Everything you need to know about Microservices in 2021

Manju Naglapur | 11 min read

Distributed and loosely coupled, Microservices are architectural frameworks that enable development teams to rapidly and simultaneously develop multiple components of an application to cater to the evolving business needs.

It takes a similar approach of ‘single responsibility principle’ states “gather together those things that change for the same reason, and separate those things that change for different reasons.”
With enterprises moving towards an agile way of development and following the best practices of the DevOps model, the trend of a distinctive method of development to focus on single-functional components is enabled by the microservices architecture.
As every element in the microservice architecture is autonomous, that serves a unique functionality, each is responsible for its own data models, allowing smooth communication through multiple case suits.

However, the process is more than just about binding an application’s core function. Rather, it is to streamline the communication so that it helps prepare for upcoming challenges, failures, and new advances.

Microservices allows growing teams to:

1. Analyze individual services and functions.
2. Ensure vigorous bug fixing and error correction.
3. Frequently deliver complex applications.
4. Scale the application independently.
5. Focus on advancements and faster development cycles.

Microservices vs Monolith vs SOA vs Serverless Architecture: what’s the difference?

Monolithic Architecture
Microservices are independently running suits that often connect with lightweight mechanisms like an HTTP resource API. Comparing microservices architecture to monolithic style will help us understand the approach better.

Enterprise applications comprise of these three key elements:

· A client-side user interface
· A database
· A server-side application

A monolithic architecture combines these three components in a single unit on a single platform. It allows using basic features of your language and runs in a single process, further dividing the application into classes, functions, and namespaces. Testers can horizontally scale the monolithic architecture by running it alongside a load-balancer.

Some noticeable benefits of monolithic architecture are:

1. Easy development and deployment:

Testers can use various tools to facilitate the development of the application, and since all the actions are performed in the same direction, it will encourage easy deployment. The monolithic architecture allows developers to make changes at once, which saves time and avoids confusion.

2. Reduce cross-cutting concerns

Monolithic applications eliminate cross-cutting concerns like audit trails, rate limiting, logging, etc., as they work on a single code base.

3. Higher yield

The monolithic codebase does not have overhead costs of images and other orchestration. In the absence of a distributable workload, teams can use monolithic architecture to streamline the workflow and achieve better results.

Applications taking the monolithic approach are generally successful, but as organizations are looking to deploy more applications to the cloud, this approach doesn’t feel like the right fit. In the long run, it gets harder to keep track of the changes in modules, as altering a specific module means altering the entire monolith.

These limitations have encouraged the organizations to move towards a microservices architecture that involves building applications in individual services. Microservices allow developers to work on different services written in different programming languages and are deployed and scaled independently.

Microservices focuses on building a sequence of components that function independently that are held together with the help of APIs. API Gateway allows processing requests based on special services on the back end, collecting and sending responses back to the client. This architecture can be further divided into smaller services; for instance, for an e-commerce website, microservices can be used for handling registration processes, wish lists, and active orders.

Serverless architecture
This approach involves cloud computing for building and running the application, eliminating the need for infrastructure management. Serverless architecture works well when developers look for one-time tasks and auxiliary processes, allowing better functioning of client-heady applications and improving scalability.

Serverless does not mean “without-server”. The application is still running on servers, but a third-party service like AWS is responsible for running these servers allowing developers to deploy codes without worrying about server maintenance. The architecture also omits the need for application scaling, extra resources, database and storage systems.

Some key benefits of serverless architecture are:

1. Easily deployable: Traditional approaches can take up days or weeks in deployment. However, serverless architecture lets developers focus on the code and roll out applications faster.

2. Reduces costs: Since developers don’t have to handle servers, they can write high-quality codes and reduce overhead. Serverless architecture only charges for the CPU charges and the memory being used during the development cycle.

3. Better scalability: Serverless architecture encourages seamless and automatic scalability. The applications built using this approach scale themselves up as the userbase load increases. These applications can handle countless requests, making them more efficient than traditional applications that can’t bear the increased requests.

SOA (Service Oriented Architecture)
The two prominent roles of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) are being a service provider and being a service consumer at the same time, and both of these roles can be fulfilled by a software agent. This architecture features loosely paired software agents that perform a particular function, offering a platform that supports seamless integration and reusability of modules.

1. Easily maintainable: Here, each software service is an autonomous unit, which makes it easier for the developers to update it without affecting other services of the application. SOA-based applications are also more reliable as they are easier to debug, unlike monolithic applications that have a heavier code base.

2. Services are reusable: SOA-based components can be reused in various applications without affecting other services as they are self-contained and loosely coupled in nature.

3. Allows parallel development: This approach supports parallelism as it contains layers that can be developed and processes at the same time in parallel to other processes.

What are the benefits of a microservices architecture?

