Who said “Ruby on Rails applications cannot scale?”

Ruby on Rails is an awesome framework, but some people worry about its scalability issues. With the expansion of your organization, you may need to scale your website or web app. A good example for Rails scalability is Shopify. Even Github and Airbnb use Rails for their apps. Should you ditch Rails if your app goes big? – This is a topic of debate among the RoR developers and users.

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Understanding Scalability:

The scalability of an app includes its capacity or capability to manage the number of users at the same time. Not just the framework, but the architecture of the app should be scalable to handle the increasing number of users simultaneously.

How to scale your Ruby on Rails application?

Vertical Scalability with Ruby on Rails

This is one of the simplest ways to make the server manage an increased number of requests per minute (RPM). Vertical scaling involves the addition of more RAM and upgrading the server’s processor. In short, app owners give their server computer more power. However, this method of scaling the RoR app is suitable only in some conditions.

Vertically scaling a server running an app gives a positive effect only at the initial stage. When your traffic on the app increases, you may have to consider upgrading the processor or adding more RAM is technically impossible.

One major drawback for this approach is that some of the parts may require computational resources while scaling your RoR application. For instance: Facebook requires multiple servers for updating news feeds and processing images. Image processing may require a less powerful server as compared to news feeds. So, Facebook uses a more powerful server for news feeds.

Vertical scalability may not be a practical solution, and so, we can choose to scale a Rails app horizontally.

Horizontal Scalability with Ruby on Rails

This method of scaling the Ruby on rails application is similar to how we scale with several other frameworks. It involves converting the single server architecture of your application to three-tier architecture. It is the right method to scale apps where the server and load balancer (Nginx), database instances, and application instances are located on different services. The developers can allocate smaller loads that are equally distributed across machines.


This is commonly used server software for Rails app. Nginx is deployed on a single machine to act as a load balancer and reverse proxy. One requires a medium-powered server for Nginx as the server needs less computing power to work normally even under high loads. Its main purpose is to filter and distribute the load over multiple servers.

Tools to help you scale Rails applications

It is important to determine and eliminate the bottlenecks in a Rails application in order to scale it properly. RoR developers may not be able to find the bottlenecks manually. An efficient way to locate issues when scaling apps is required. One can use a dedicated software program to get information about the issues with the scalability of the Rails app. Some popular software programs are New Relic, StatsD, Flame Graphs, Splunk, and more. They check the app and collect the statistics. The gathered data helps to figure out what to change.

One can use Flame Graphs to understand RAM and CPU loads while running an app. Developers can learn what processes are time-consuming and once the bottlenecks are identified, one can think of the best solution to remove it.

Related Article: Common Mistakes In Rails Development

Wrap Up

There is no magical formula to scale Ruby on Rails applications. As all apps are different, one should identify the characteristics of app, and find ways to overcome the issues that act as a hurdle for scalability of the RoR application. Conducting infrastructure and performance optimization, you can scale your Ruby on Rails apps easily. i-Verve is a leading RoR development company that has worked on several projects.