Scalability – What it means and why it’s so critical in the IoT

Scalability is one of those topics that comes up a lot. We talk about it with customers, prospects, analysts and the media as one of the key differentiators of our product and why companies should look at us. We’ve even done reports and benchmark tests to validate the scalability of our product (we are incredibly proud of the results). In all of this conversations, one thing is very clear – scalability means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It also becomes increasingly clear that it can be so hard to achieve, especially in the Internet of Things.



So what exactly does scalability mean as it pertains to the Internet of Things?

Scale, by definition, refers to “the capability of a system, network, or process to handle a growing amount of work, or its potential to be enlarged in order to accommodate that growth”.  When you hear that definition you might translate it as “My system needs to be able to handle the data created by my current and future expected customer base”.  While that is certainly part of it, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  It is true that when running a connected business (or really any business for that matter), you need to be able to service your millionth customer just as good as you did your first – latency threshold, connection time, linearly scaling infrastructure, meeting your SLAs, etc.  And moving the data associated with product usage is certainly one key factor, but there are others at play as well.   Areas like firmware updates, uptime, data management, identity and access management, and making the data actionable all play into scale.

Scalability doesn’t come without its challenges. If achieving scale was easy, we probably wouldn’t be talking about it so much and we certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.  First of all, it’s not a one size fits all thing.  Some products need capacity for more messages than others and it can be hard to plan ahead for what you may need 2, 3, or even 5 years down the road.  Because of this, many connected product companies don’t think much further than their first POC and that can cause complicated issues later on.

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