Non-Abstract Large System Design (NALSD) is an approach where intricate systems are crafted with precision and purpose.

It holds particular importance for Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) due to its inherent alignment with the core principles and goals of SRE practices.

It improves the reliability of systems, allows for scalable architectures, optimizes performance, encourages fault tolerance, streamlines the processes of monitoring and debugging, and enables efficient incident response.

In this blog, we'll dive into the essence of NALSD, understand its significance, core principles, and understand the step-by-step process of designing a NALSD system.

What is NALSD and Why is it Important?

Non-Abstract Large System Design (NALSD) is a comprehensive approach to designing intricate systems, emphasizing tangible, real-world components over abstract concepts.

It's a methodology that prioritizes practicality, efficiency, and scalability. It ensures that systems not only meet theoretical requirements but also work in real-world scenarios, ultimately delivering optimal performance and user satisfaction.

One of the example of NALSD is Google's Borg cluster.

The Core Principles of NALSD

The following are the fundamental principles of NALSD:

a. Practicality Over Abstraction:

The approach emphasizes the importance of tangible solutions over abstract theories, ensuring that every design element serves a practical purpose.

b. Scalability and Flexibility:

Systems are designed to adapt and scale seamlessly, accommodating changes in workload and requirements without compromising efficiency.

c. Reliability and Redundancy:

The robustness of NALSD lies in its focus on building reliable systems with redundancy measures to ensure uninterrupted operation even in the face of failures.

Now, that we know the core principles of NALSD, let's understand how to design a system from scratch.

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Step-By-Step Guide to Design a NALSD System

a. Define Clear Objectives:

Start by clearly defining the objectives and goals of the system. Understanding the purpose will guide every subsequent decision in the design process.

b. Identify Key Components:

Break down the system into manageable components, identifying key elements and their interactions. This step ensures a holistic approach to design.

c. Prioritize Practical Solutions:

Choose practical solutions over theoretical ones, keeping in mind the real-world implications and constraints of the system.

d. Scalability Planning:

Develop a plan for scalability, allowing the system to grow and adapt to changing demands without compromising performance.

e. Redundancy Measures:

Incorporate redundancy measures to enhance system reliability and ensure continuous operation, even in the face of unexpected failures.

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Google NALSD Design Process

Step 1: Basic Design Phase (Feasibility and Resilience)

This phase focuses on evaluating the conceptual viability of the proposed system before diving into specifics.


Example: Running the entire application on a single computer might be possible for a tiny app, but not for a high-traffic platform.

Step 2: Choosing the System Architecture (Monolithic vs. Distributed)

Assuming the system is conceptually viable, this stage focuses on the technical architecture:

  • Distributed System: If a single machine isn't enough, you need to distribute the workload across multiple machine.
  • Monolithic Approach: In specific cases, a well-designed single-machine architecture might still be preferable due to simplicity, ease of development, and potentially lower operational costs. However, it typically offers less scalability and resilience compared to a distributed system.

Step 3: Initial Requirements:

Read & Understand - Thoroughly comprehend the project requirements before proceeding with the design phase.

Required SLO'S (Service Level Objectives) - Identifying and establishing specific SLO'S helps set expectations for the system's performance, reliability, and other key metrics.

Ask that you consider - Think broadly and consider various aspects when defining the initial requirements.

Download the NALSD Google Work Book for Free

↳Click here to download it


NALSD System Design Tips:

a. Stay Grounded:

Always prioritize real-world considerations over abstract ideals to ensure the practicality of your system design.

b. Continuous Evaluation:

Regularly evaluate and reassess your design to adapt to changing requirements and technological advancements.

c. Collaboration:

Encourage teamwork among team members to incorporate a variety of viewpoints into the design process, resulting in more comprehensive solutions.

d. Test Rigorously:

Rigorous testing is crucial to validate the functionality and reliability of your NALSD system before deployment.

