Microservices are on the rise, and there are perfectly good reasons for that. A microservices architecture allows developers to build a software application as “<href=”#footnote-etymology”>suites of independently deployable services”. Though relatively new, this approach is touted to solve the challenges associated with a monolithic structure by offering greater flexibility, scalability, and reliability of developed solutions.
Among its early adopters is Netflix that started shifting to cloud-based architecture back in 2009. Today, the media behemoth relies on microservices to effectively serve its 130 million subscribers. Amazon and eBay also leverage a distributed microservices structure to cope with extreme complexity of their applications.
Now, while you might not be the next eCommerce mammoth just yet, this approach can bring real benefits to your software development project.
1. Faster time to market
Essentially, a microservice architecture provides a way to break down an application into loosely coupled modules. Each module, or microservice, is built, tested, and deployed in parallel, meaning you can engage separate teams to accelerate the development process.
For even faster application delivery, developers use lightweight containers that encapsulate a runtime environment and all dependencies for a service. Among other things, this isolation ensures portability. A container-based application can be consistently deployed on different platforms without changing the environment, which significantly improves productivity and increases speed.
With everyone going agile, a conventional monolithic architecture may not cut it anymore. In a monolithic application, it becomes increasingly difficult to introduce changes, let alone ensure continuous deployment.
That being said, a microservices-based approach brings agility back into the development process. Changes can be introduced into a containerized microservice without any impact on the rest of the application, which makes the whole process much faster, more reliable and less error-prone. In the context of ever-changing business requirements, such agility may prove an invaluable asset.
A good application should always be designed with scalability in mind to accommodate the ever increasing load and traffic. A microservices architecture lends itself well to horizontal scalability, allowing you to add more instances as the need arises. When deployed to the cloud, you typically only pay for those capacities you use — a benefit that will help you keep within the budget.
The modular nature of microservices also gives you flexibility. Once you know what service causes a bottleneck, you can scale up just that microservice instead of the entire application, which would definitely save you time and effort.
One of the most significant benefits offered by microservices is excellent availability. To ensure that an application remains available to your end users at all times, a microservices-based architecture uses high-load setups that leverage load-balancing to evenly distribute the load. Since each microservice is encapsulated in a container, developers can implement fault isolation techniques to reduce the impact of a service failure and improve application resilience.
In a monolith, rolling out a new feature requires a restart of the entire system, which may lead to downtime and affect user experience. Switching to microservices means that update rollout can be a stress-free experience both for you and your end users. By using platforms like Kubernetes, an open source management system, you can enjoy a smooth, zero-downtime deployment.
5. Independent tech stack
The idea of using different languages to build one application is not new. Neil Ford introduced the term Polyglot Programming back in 2006, but a microservices-based architecture truly enables this concept. Since each microservice can be written in a different language on a different platform, developers are free to choose the best programming tools for each function. This flexibility allows leveraging each language’s strengths, which can translate into better performance, faster time-to-market, and greater user satisfaction.
The building blocks of your application, microservices are organized around business capabilities rather than technical features. These business capabilities are complete, meaning they can be performed without any interruptions and are not dependent on other services. It also means that microservices are adaptable and can be used in different business contexts, which makes them a valuable business asset.
7. Autonomous teams
Since each microservice is built around a specific business function, it allows you to engage different software development teams to work together on the same product. An autonomous team is responsible only for one functionality it is developing, so it can’t block or slow down the development process.
If you are building a feature-rich complex solution, which requires collaboration of distributed teams, microservices can be a blessing. Look at Spotify: the company leverages a microservices architecture to effectively organize the work of “90 teams, 600 developers, and 5 development offices on 2 continents”.
Microservices are not just a buzzword in tech. An evolutionary response to inflexibility of a monolithic architecture, this architectural style has real, pragmatic value, including business agility, continuous deployment, and flexibility.