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The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise [Paperback]

by Martin L. Abbott, Michael T. Fisher
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2009 0137030428 978-0137030422 1
A Comprehensive, Proven Approach to IT Scalability from Two Veteran Software, Technology, and Business Executives


In The Art of Scalability, AKF Partners cofounders Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher cover everything IT and business leaders must know to build technology infrastructures that can scale smoothly to meet any business requirement. Drawing on their unparalleled experience managing some of the world’s highest-transaction-volume Web sites, the authors provide detailed models and best-practice approaches available in no other book.


Unlike previous books on scalability, The Art of Scalability doesn’t limit its coverage to technology. Writing for both technical and nontechnical decision-makers, this book covers everything that impacts scalability, including architecture, processes, people, and organizations.


Throughout, the authors address a broad spectrum of real-world challenges, from performance testing to IT governance. Using their tools and guidance, organizations can systematically overcome obstacles to scalability and achieve unprecedented levels of technical and business performance.


Coverage includes

  • Staffing the scalable organization: essential organizational, management, and leadership skills for technical leaders
  • Building processes for scale: process lessons from hyper-growth companies, from technical issue resolution to crisis management
  • Making better “build versus buy” decisions
  • Architecting scalable solutions: powerful proprietary models for identifying scalability needs and choosing the best approaches to meet them
  • Optimizing performance through caching, application and database splitting, and asynchronous design
  • Scalability techniques for emerging technologies, including clouds and grids
  • Planning for rapid data growth and new data centers
  • Evolving monitoring strategies to tightly align with customer requirements

Frequently Bought Together

The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise + Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites + Web Operations: Keeping the Data On Time
Price for all three: $91.12

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Editorial Reviews


“This book is much more than you may think it is. Scale is not just about designing Web sites that don’t crash when lots of users show up. It is about designing your company so that it doesn’t crash when your business needs to grow. These guys have been there on the front lines of some of the most successful Internet companies of our time, and they share the good, the bad, and the ugly about how to not just survive, but thrive.”

–Marty Cagan, Founder, Silicon Valley Product Group

“A must read for anyone building a Web service for the mass market.”

–Dana Stalder, General Partner, Matrix Partners

“Abbott and Fisher have deep experiences with scale in both large and small enterprises. What’s unique about their approach to scalability is they start by focusing on the true foundation: people and process, without which true scalability cannot be built. Abbott and Fisher leverage their years of experience in a very accessible and practical approach to scalability that has been proven over time with their significant success.”

–Geoffrey Weber, VP of Internet Operations/IT, Shutterfly

“If I wanted the best diagnoses for my health I would go to the Mayo Clinic. If I wanted the best diagnoses for my portfolio companies’ performance and scalability I would call Martin and Michael. They have recommended solutions to performance and scalability issues that have saved some of my companies from a total rewrite of the system.”

–Warren M. Weiss, General Partner, Foundation Capital

“As a manager who worked under Michael Fisher and Marty Abbott during my time at PayPal/eBay, the opportunity to directly absorb the lessons and experiences presented in this book are invaluable to me now working at Facebook.”

–Yishan Wong, Director of Engineering, Facebook

"The Art of Scalability is by far the best book on scalability on the market today. The authors tackle the issues of scalability from processes, to people, to performance, to the highly technical. Whether your organization is just starting out and is defining processes as you go, or you are a mature organization, this is the ideal book to help you deal with scalability issues before, during, or after an incident. Having built several projects, programs, and companies from small to significant scale, I can honestly say I wish I had this book one, five, and ten years ago.”

–Jeremy Wright, CEO, b5media, Inc.

“Only a handful of people in the world have experienced the kind of growth-related challenges that Fisher and Abbott have seen at eBay, PayPal, and the other companies they’ve helped to build. Fewer still have successfully overcome such challenges. The Art of Scalability provides a great summary of lessons learned while scaling two of the largest internet companies in the history of the space, and it’s a must-read for any executive at a hyper-growth company. What’s more, it’s well-written and highly entertaining. I couldn’t put it down.”

–Kevin Fortuna, Partner, AKF Consulting

“Marty and Mike’s book covers all the bases, from understanding how to build a scalable organization to the processes and technology necessary to run a highly scalable architecture. They have packed in a ton of great practical solutions from real world experiences. This book is a must-read for anyone having difficulty managing the scale of a hyper-growth company or a startup hoping to achieve hyper growth.”

–Tom Keeven, Partner, AKF Consulting

The Art of Scalability is remarkable in its wealth of information and clarity; the authors provide novel, practical, and demystifying approaches to identify, predict, and resolve scalability problems before they surface. Marty Abbott and Michael Fisher use their rich experience and vision, providing unique and groundbreaking tools to assist small and hyper-growth organizations as they maneuver in today’s demanding technological environments.”

–Joseph M. Potenza, Attorney, Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.

