How to Scale Ruby on Rails Applications for Faster Development
Published at May 16, 2023

Many companies use Ruby on Rails to build their web applications. This robust framework has the potential to create feature-rich web apps. However, as your app grows and more users start to interact with it, scaling becomes essential to ensure fast performance. 

We've compiled some of the best practices for scaling Rails applications to support faster development. So, if you're looking to take your web application to the next level, keep reading to learn more!

An Overview of Ruby on Rails

One article from RubyonRails showed that the Rails framework was developed by Ruby programmers with the intention of simplifying web application programming by assuming that all developers have the necessary prerequisites. 

In comparison to other languages and frameworks, Rails allows for greater efficiency in programming by requiring less code for more output. Experienced Rails developers also argue that it enhances the experience of building web applications by increasing enjoyment.

There are two main principles of the Rails philosophy:

  • "Don't Repeat Yourself" (DRY): It is a software development principle that implies "Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system." 
  • Convention Over Configuration: Rather than requiring you to specify details through countless configuration files, Rails defaults to a set of conventions that it believes to be the optimal method to accomplish a number of tasks in a web application.

Why Scale Ruby on Rails Applications?

Here are the reasons why scaling Ruby on Rails applications is important:

  • Fast and responsive performance: Scaling your Ruby on Rails application ensures that it can handle increased traffic and load, resulting in a faster and more responsive performance for users.
  • Avoid negative consequences: Failure to scale can lead to slow query performance, increased database load, and ultimately, a poor user experience. Scaling your application helps avoid these negative consequences.
  • Future growth: Scaling your application is crucial for accommodating future growth and ensuring that your application can handle even larger user bases in the future.
  • Positive user experience: By scaling your application, you can ensure that your users have a positive experience and are more likely to return to your application in the future.
  • Avoid downtime: Failure to scale can lead to downtime, which can be costly for businesses and lead to lost revenue. By scaling your application, you can ensure that it remains available and accessible to users even during periods of high traffic.

Best Practices for Scaling Ruby on Rails Applications

Scaling your Ruby on Rails application is crucial for ensuring fast performance as your user base grows. Here are some techniques for scaling RoR apps:

1. Optimising Database Queries

Database queries can be a significant bottleneck in web application performance. To optimise database queries, you need to identify slow queries and use indexing. 

Slow queries can be identified using tools like New Relic, which allows you to monitor query performance in real time. Indexing can significantly improve query performance by reducing the time it takes to search for specific data in a database.

2. Caching often 

Caching is a technique that stores frequently accessed data in memory, making it quickly accessible and reducing the need to query the database repeatedly. 

There are several types of caching, including page caching, action caching, and fragment caching. Implementing caching in Ruby on Rails is relatively simple, and the Rails framework provides built-in caching functionality.

3. Load Balancing

Load balancing is a technique that distributes incoming web traffic across multiple servers to prevent overload. 

Further, load balancing can be achieved using hardware or software solutions. Setting up load balancing for Ruby on Rails involves configuring a load balancer and multiple application servers.

4. Horizontal Scaling

Horizontal scaling helps Ruby on Rails scalability by adding more servers to your infrastructure to handle increased traffic. 

Unlike vertical scaling, which involves upgrading to more powerful servers, horizontal scaling involves adding more servers in parallel. 

Setting up horizontal scaling for Ruby on Rails involves configuring multiple application servers and a load balancer to distribute incoming traffic.

5. Vertical Scaling

Vertical scaling is a way of improving the performance of a Ruby on Rails application by increasing the capacity of its existing hardware or software resources. This approach involves upgrading the CPU, RAM, or storage capacity of the server hosting the application. 

It is a simple way to increase the processing power of the server and improve the performance of the application without changing the architecture of the application. 

However, there are limits to how much you can vertically scale a server.

What are the consequences of not scaling?

If you don't scale your Ruby on Rails application as it grows, you'll likely experience the following consequences:

  • Slow load times: A large user base can cause your application to slow down and load at a snail's pace, frustrating users and driving them away.
  • Downtime: Increased traffic can cause your application to crash, resulting in costly downtime and lost revenue.
  • Poor user experience: When users experience slow load times and downtime, they're less likely to return to your application and may even leave negative reviews.

Software for Scaling Ruby on Rails Applications

When it comes to scaling Ruby on Rails applications, there are various software options available to help you with the process. Here are some popular ones:

  • Puma: A multi-threaded web server that can handle multiple requests simultaneously, improving application performance and speed.
  • NGINX: A high-performance web server and reverse proxy that can improve the speed and scalability of your Ruby on Rails applications.
  • New Relic: A monitoring tool that provides real-time visibility into application performance, helping you identify and troubleshoot issues that may arise as you scale.
  • Sentry: It is ideal for large-scale Ruby on Rails applications. You can track errors in real time, identify and prioritize critical issues, and quickly resolve them before they impact your users.
  • Redis: A popular in-memory data store that can help improve the speed and performance of your web application by caching frequently accessed data.
  • Sidekiq: A background processing tool that can help you offload time-consuming tasks and improve the responsiveness of your application.

Wrapping Up

Efficient and maintainable application architecture heavily relies on scalable applications. Therefore, prioritising the scaling of your applications is crucial to take your company to the next level. 

If you are developing larger Ruby on Rails applications, you may need a dedicated team of developers. 

We are a team of experts that can help you in developing web applications. Get in touch with us today.

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