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May 26, 2006

"Building Scalable Web Sites": Learn to Build, Scale, and Optimize Web Apps the Flickr Way

Sebastopol, CA--The largest and most popular web applications of the moment, such as Flickr, Friendster, MySpace, and Wikipedia, handle billions of database queries per day, have huge datasets, and run on massive hardware platforms made of commodity hardware. While Google might be the poster child of huge applications, these other smaller (although still huge) applications are becoming role models for the next generation of applications, now labeled Web 2.0. With increased read/write interactivity, network effects, and open APIs, this generation of web application development promises to be quite interesting. But system architects and programmers need help to design and build web applications that will cope with the demands of this new era.

Building Scalable Web Sites (Henderson, O'Reilly, US $39.99) can provide that help. Readers will learn the tricks of the trade so they can build and design applications that scale quickly--without all the high-priced headaches and service-level agreements associated with enterprise application servers and proprietary programming and database products. Culled from the experience of Flickr's lead developer Cal Henderson, Building Scalable Web Sites offers techniques for creating fast sites that visitors will find a pleasure to use.

As Henderson says "With the reemergence of web applications as viable businesses, the take up of Ajax, and the increased demand from users to have massive real-time systems with lots of data, more and more people are building large systems. Maybe they're starting out small, but before long they're going to encounter a lot of the same problems and limitations that we've seen time and again.

"Creating popular sites requires much more than fast hardware with lots of memory and hard drive space," Henderson adds. "It requires thinking about how to grow over time, how to make the same resources accessible to audiences with different expectations, and how to have a team of developers work on a site without creating new problems for visitors and for each other."

Henderson observes that there are plenty of theory and reference books about building web applications but very little literature about the practicalities of building and maintaining anything large. In his experience, however, companies that built applications on a large scale all faced the same problems and eventually arrived at the same conclusions and solutions. "It would appear that we've probably found quite sensible solutions," he says. "This book is an attempt to collect together a lot of the ideas that have come out through trial and error. We've already made a lot of the mistakes, so why force everyone else to make them again?"

Building Scalable Web Sites provides helpful ideas for the following, and much more:

  • Designing the software architecture underneath your application
  • Choosing and running a software development environment that will keep programmers, designers, and visitors happy
  • Keeping the data on which your application runs clean and secure
  • Presenting information to visitors from all over the world
  • Partitioning and distributing databases to support large datasets and simultaneous transactions
  • Providing services APIs and using services from other providers to increase your site's reach and capabilities
  • "I'm a realist and a pragmatist," Henderson admits. "While theory and text-book procedures are useful, they are frequently impractical, especially on the leading or bleeding edges of technology. Theoretical knowledge is no substitute for practical experience, and every topic in the book is based on my real-world experience with Flickr and other large web applications."

    Whether readers are planning a small site with hopes of growing big, or already have a large system that needs maintenance, they'll find a library of ideas for making things work in Building Scalable Web Sites.

    Additional Resources

    Building Scalable Web Sites
    Cal Henderson
    ISBN: 0-596-10235-6, 330 pages, $39.99 US, $51.99 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

    About O'Reilly

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