About the Author

Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher are founding partners of AKF Partners, where they advise companies on scaling technology platforms, organizations, leadership, and processes. Previously, Marty was COO of the advertising technology startup Quigo, where he was responsible for product strategy and management, technology, and client services. Marty also spent nearly six years at eBay, most recently as SVP of Technology and CTO. Mike spent two years as CTO of Quigo, serving as President during the transition following its acquisition by AOL. Prior to that, Mike led a development organization of more than two-hundred engineers as Paypal’s VP of Engineering and Architecture.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137030428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137030422
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good points, but sub-optimal approach January 17, 2010
By Aban
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is good from an HR / management perspective on scalability. I wish the authors had been more technical (and by that I mean less "qualitative" and more statistical) in their approach (even though I agree there can be no "one size fits all" solution to this problem). There are instances in the book where the authors mention that while a team of 1 can produce 1 unit of work, a team of 2 can produce only 1.99 units of work, an assertion which makes about as much sense in the real world as a unicorn. I am sorry if I am coming across as being very negative, because there are some very strong points in this book which are worth considering. However, my grievance (as an engineer) is that it is not for a techie who wants to create a scalable company (aka Brinn/Page or Zuckerburg), but instead is for a management grad who wants to manage a tech company. I wish there were more books available for the former, than the latter.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Imagine a highly scalable architecture of a successful ecommerce company.
If you visualize distributed data centers, content distribution networks,
Brewers CAP theorem etc you have only half of the scalability story.
This book tells the whole story of organizational scalability of which
technical scalability is only a part. Consider some examples like how do
you perform reliable change management of a vast infrastructure to
maintain business continuity or what should be the model for unambiguous
responsibility-accountibility in a scalable organization.

I have worked in a critical scalability project of and can vouch
that this book is a gem.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for engineers with years of experience. March 9, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Someone wrote, of this book: "However, my grievance (as an engineer) is that it is not for a techie who wants to create a scalable company (aka Brinn/Page or Zuckerburg), but instead is for a management grad who wants to manage a tech company."

I think this is spot on. I am a software engineer of about 7 years and I was looking for technical insight on scaling as well as tips for an engineer advancing through the phases of a start up Internet company.

The book belabored simple or even self-evident concepts to the point of almost unreadability. I thought, honestly, at some points they were padding it. For someone with my experience level, which I wouldn't self-rate even as "a lot of experience", the book was almost insight-less. Perhaps a management degree graduate looking to get into tech management would find this text useful in some way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I've always been an advocate of engineering - REAL engineering, not the haphazard practice of slapping things together that some people call engineering. Both forms depend on expertise, but that is where the similarities end. REAL engineering is based on methodical planning, accounting for how the many parts work together, disciplined execution, and a bit of obsession over failure and how to prevent it.

The Art of Scalability is the best book I've seen that captures not just the process and technology aspects of complex systems engineering, but also the ever-important people side of things. I've learned the right leaders, managers, staff, and organization structures are critical to success and often the root cause of failure.

When considering engineering skills, we focus too heavily on the technical abilities. These are certainly necessary, but successful personality traits go far beyond the trained skills. Natural born traits of cooperation and leadership (I'm in the "nature" camp more than "nurture" on this one) will also determine the outcome, probably even more than all others.

This book contains a lot of brilliant, pragmatic advice on the technical aspects of building reliable complex systems, but it is the human components that struck me as exceptional. Bravo guys!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IMO every CTO or program manager should read it May 31, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I got impressed when I started to read this, I realized scalability were stuff related with hardware and brain only but I was wrong, this book taught me a lot of details I haven't even considered when I needed to make plans to change and/or upgrade some part of infrastructure and teams.

This is a great book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Operations Manager manual January 21, 2013
As other reviewers have pointed out the book will not go into technical details; however, it does not linger at the high level view either. I found that it does talk about issues and possible solutions, though without going into details of implementation of those solutions. There was enough discussion so that you can apply issues to your own situation and then go explore for more details. Meaning, it will give you some direction in what to look for. And this is what makes the book valuable as a resource for someone who is managing operations. For an engineer who wants to solve scale problems it won't shed a whole lot of light. It is not a step by step guide, for that you need to go to another book.
What I also liked about the book is that it provides so much more than just talk of issues of scale but all those subjects around it as well, in a concise format. The book is dense but does not bog down in any one subject so that you get bored or feel like you should skim most of it when reading a chapter.
There are sections purely on management and processes so many people might want to gloss or skip those areas, but for others its a great addition.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Technology-Minded
This is probably a useful book for the MBA-set in fast-growing environments, but there's almost nothing useful for technologists, even those in a management role. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ryan Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
I selected this book because of its content about organizations and processes on technology based companies. Read more
Published on September 12, 2011 by Daniel Korzekwa
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview But Lacks Details
Overall its a good read. ( 3 Stars )

1- Great for Management with Non Technical Background. Read more
Published on August 20, 2011 by Ali Asghar
5.0 out of 5 stars top notch tools and best practices written clearly
clear pragmatic best practices, methodologies and tools from two world-class practitioners. there are a lot of scalability books I have now read out there that are full of murky... Read more
Published on February 2, 2011 by jdsboston
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical and excellent advice
When scaling a business, it is all about people, processes, and tools. The authors present practical knowledge and tips. Read more
Published on January 5, 2011 by Linda Pittenger
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the Year 2010: the Art of Scalability
Buy The Art of Scalability now. Buy it for yourself. Buy a copy for every manager, leader, director, and other technical senior person in your company. Read more
Published on December 21, 2010 by John Shiple
5.0 out of 5 stars A pick for any library catering to web programmers
Published on March 15, 2010 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars My Current Operations Bible
I became aware of this book through Abbott's website [...] and found it extremely useful.

I use it as my operations bible and refer frequently to it whenever a specific... Read more
Published on March 9, 2010 by Francisco Zapata
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and Accessible
As a software engineer and technical manager, I have seen my share of computer professionals who throw on sapphire robes and cloud the air with shapes and noise, all designed to... Read more
Published on February 26, 2010 by Joey Fortuna
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