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How Zenduty Implements NALSD Approach

The initial phase involve understanding design requirements, with the team to address questions such as:

  • Is the planned system feasible within the specified constraints?
  • Can it operate effectively and fulfill its objectives?
  • Will it exhibit resilience to endure failures and maintain uptime?

After the team collectively addresses the critical questions, we delve into the detailed understanding of the initial requirements.

The deployment strategy is to begin with a single machine to test the system's functionality and verify that it aligns with the predefined criteria. This approach allows us to assess the system's performance, efficiency, and resilience within a controlled environment.

We only switch to distributed setup when we really need to. This decision depends on the challenges we face during testing and the initial setup.

This method ensures that our system aligns with the project requirements. We refrain from complicating things until the project expands and requires more complexity.

Real-World NALSD Examples:

Let's understand some practical instances of NALSD:

Amazon Web Services (AWS):

Amazon's cloud computing platform, AWS, is a prime example of NALSD. It's designed to be scalable, flexible, and reliable, allowing businesses to adapt their resources based on demand. This ensures that services remain efficient and cost-effective in the real world.

Google's search engine employs NALSD principles by breaking down its complex search algorithm into manageable components. The system is designed to handle an enormous amount of data, provide relevant results quickly, and adapt to changes in search patterns over time. This highlights the effectiveness of Google NALSD in improving the search experience.

Netflix Streaming Service:

Netflix utilizes NALSD to deliver seamless streaming experiences. The system is designed to scale effortlessly, providing a consistent and reliable streaming service regardless of the number of users. It also incorporates redundancy measures to ensure uninterrupted entertainment.


In conclusion, NALSD is a powerful methodology that transforms theoretical concepts into tangible, reliable systems.

Once you understand its core principles and follow a structured design approach, you can build scalable, flexible, and resilient systems that stand the test of time.

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Essential Resources:

Download the NALSD Google Work Book for Free

What is NALSD?

Non-Abstract Large System Design (NALSD) is a practical framework developed by Google for designing and building reliable, scalable, and resilient large-scale systems. It emphasizes simplicity, modularity, and proactive planning to address the inherent complexities of large-scale systems.

Why is NALSD important?

  • Manages Complexity: Manages intricate relationships and dependencies, reducing failure risk and simplifying maintenance.
  • Enhances Scalability: NALSD systems adapt to increasing demands, ensuring smooth operation with growing user base or data volume.
  • Strengthens Resilience: Anticipates failures, implements robust recovery mechanisms, minimizing downtime during unexpected issues.
  • Improves Efficiency: Focus on clarity and modularity leads to more efficient development, testing, and deployment processes.

What are the core principles of NALSD?

  • Simplicity: Prioritize clear, concise designs, avoiding unnecessary complexity.
  • Function-Focused: Break down the system into smaller, independent services with clear responsibilities.
  • Data Flow Importance: Ensure consistent and integral data flow throughout the system.
  • Scalability: Design for anticipated growth in workloads and user base without bottlenecks.
  • Degradation: Plan for potential failures, implement mechanisms to maintain critical functionality even with component failures.

What is an example of NALSD?

AWS, Google, Netflix and many more.

NALSD enhances system resilience by anticipating potential failures and implementing robust recovery mechanisms. For instance, it involve planning for server outages and implementing failover strategies to maintain service availability, minimizing downtime during unexpected issues.

What does NALSD stand for, and how does it differ from traditional system design approaches?

NALSD stands for Non-Abstract Large System Design. It differs from traditional approaches by prioritizing clarity, modularity, and adaptability, aiming to manage complexity in large systems effectively.

Can NALSD be applied to smaller-scale projects?

While NALSD is particularly beneficial for large systems, its principles can be applied to smaller-scale projects. The focus on clarity, scalability, and resilience makes it adaptable to various project sizes, enhancing overall system design and performance.

Anjali Udasi

As a technical writer, I love simplifying technical terms and write on latest technologies. Apart from that, I am interested in learning more about mental health and create awareness around it.