Improving upon monolithic application features becomes more complicated as the code base increases, which can create a significant barrier to innovation. Microservice architecture is one way to address this challenge.
However, microservices can be complex and challenging to implement. Therefore, it’s important to understand microservice architecture thoroughly as well as its benefits, challenges, and specific use cases.
What are microservices?
The concept of microservices refers to a cloud-native approach to application maintenance. With microservices, an application is divided into smaller, process-driven services that are loosely coupled, independently deployable, and able to communicate over well-defined APIs.
These services are built for business functionality. Microservices are often created around an organization’s business needs, and they utilize cross-functional teams to improve an organization’s service delivery.
Microservices architectures accelerate development and simplify scaling of applications to foster innovation and quicken time-to-market. These architectures are often decentralized to support various technologies, platforms, and approaches to data management.
Perhaps most importantly, microservices are designed to withstand failure. Monitoring microservices are an example of microservices that can significantly reduce the risk of failure.
Explore microservices strategies on Developer.com: Strategies for the Success of Microservices
Benefits of microservices
Microservices result in effective benefits like flexible scaling, simple deployment, freedom of approach, code reusability, and resilience.
Services can be independently scaled to satisfy the demands of the application features they support using microservices. As a result, teams can gauge infrastructural needs more accurately and correctly anticipate feature costs. They can also ensure services remain available during a demand surge.
Microservices ease deployment while enabling continuous integration and continuous delivery, which makes the processes of innovation and pivoting easier. It also simplifies the process of updating code and shortens time-to-market for new features.
Freedom of approach
Microservices architecture encourages teams to select the best tools for their use cases since they take an open-ended technological approach. This is especially beneficial as new tools emerge that are more successful or innovative than their predecessors.
Developers are spared from the task of building new capabilities without writing code from scratch as various services can be used as building blocks for other features. This improves developer productivity and efficiency.
Unlike in a monolithic system where the failure of a single component can lead to the failure of an entire application, independent services increase the resilience of an application. If one service fails, other services remain largely unaffected.
Challenges of microservices
Microservices present several challenges as well, including complexity and information silos.
A distributed system possesses its complexities since developers are required to deal with load balancing, and migrate network latency and fault tolerance. The distributed nature of deployment can increase the complexity and tedium associated with testing.
Without proper tools and processes in place to facilitate collaboration, microservices can create information silos that inhibit efficiency and innovation. Architectures with more services have the potential for a larger volume of information silos.
Learn how to address other challenges on TechRepublic: 4 common microservices problems, and a single way to fix them all
Uses of microservices architecture
Common microservices use cases include data processing, web app migration, payment processing and fraud detection, and media storage.
Microservices architectures speed up data processing to the point that many simultaneous requests can be processed instantly. Microservices platforms can improve existing modular data processing services by offering cloud support.
Web application migration
Microservices enable complex web applications to be migrated from monolithic applications to cloud-based environments as well as container-based microservice architectures. This migration allows teams to focus more on microservice APIs and less on responsibilities such as release cycles and implementation.
Payment processing and fraud detection
Ecommerce microservices provide organizations with a flexible method for extending, customizing, and scaling their payment processing capabilities.
Additionally, fraud detection proves to be one of the most relevant microservice architecture use cases, as microservices can be aligned with machine learning models to identify fraud. Fraud detection microservices can be incorporated into payment architectures to determine the correct actions to be taken on payment requests.
Microservices architectures allow video assets and images to be stored in a scalable object storage system. They also allow these objects to be served directly to mobile or the web. This reduces latency and is an ideal solution for streaming use cases.
Examples of microservices architecture
Netflix, Amazon, Walmart, and Spotify have demonstrated successful examples of microservices architecture.
Netflix completed the process of reengineering its monolithic services into microservices in 2012. This allowed the company to conquer service outages and scaling challenges.
Its architecture had more than 700 loosely-coupled microservices by 2017. Because of these microservices, Netflix’s cloud costs are a fraction of its data center costs.
Amazon’s developers analyzed the company’s source code to pull units serving a single, functional purpose. These units were wrapped in a web service interface to form a larger application.
AWS offers users its integrated building blocks that support any application architecture no matter the load, scale, or complexity. These include computing resources, storage and databases, networking and messaging, DevOps, and logging and monitoring.
Challenges such as overwhelming workloads led to a decline in revenue that prompted Walmart to switch to microservice architecture in 2012. This enabled Walmart to effectively use mobile applications to improve overall conversions. This also helped Walmart reduce hardware costs as well as computing power consumption.
With at least 422 million active monthly users, Spotify has individual microservices for its various business goals. Examples include user behavioral analytics for the recommendation engine, a search engine, and more.
These self-contained, single-purpose microservices are less dependent on each other due to their isolated nature. This helps to maintain Spotify’s availability, reliability, and resilience.
Is the microservice architecture right for you?
Microservice architectures present effective benefits for the design and implementation of enterprise applications. With the ever-evolving and increasing communication requirements and complexity of SaaS applications and the Internet of Things (IoT), the usefulness of microservices becomes even more apparent.
Microservices are worth considering for organizations that need a way to scale teams, traffic, and customers while also maintaining the agility needed to tackle complex problems.