySpace has coped, just about, with unexpected and explosive growth. It’s been a ragged evolution, and sounds more like a desperate attempt to keep pace than smooth upscaling. That said, this is more a characteristic of the particular scenario – web site copes with unexpected growth – than a characteristic of the Microsoft platform as such. However it is apparent that 32-bit SQL Server 7.0 was really not up to this level of scalability, and by all accounts even 64-bit SQL Server 2005 is being pushed to its limits.

Two bits of context here. First, the majority of software projects have far more modest requirements than MySpace. Second, there are other scalability examples, such as Microsoft’s favourite case study the London Stock Exchange, which runs smoothly enough as far as I know. Smaller than MySpace, of course, but business-critical in a way that MySpace will never be. On balance it seems that Microsoft’s platform is scalable enough for most of us. That does not mean that it is the best choice, or the most cost effective, or the more reliable. It just means that muttering “it doesn’t scale” is not the potent argument that perhaps it used to be.

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