Digital upstarts disrupt the software market every day. Despite talented IT teams in architectural and development work, maintaining, modifying, and scaling monolithic applications to respond to evolving trends and increasing demand is impossible.
The solution to this need is: A Microservices architecture. This is a set of patterns for software development and deployment focused on speed and productivity. Microservices help enterprises with their digital transformation journey.
With the massive growth of mobile solutions and cloud services, microservices serve as a useful strategic tool for software developers. Developers are increasingly adopting microservices architecture over traditional monolithic development to speed up their development process and boost agility.
This article provides an overview of what microservices are and how it benefits the software industry as well as businesses.
What is Microservices Architecture?
Microservices architecture refers to a software development style that structures complex applications as a collection of small, independent services. Each service is:
- Loosely coupled
- Highly maintainable and testable
- Independently scalable and deployable
- Organized around business operations
When you combine DevOps, the principles of SOA, and containers, you get microservices. These services communicate with each other using simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and other network-based messaging protocols.
Developers can break down highly scalable and flexible applications into separate services, each supporting a particular business function.
Microservices architecture emerged from a common set of tool-centric DevOps ideologies. Modern developers combine microservices and DevOps, which helps them deliver highly scalable and flexible applications. Microservices boost the productivity of DevOps using a common toolset, which can be used for both application operations and development.
Successful Case Studies
Netflix stands as a role model when it comes to implementing a microservices architecture. In 2009, this American media-services provider moved to microservices in response to the increasing demand for their streaming service. Using microservices architecture, the engineers created an open-source technology focused on the best Internet television network. This enabled Netflix to provide 193 million subscribers, with about 10 billion hours of TV shows and movies.
Spotify has roughly 75 million monthly users, and the average length of a session is 23 minutes while performing complex business roles in the backend. The company has around 90 teams, 600 application developers, and 5 development offices on two continents working on the same product. This is important to minimize these dependencies as much as possible. Microservices architecture allows Spotify to have a large number of services down at the same time without affecting the users’ experience.
Walmart Canada converted to a microservices architecture in 2012 since it was failing to scale for millions of page views per minute and was down during peak times. As a result, Walmart’s conversion rate was up by 20% overnight, mobile orders increased by 98% instantly, and the company has never faced downtime on Black Friday or Boxing Day. At the same time, the company saved 40% of the computing power and experienced 20-50% cost savings overall. Similarly, many large-scale projects, including Twitter, eBay, Netflix, PayPal, the UK Government Digital Services are benefiting from the microservices architecture.
Benefits of Microservices Architecture
Microservices architecture scores above traditional monolithic architecture by offering the following benefits:
- Increases resiliency
With microservices, your application is decentralized and decoupled into services that act independently. When one service fails, the application allows its neighboring service to continue functioning without affecting the user experience.
Because of improved fault isolation, large applications remain unaffected or minimally affected when a single module fails to function or someone updates it. This helps improve service availability and delivers a better user experience.
Even when you have to bring down several systems for maintenance, users won’t even notice it.
- Cross-cutting business functionality
By using microservices, you don’t need standard pieces of functionality used in the organization multiple times.
The gateway offloading design pattern enables individual microservices to offload shared service functionality to the API gateway level. These cross-cutting functionalities include user management, authentication, authorization, fault tolerance mechanisms, service discovery, QoS, load balancing, analytics, logging, etc.
- Enhances scalability
Microservices are easier to scale compared to monolithic apps. As each service is a separate entity, teams can efficiently scale the modules facing performance issues with:
- More effective capacity planning
- More containers
- Less licensing cost
- The hardware that best matches functionality requirements
Developers can scale each service according to its criticality to the application, memory, throughput, and CPU load. They can deploy critical service modules on multiple servers to assure the availability of the functionality without impacting the performance of the other service. This scalability results in better customer-experience and significant cost-savings.
You can scale services at a granular level, allowing for efficient system optimization and organization.
- Improved productivity and speed
The microservices architecture breaks down complex applications into smaller, manageable modules that are easier and faster to develop. This allows multiple teams to work on modules simultaneously without having to wait for other developers.
Due to the simplicity of managing a microservices architecture, the process can also speed up quality assurance since testers can test microservices independently. Testers will independently validate and create test cases on individual services, while the programmers are working on the other ones.
- Flexibility in using technologies
Since there are no dependency issues among entities, developers can experiment with the latest technologies on the specific modules to increase the application’s usability.
One of the benefits of Microservices is that ability to run multiple tech stacks that best fits your service needs. In fact, microservices written in different programming language can coexist with other fragments. This helps with Developers can avoid using technology stacks if they do not provide a consistent user-experience, and also being able to develop in stacks that match your team’s expertise.
The ability to continuously modernize your platform using development stacks that you and your team are comfortable with is one of the great benefits of the microservices architecture. This will ensure that your platform stays up to date. This also helps if you plan to scale your application in the future. You can add new components to the app easily or scale services independently.
- Simplified deployment
Microservices helps overcome the challenge of the application change-management process. Because each component is individually modified, tested, and deployed without affecting other services, it leads to accelerated time to market.
- Real-time processing support
The publish-subscribe framework is fundamental to a microservices architecture. This framework enables real-time data processing to provide direct output and deep insights.
- Efficient cross-functional teams
Microservices enable DevOps teams to develop independent microservices simultaneously. DevOps methodology enables developers and IT Ops to work collaboratively so they can deliver high-quality software faster.
Rather than moving code from one type of specialist to another, cross-functional teams together, develop, test, deploy, monitor, and maintain the software.
To speed up processes while reducing errors, DevOps teams benefit from automated continuous delivery pipelines that enable them to experiment with new features in a safe and secure way, as well as recover quickly from failures.
Overall, combining microservices and DevOps makes cross-functional teams more productive, reduces application development costs, improves product quality, and drives higher business value.
- Outsourcing flexibility
When business owners want to offload work to third-party service providers, their common concern is ensuring the safety of their intellectual property. With microservices, businesses can outsource their non-core business functions without having them to disclose their core services.
- Portability and Interoperability
Open standards such as Node.js and JSON used in a microservices architecture allow for third-party solutions. These enable the integration with microservices developed using different programming languages. Thus, the development of “building blocks” can be repurposed in new solutions in the future.
Security In Microservices Architecture
Deployment of a microservices architecture in your organization requires new approaches to security as optimal approaches used for monolithic applications no longer work.
For monolithic applications, security teams use centralized security modules that cover authorization, authentication, and other critical security measures. But this kind of centralization in microservices architecture diminishes distributed deployment and reduces efficiency. Also, most host-based network security tools fail to monitor microservices containers.
Some best practices for securing your microservices are:
- Use OAuth/OAuth2 industry standards for user authorization.
- Prioritize key services using ‘defense in depth,’ an information assurance principle that places multiple layers of security controls throughout an information technology system.
- Don’t create your own encryption tools. Instead, use reliable tools like NaCl/libsodium.
- Use a distributed firewall that provides a more granular, centralized control over microservices.
- Use security scanners for periodic vulnerability and security scanning of your containers.
Undoubtedly, microservices are becoming increasingly popular because of unmatched benefits. There are a few drawbacks. For instance, managing multiple databases and transaction can be cumbersome, and developing distributed systems can be complex and can take time for your team to learn and adopt.
Of course, the required automation and appropriate tools can address these drawbacks. In the end, you must do your due diligence and understand what fits the specific use cases related to your business.
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