Introduction to Is Microservices Really Useful
As technology marches on, things become more complex. This seems to go against the more natural progression of things becoming more accessible, what with an increasing number of people gaining access to new devices.
Programming languages abound, platforms, infrastructures and scalable systems become more and more automated, and domain-driven design is the new norm. A new architectural pattern was a long time coming. Microservice architecture is here to address that need.
Microservices in a nutshell
The idea for microservices can be traced as far back as 2005, with Peter Rodgers’ “Micro-Web-Services.” Though in their current form microservices are quite different, the core idea remains services that can call on other services in various language run-times, all to make complex systems faster to design.
If traditional app building can be described as a monolith, microservice architecture is all about smaller, granular, individual processes – exactly as the name would suggest.
All these independent processes can communicate with one another, allowing very large, complex structures to be carried out relatively effortlessly.
This also makes it possible to utilize the same processes across a variety of apps, streamlining the optimization of app development, particularly those developed for a cloud-based environment.
What makes microservices tick
There are several criteria microservices architecture must meet to be classified as such:
- a variety of components – the most basic characteristic of microservices. By their very definition, they are complex. All of the services can be utilized independently by design – doing so is guaranteed not to disrupt the app’s functioning.
- evolution – apps based on monolithic architecture may have a hard time adjusting to the ever-changing environment that is information technology. Microservices, on the other hand, has evolution baked into their very fabric. As they involve plenty of smaller processes, it’s far easier to adjust just one of them to ensure that your app is ready for a new device. It’s an architectural model that’s perfectly suited for a slower, more gradual change in structure.
- simplicity – another important element of microservice architecture is the simplicity of its routing. The services can act on requests received immediately, completely independent of all the others, making information flow very fast.
- stability – while far from a flawless model, microservices are designed to remain stable even in the face of failure. Of course, you can and should monitor your microservices to ensure failure is reduced to a minimum, but you can be sure that even if one of them were to fail at any given point, all of the other services will be able to continue functioning, thanks to their granular design.
A flexible model
Microservices can be an incredible tool if you know what you’re doing. Of course, there is no one foolproof option that will work under any given circumstances, but microservices still have a great deal to offer to those that are looking for a smart, future-proof solution.
One of the biggest benefits of microservices is just how flexible they are. As all your services are deployed independently, it is very easy to repair and update them without disrupting the flow of your entire system. Traditional monolithic models would need to be halted entirely for any minor bug to be fixed.
The flexibility doesn’t end there, however. Since code and data stores are not shared between the services, there are far fewer dependencies within the system, making the code simple and new features very easy to add.
We’ve already touched on how this type of structure makes bugs much more easily fixable, but what this also means is that you won’t need large teams to maintain your app.
A smaller team will do the job and they’ll do it more efficiently, without any need to add more tasks for specialists that will only get more tangled in the standard corporate structure.
Finally, microservices are easily scalable. Their independent structure allows the subsystems to be scaled out without applying that process to the entire app. All of this results in much greater efficiency.
But no one said it was going to be easy
The benefits of microservices are undeniable, but there are two sides to every coin. While many apps will benefit from such a framework, it’s important to keep in mind this is not a universally applicable solution.
While the independent services are the biggest draw to the architecture style, there’s no denying the fact that an app like that will be more complex than a monolithic one.
Of course, each of those services is manageable on its own, but looking at the big picture, things can get muddled. Of course, this is offset by the fact that even if some of the services aren’t working properly at all times the app can still go on, but there’s still quite a lot to take care of if you want to make sure everything is in top shape.
We’ve also mentioned how the wide range of languages and frameworks in a decentralized system is a huge draw of microservices, but this very diversity may lead to issues not encountered in a monolithic architecture.
Data will also be far more diverse than in a monolithic system, so it’s important to maintain good data integrity. As with the point made above, good management becomes crucial.
Lastly, while microservice architecture will allow you to reduce the number and size of your teams, their competence is another matter entirely.
Microservices require a lot of attention to detail, so to use their potential to its fullest, you’ll need a skilled, experienced team that knows what it’s doing.
The case for monolithic architecture
Microservices may be the future, but does that mean that monolithic architecture is outdated? As with most things in life, that depends entirely on your situation.
While most apps will benefit from monolithic architecture, there will be circumstances when monolithic architecture will simply be the better option for you.
- Cross-cutting concerns (i.e. logging, caching, performance monitoring, etc.) are more manageable, as they can be handled on a global scale, rather than being carried out for every individual service separately.
- As a monolithic application is one unit instead of an amalgamation of several, testing and bug fixes can be carried out more efficiently.
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Monolithic architecture benefits simply from being around longer. Most teams will know how to handle them as a majority of apps made up until now have been designed using it as a basis, so you won’t need to hire experts in a new field. This simplifies many of your potential operations, cutting any costs that may arise. This makes monolithic architecture particularly well-suited for startups looking to assemble a team on a budget.
In the end, which architecture model will be the best one for you is entirely dependent on circumstances. Do you want to make an app using a tried and tested formula? Or would you rather future-proof your app and are ready to take on more expensive crew members?
Microservices architecture may just be the tool app development needs. It may still be in its early stages, meaning experts that are so crucial to making it work are relatively rare and expensive, but it might turn out that it’s exactly what you need to make your app truly shine.