I've come across a job posting that asks for experience with "Scalable Integrated Systems", but honestly that sounds like "generic buzzword," and I'm trying to figure out what the actual work behind "Scalable Integrated Systems" is. What does a "Scalable Integrated System" look like?

Is it making distributed computing software? Is it writing APIs between services in a way they "scale", and if so, scale in what way?

I don't understand what a Scalable Integrated System is.

The company seems competent and I have competent programmer friends working there who say they are a great place to work in. If it was [email protected], I wouldn't bother asking.

  • 2
    Please don't use the career tag.
    – ChrisF
    Jan 9, 2012 at 16:00
  • 6
    It means whatever the Director of Marketing wanted it to mean . . . Jan 9, 2012 at 16:03
  • 3
    It means "here be dragons!". Seriously.
    – Mike Nakis
    Jan 9, 2012 at 16:37
  • @MikeNakis The company seems competent and I have competent programmer friends working there who say they are a great place to work in. If it was [email protected], I wouldn't bother asking.
    – Incognito
    Jan 9, 2012 at 16:51
  • Wow, that's interesting. I think you should include this information in the body of the question because it makes a difference. Of course, it does not make a difference as to what the definition of the term is, but it makes a difference in how people are going to approach the question.
    – Mike Nakis
    Jan 9, 2012 at 19:11

3 Answers 3


It's only complicated if you're looking for a definitive answer. First, they want an experienced programmer. Single-user, desktop apps with small amounts of data is not enough. Signs of "Scalable Integrated Systems" would be:

  1. Large and probably complicated data sets
  2. Lots of concurrent users
  3. Being part of a development team
  4. Probably runs on multiple servers and devices like app servers, web services, client apps either internally or connecting to outside providers.
  5. Several departments in a company would use it or some other multi-user group scenario.

This is not an all encompassing list nor are all the parts required. It's not like once an app goes from 100 users to 101 it crosses some great divide.

The sad part is you may have the skills to be more capable at this then someone with experience.

  • I see the scaling part but I'm not sure I understand the integrated systems part of what you're saying.
    – Incognito
    Jan 9, 2012 at 17:11
  • #4 from the list - various devices/systems/servers/apps communicating.
    – sdg
    Jan 9, 2012 at 17:20

My understanding of an "integrated system" is that it's a group of components that are able to function independently more or less, but that provide additional value when grouped into a system.

Consider as an example the equipment available to military units. A hidden infantryman can see a target with their eyes, take control of a UAV to lase the target, and transmit those coordinates to an attack helicopter's targeting system, who can fire a missile at it without having to peek up over the hill they've been hiding behind, with a high level picture being shown to a commanding officer back at base via satellite. They can act independently, and there are other ways to get the job done, but working as an integrated system they are the most effective.

For a search engine, the components would be crawlers, databases, backups, and web servers. You can send a crawler off to do its job, and it can act independently, but you need system integration to make the whole thing work as a whole.

The more disparate types or sheer volume of components your system can support, the more scalable it is.


I will give it a shot.. keeping it abstract and hopefully simple ;-)

System consists of (N) components, integrated with each other, and has efficiency metric m(N). Scalability means as long N grows m(N) must keep it up, at least linear.

Common sense ideas as entropy growing constantly with time or N must give a clue that at some point system will fail to keep it up and stay efficient. That is why it is regarded as engineering challenge.

Now integrated means components are connected and interacting with each other (sending signals, information, sharing resources, etc.).

Often with word integrated one actually means heterogeneous. For instance, if N is a network (graph) some nodes would be more stronger connected than other forming contexts with different levels of integration.

In terms of software it means systems are different because they are written in different languages, using different platforms, tools, architectures and design principles, people and so on. Basically if something has to be integrated it is assumed that it is even more difficult than just working with a system of similar components.

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