1. Resilience and Isolation: Microservices are deployed independently. Hence, if a component fails to function, developers can choose another service and the application will continue to run successfully. This makes microservices architecture a more profitable option for applications.

2. Better Scalability: Microservices architecture is highly scalable as it is based on smaller components that allow the scalability of specific elements based on the application’s requirements. An organization trying to work on different platforms and devices find this approach suitable for their projects.

3. Enhanced Productivity: Another benefit of microservices is that the architecture is comparatively easier to understand than traditional monolithic architecture. This feature allows expansion of development teams whenever needed, increasing productivity and reduced time to market.

4. Flexibility and Agility: Microservices approach enables developers to build servers using a framework or language according to their preference without disturbing the communication between the microservices suites. The smooth communication and flow in the microservices architecture is key to agility and flexibility.

5. Accessible and Evolutionary: Sometimes developers are not able to predict which device the application is going to run on. To solve this problem, microservices allows developers to deploy controlled updates without slowing down the application. When combined with agile development methodologies, microservices tend to support faster development cycles as developers can understand, update and enhance each process in a better way.

There is no doubt about the fact that microservices offer better tool selection, scalability, and more avenues for better development. On the other hand, it is also vital to look at the challenges do help organizations pick the right platform for their products. While microservices has various advantages, but it can affect the organizations’ cultural dynamics as each team is going to work on a unique service and its own user base. These may not sound like serious concerns, but they definitely affect the microservices architecture and the development cycle.

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Are there any challenges?

The multi-faceted nature of this architecture can pose a problem; let’s look at a few of these.

1. Dependency: As microservices architecture comprises individual elements, developers end up spending a lot of time identifying the dependencies in these services. Updating or building one service can lead to several other builds as well, which might create confusion and repetitiveness. Additionally, it is vital to monitor the effects that microservices have on the organization’s data.

2. End-to-end testing: Integration and end-to-end testing are two important branches in software testing. These tests become a little difficult to run as a failure in one component of the service can affect other services and cause them to fail. Developers need to be cautious while architecting these services to avoid such problems.

3. Updates and versions: Updating the services might break the backward compatibility in this form of architecture. Using multiple live versions for different clients can also be an issue as the complexity and difficulty in maintenance of the suites increases.

4. Interrupted deployment: in the initial stages of setting up the architecture, deployment might come off as a challenge for teams due to the microservices’ complex nature. A good way to fix this problem is to have a proper map and order of the deployment of services.

5. Monitoring and logging: Microservices are more convenient in a broader perspective, but it is important to make sure that the centralized log is in order as it binds everything together, or else the scale will become hard to manage. Since the teams will be working on various suites, it is essential to have a centralized view of the systems to figure out the source of the issue encountered.

6. Connectivity and debugging: Remote debugging fails to give positive results in the local integrated development environment (IDE) when there are dozens of services running at the same time. In this case, service discovery, centralized or integrated, might turn out to be helpful.

How to get started with Microservices?

While there are no standard principles for setting up a microservices architecture, organizations and themes are used by organizations over the years that can help us get started with building a robust microservices architecture.

1. Decomposing:
While getting started with a microservices architecture, identifying the application’s business capabilities will help the teams build services that take care of those capabilities. The process needs a better understanding of the business, and once these capabilities are identified, the teams can build services corresponding to each requirement. Each team can become an expert in the domain they are working on and come up with techniques that are best suited for these particular services.

2. Building the services
After identifying the business capabilities, the services can be built using the required techniques and platforms. For instance, teams can use different approaches for each service, like using Java with MySQL database for one and Scala/Spark for another. Once these services are developed, teams can run automated test cases and deploy them on various platforms.

3. Designing the services
It is vital to understand which parts of the services should be exposed and what protocols should be used to interact with the given services. It becomes difficult for the teams to change the services later if a great deal of implementation details is exposed. Clints relying on unnecessary details leads to a loss of flexibility while changing the code and deploying these services.

4. Decentralizing the services
Microservices architecture can be decentralized by teams working individually on each sector and service. Using an internal source model will help developers make the necessary changes in the code and submit the report instead of waiting for the service owner to work on it. A detailed service model will make it easier for developers to quickly understand the services’ requirements and work on them accordingly.

5. Deploying the services
Writing a detailed consumer-driven contract will help each consumer API to capture the requirements of the service providers. These contracts are shared with the providers so that they can focus on the obligations that need to be fulfilled for each client. Consumer-driven contracts should be passed before deploying the services and before making any changes in the API to help the providers understand the interdependency of the services.

6. Setting up standards
Introducing standards and best practices like error handling will help the teams write and understand the code better, avoiding unnecessary content and repetitive code. Creating API guides will be fruitful and there are various tools available like Swagger that are helpful in the development of API cycles and handle processes like designing, documentation, testing and deployment. The guide lets users enjoy the features of the application and use them effectively.

