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This is applicable to all system which write operation is intensive like instagram, dropbox and others.
When considering scalable system design, it helps to decouple functionality and think about each part of the system as its own service with a clearly defined interface. In practice, systems designed in this way are said to have a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). For these types of systems, each service has its own distinct functional context, and interaction with anything outside of that context takes place through an abstract interface, typically the public-facing API of another service.
Another potential problem with this design is that a web server like Apache or lighttpd typically has an upper limit on the number of simultaneous connections it can maintain (defaults are around 500, but can go much higher) and in high traffic, writes can quickly consume all of those. Since reads can be asynchronous, or take advantage of other performance optimizations like gzip compression or chunked transfer encoding, the web server can switch serve reads faster and switch between clients quickly serving many more requests per second than the max number of connections (with Apache and max connections set to 500, it is not uncommon to serve several thousand read requests per second). Writes, on the other hand, tend to maintain an open connection for the duration for the upload, so uploading a 1MB file could take more than 1 second on most home networks, so that web server could only handle 500 such simultaneous writes.
When it comes to horizontal scaling, one of the more common techniques is to break up your services into partitions, or shards. The partitions can be distributed such that each logical set of functionality is separate; this could be done by geographic boundaries, or by another criteria like non-paying versus paying users. The advantage of these schemes is that they provide a service or data store with added capacity.
In our image server example, it is possible that the single file server used to store images could be replaced by multiple file servers, each containing its own unique set of images. (See Figure 1.4.) Such an architecture would allow the system to fill each file server with images, adding additional servers as the disks become full. The design would require a naming scheme that tied an image’s filename to the server containing it. An image’s name could be formed from a consistent hashing scheme mapped across the servers. Or alternatively, each image could be assigned an incremental ID, so that when a client makes a request for an image, the image retrieval service only needs to maintain the range of IDs that are mapped to each of the servers (like an index).