What Are Microservices?

There are many architectures which can be followed to develop the required software system. Picking up the right one is the key. Microservices are one of the software development techniques used to develop complex software systems. Of course, the word “complex” can be subjective. Here the software system which involves a lot of functionalities can be labeled as a “complex” system.

In the microservice approach, the whole software system is broken down into individual pieces based on their functionalities and then it allows the developer to build upon those pieces independent of each other.

One Thing at a Time!

Microservices allows different technology stacks to be used for different functionalities. It supports the modular approach of loosely coupled modules so that they can be independent of one another.

In contrast to microservices, there is another architecture present out there to develop the software system which is known as Monolithic architecture. Unlike microservices, monolithic does not divide the whole system into small sub-parts or modules but it treats the whole system as a single unit and allows the developer to develop it only in one go which is definitely a tedious task for complex systems. Monolithic architecture is not suitable for all complex tasks and it also does not support the philosophy of DevOps (software development with information technology operations).

Let’s take an example to demonstrate the difference between these two architectures more precisely. Let’s suppose, we are to develop an application like Uber. It will include individual functionalities like login service, search for a cab, book a cab and billing information. The monolithic architecture will treat the whole system as a single unit and it will try to develop the system as a single module. On the other hand, the microservice architecture will develop the functionalities in an isolated manner and it will also deploy each function independently of one another.

Why are Microservices Important?

The question can be asked, why don’t we simply adopt monolithic architecture? After all, we have to implement all of the functionalities, so what’s the point of doing them individually? Well, allow us to convince you about the importance of microservices.

  1. Easier development cycle: As a software system is being broken down into smaller pieces according to business functionalities, it is easier for the development team to develop them independently. Developers can even use different programming languages of their own choice to develop different functionalities. Developers can develop some of the microservices in python, some in Java and some in .Net as well. However, it is not recommended to go with multiple languages to develop different microservices of a system.
  2. Fault tolerant: In monolithic architecture, if any of the functionality stops working because of any reason, it affects the whole system which in turn leads to the downfall of the whole system. But this is not the case with microservices, any problem in any of the functionality will not affect the other one because of their independent nature.
  3. Easy deployment: As microservices are built independently, they can be deployed independently without waiting for months or even years for the development of the whole system.
  4. Reusability: A already developed microservice for a particular software system can also be used at other places as it is a completely independent part.
  5. Easily Scalable: If a particular microservice faces heavy load, we can scale that particular microservice very easily without affecting any other services. Thus, it can also help you to utilize the resources in an efficient manner.

Examples of Microservices

Now, let’s have a look at some of the popular examples of microservice architecture usage.

Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service, has successfully moved from a  monolithic to a microservice architecture because of the continuous evolvement of their services.

Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce store, has also moved from a monolithic to a microservice architecture. One of the microservices could be used to manage a cart, one to manage user information, and another to manage billing details and so on.

SoundCloud, an online audio distribution platform and music sharing website, also makes uses of microservice architecture for development of the whole system.

Paypal, a worldwide online payments system, also moved from a monolithic to a microservice architecture.

Benefits of Microservices

Microservices emphasize maintainability and scalability of software. As mentioned above, the major benefits of microservices are:

  • An efficient and simpler development cycle
  • Highly scalable
  • Hassle-free deployment
  • Ease in enhancing
  • Flexibility
  • Resiliency
  • Reusability

Microservices emphasize modularity by loose coupling and high cohesion. This approach is particularly beneficial if you are looking to modernize your existing application. Have a look at our application modernization guide here.

When to Use Microservice Architecture?

Like everything else, microservices also have limitations. There are conditions where you should go with monolithic architectures, like when you have to develop a small scale, less complex and a lightweight software system which only involves few functionalities. Why?  Because a small scale application will have only a few numbers of functionalities which in turn can be developed faster, deployed faster, and can be scaled easily.

In such a scenario, monolithic can do the job for us. The microservice architecture also comes up with problems like testing complexity, DevOps complexity, difficulty in managing microservices.

Microservices should be used in the following situations:

  • Where you have to develop a complex software system that has lots of functionalities.
  • The functionalities are harder to develop and deploy in a single go.
  • When modularity and code reusability is your main priority.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve looked at the brief overview of what microservices are, their benefits, some examples, and when you should and shouldn’t consider them to use for your own application or software system. Microservice architecture has been increasingly gaining recognition from tech-giants, and it is undoubtedly a future-proof development style.

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