Building Scalable Web Sites, by Cal Henderson

I love this book! There, I’ve given away the clincher already.

Truth is, the writing is addictive. Once I picked it up, it was hard to tear myself away. Perhaps it’s because I’m fascinated with the subject matter, but boy, the writing style ain’t too shabby either. It’s easy on the eyes, and easy on the brain. You just start reading, and go on reading. There are no stumbling blocks, just nice, smooth writing that encourages you to keep moving on as you’re reading.

Let’s face it, which web developer out there doesn’t want to find out how to build scalable websites? Don’t we all dream that our sites or web apps will hit it big, and we’ll have to start planning how to expand? Well, this book will show you how. No, this book won’t show you how to code such sites. There are so many languages out there, it’d be impossible to do that in a book. And besides, code and its structure varies wildly based on the application you’re building. The load imposed on the server varies as well, based on the nature of your application. Some require more RAM, others crave more disk space, others are cuckoo for I/O… you get the point.

What this book will do is to set you straight: what is scalability, and how it’s done, from scratch to finished product, from hardware planning to software planning. It’s all laid out, and it’s easy to understand. Oh heck, Cal even explains what a web application is. And he’ll shatter a few myths, such as this: scalability and performance aren’t the same thing. And, PHP can be used in scalable applications. What?! The heresy! Only Java is scalable, right? Nope.

You’ll also learn things such as… Which scaling (vertical or horizontal) is more cost and resource-effective? How do you load balance with both software and hardware? What in the world is involved when exposing web services? Well, it’s not about nerds flashing in the server room, that’s for sure. How should you react when someone pulls an RPC on your XML? Should you wash it with SOAP, or should you cry API Abuse? Is a data cache a good thing? Should you worry about your database slaves? Should you buy cheap machines like Google, or should you spend your cash on real servers? Read the book, and find out the answers to all these captivating questions.

By my estimate, most people interested in the subject will manage to read the book in less than a week, and that’s with leisurely reading in the evenings. That’s more than I can say about many tech books, where you get bogged down trying to understand the code and what it’s doing. This book is instructive, entertaining, and intellectually enriching. Cal has a lot of knowledge in building scalable websites, and there’ll be no mistaking that when you pick up the book. This fellow speaks from personal experience. Do yourself a favor, and don’t build a hamstrung site. Read this book first!