Scaling throughput and performance in a sharding database system

Scaling throughput and performance are critical design topics for all distributed databases, and sharding is usually a part of the solution. However, a design that increases throughput does not always help with performance and vice versa. Even when a design supports both, scaling them up and down at the same time is not always easy.

This post will describe these two types of scaling for both query and ingest workloads, and discuss sharding techniques that make them elastic. Before we dive into the database world, let us first walk through an example of elastic throughput and performance scaling from daily life.

Scaling effects in a fast food restaurant

Nancy is opening a fast food restaurant and laying out the scenarios to optimize her operational costs on different days of the week. Figure 1 illustrates her business on a quiet day. For the restaurant to be open, there are two lines which must remain open: drive-thru and walk-in. Each requires one employee to cover. On average, each person needs six minutes to process an order, and the two employees should be able to cover the restaurant’s expected throughput of 20 customers per hour.

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