Many developers can still remember their professors impressing the importance of modular application development. To have the ability to reuse modules of code throughout their applications, what a dream. The irony was not lost, that all code gets compiled into a single file running a single process.
Microservices, utilized by modern web applications, have truly achieved this long-standing goal of gaining application performance through modular design.
What Are Microservices?
For us to explain what microservices are, we need to first rewind and look at what the monolithic (single) architecture has to offer and point out its flaws.
Monolithic web applications were initially built the same way desktop applications were. Developers would work together to build a single application using a single language and a common library of tools and config files. Although this method served developers well for some time, as web applications started to grow in complexity, the bottlenecks of monolithic architecture became apparent.
Organizations often found themselves having to increase the amount of cloud processing dedicated to their applications because a small percentage of the applications are more demanded by clients. That meant that even though cloud hosting became more powerful and less expensive, costs could be saved if they could ramp up a single specific part of their web application.
That is where the microservices architecture shone the brightest. Imagine if the previously mentioned development team could break their application down into smaller parts, each having its dedicated portion of the processing. Microservices are exactly that.
The microservices architecture can be defined as one where a web application is broken down into multiple, self-contained parts, based on the functionality of each part. Allowing each part to exist on its own, on the cloud server. Also referred to as “loose coupling,” microservices can communicate with other microservices of the same application through custom application programming interfaces (APIs), making the application seem like a single application to the user.
The microservices architecture solved the processing issue because elastic cloud processing can easily be ramped up for any of the individual services when necessary and scaled down once the performance peak has passed.
Elasticity in cloud computing refers to the adaptability of the system. It is useful for companies that are not 100% sure what they want for their cloud, allowing them to adapt the system according to their needs, like memory, storage, processing power, and bandwidth.
One of the earliest examples of microservices implementation is the Amazon web store. Amazon used to rely on a monolithic architecture before 2000. Amazon soon found that the only way it could expand its business and have a responsive site at the same time was to subdivide its e-commerce platform into individual microservices.
Why You Should Consider Utilizing Microservices
Apart from the cost and scalability benefits, microservices architecture has a few other benefits.
Applications developed in this way are typically brought to production faster because individual components can be developed and pushed to the cloud independently.
Web applications using this architecture are also more resilient to breakage since one faulty component will not bring down an entire application.
Developers also have the freedom of developing microservices in different languages as the communication between microservices happens on an API level through HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) calls, or something similar.
Before you start redesigning all your applications to utilize microservices architecture exclusively, there are some considerations you need to be aware of. The microservices architecture essentially divides your application into a distributed system, introducing foreign complexities you might have not been aware of.
You need to correctly configure the communication between all the services of your application. If there is a communication breakdown between the services, you may have part of your application trying unsuccessfully to communicate with another, causing it not to function as intended. Unfortunately, troubleshooting the application will not always give you a clear answer about exactly which microservice is malfunctioning.
Although it might seem like a daunting task to redesign your application to utilize the microservices architecture, many tools exist that can aid developers to build and effectively test individual microservices. There is a case for developing applications using the monolithic architecture, too. While your web application is still relatively small, you might find that a monolithic architecture is cost-effective. Microservices should only be considered once your application’s maintenance and performance scaling become a bottleneck for your business.