Leading Microservices frameworks for 2021

Spring Boot with Spring Cloud
Spring Boot is a well-known Java framework for building microservices architecture and provides full-stack microservices under Spring Cloud and numerous extension projects. This framework allows building large scale systems using simple architecture and complementing components.

Eclipse Vert.X
This framework supports various languages like Java and Kotlin, is non-blocking and event-driven. Vert.X allows the application to be scaled with minimal hardware and the services generally run on JVM.

Oracle Helidon
Helidon is a microservices framework offered by Oracle that comes in two variants, Helidon MP and Helidon SE. Helidon MP works with MicroProfile specification, which makes it a good choice for Java developers. Whereas Helidon SE supports native images for faster startup and uses a request routing API.

GoMicro transforms the microservices architecture into a set of tools that work as the building blocks of a particular platform and improves scalability. The platform deals with the complexity of the various services in the architecture and provides abstractions that the developers are already familiar with.

Molecular by NodeJS
Molecular is a suitable microservices for JavaScript developers. It is modern, faster and a robust framework for NodeJS and helps developers build reliable and scalable services. Molecular also provides a built-in registry, supports event-driven architecture and load-balanced requests.

Role of Microservices in DevOps

Microservices and DevOps work well together as they have a common toolset that is used for development and deployment. The common toolset allows teams to establish terminologies, process the requirements, dependencies, and other problems.

DevOps and Microservices work better when combined due to the common idea of breaking down problems into smaller sections and working on them individually. Microservices architecture supports the collaboration of smaller teams and increases developer freedom, further assisting in scaling up the application without affecting other services. Some additional benefits can be enjoyed by combining Microservices with DevOps such as:

1. Provides plug and play functionality
2. Reduction in complexity, resulting in the speedy deployment
3. Adaptable and scalable environment
4. Supports easy automation
5. Built-in functionality

Implementation of Microservices on AWS

AWS is an avenue for various services and features related to microservices. Applications can be decomposed into individual services using “serverless” services provided by AWS such as:

· Amazon S3- a serverless storage service
· Amazon API Gateway- fully functional API environment
· Aurora Serverless- auto-scaling RDBMS
· Amazon Kinesis- streams data processing
· Amazon Lex- for voice and text chatbots
· Amazon SNS- for sub/pub messaging

Ideally, AWS gives a head start to the business by providing these externally produced microservices to further build the application. It essentially helps build the services that have not been already created or the applications accessible by the developers. It also allows replacing of the components in the architecture with open-source alternatives. With expertise at hand, a stable infrastructure combined with a resilient team, organizations can build high-functioning applications with AWS and microservices architecture.

Who is using Microservices?

According to a survey report on Microservices published by O’Reilly, 54% of microservices adopters experienced successful results from the microservices implementation. Some benefits like scalability, flexibility, frequent releases, and accessibility of the architecture were widely recognized.

On the other hand, 45% of all users faced some issues while adopting a microservices architecture. As a survey attracts both positive and negative opinions, the failure of microservices can be linked to various factors that may not be aligned with the functioning and streamlining of applications as well as the teams trying to build them.

Nevertheless, microservices provides ease of scaling and enables continuous development, which makes the approach popular among both smaller and bigger organizations. Here are the top 5 well-known organizations that have adopted microservices and are benefitting from it.

1. Netflix
One of the most famous tech-giants Netflix switched to microservices architecture back in 2009. Expert developers claim that adopting microservices was a key strategy for the online streaming platform’s exceptional growth. With an astounding user base, it became difficult for the company to stick to monolithic architecture that caused incessant server outages.

2. Amazon
Everybody’s favorite online shopping portal Amazon was a humongous monolith until 2001. The company faced problems in transferring the change code to the developers, eating a lot of time and delaying the deliverables.

However, Amazon is one of the best examples of organizations that found success in a microservices architecture. With Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company also provides infrastructure to organizations to launch microservices and containers.

3. Uber
The application’s journey also began with a monolithic architecture. The application’s codebase failed to deliver all of the business’s core services, most importantly connecting drivers to passengers and bills and payments. Adopting microservices gave birth to many new features in the app and spread its accessibility across the world.

4. SoundCloud
With over 12hourse of audio content being uploaded on the platform every second, it was a good idea to shift to a microservices architecture, as monolithic architecture restricted scaling the application. SoundCloud decided to switch from the monolithic Rails system to microservices architecture to operate as a large social network with media distribution properties.

Wrapping up

Over the years, Microservices architecture has become an outstanding choice for building robust applications implemented by millions across the globe. It is a flourishing trend in the software industry and has numerous benefits as compared to traditional architectures. Introducing microservices architecture in the software development cycle will give a competitive edge and help the organization develop and launch seamlessly in the highly-competitive business landscape.