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Scaling vertically is still a valid strategy, and is scaling. Not every company needs to be able to scale to the moon, and if they don't, it's a poor use of time to focus too much on architecting for scalability.

With a lightweight PHP framework and a sensibly written app, you can stick to one machine for much longer than you can with Rails, and after that, it will require a fraction of the number of app servers. Beyond that, app processing time is generally much lower without all of that cruft, so you don't need to do as much caching, etc. to get a snappy webpage.

Maybe its just me but I don't consider "scaling up" as scaling. In my mind scaling means running on more then one machine.

Don't get me wrong though, throwing a bigger hardware box at a problem is a totally viable solution to most problems, up-to a point.

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