If we get back to old times when we were all used to those old computer systems where all the applications we needed had to be installed, we could use them. But then came new advancements in technology which brought Web Applications that didn't need to be installed but we could use them by using our web browsers. They are not deployed on our systems but are present somewhere on the web server, and we can access them from our web browsers.
So now, there's no need for the web developers to install anything individually in every system; instead, they can upload it to the web server, and everyone can access it from that server.
But this was a thing of the past. With time, these web applications have become more and more complex, like ride-sharing apps, file storage apps, e-commerce apps, etc., which are much better, bigger, larger, and more complicated. Now, these single applications are divided into multiple mini-applications that communicate with each other and then retrieve the output as the end user asks, making it very easy and convenient for the user to use all these complex web applications efficiently.
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What are Microservices?
So, microservice is an approach to developing software comprising small independent units communicating with each other. The above discussion was all about how this concept of microservices has evolved. It all started with the monolithic architecture that was much more complex to use and maintain because if any fault occurred in any system, the entire system had to be troubleshot, but this is not the thing with microservices architecture.
What is Microservice Architecture?
Microservices architecture comprises loosely packed units that are distinctly defined. Here each unit performs its functions, unlike monolithic architecture. These can be deployed according to the different needs of the user. They can address the shortcomings of monolithic architecture very efficiently. The main aim of micro-services architecture is to make it easier to develop complex applications by dividing them into smaller services. Every component of a microservice consists of its CPU and environment and a team of developers, making it unique and different from other components. All this means that every component can run, work, and communicate independently without being dependent on others.
Nowadays, many companies are turning towards this concept of micro-services architecture.
For example, Amazon was previously working on a monolithic structure, which means it must be very careful while updating activities to avoid system failure. As the demand for this application increased over time, amazon put up more skilled developers behind the codes, and it continued to become more and more complex. This posed many challenges in increasing the customer base and coping with the demand.
To curb this problem, amazon finally divided its complex tasks into smaller versions of single tasks like separate codes for buying options and tax calculations. Each of these divisions was to be managed by a team of developers separately to bring efficiency to operations. All this is a part of establishing microservices architecture. Now, Amazon also develops the program for other organizations. In the same way, Netflix and Uber also paved their way toward the microservices architecture to run their operations correctly and overcome the problems faced by using the old monolithic structure.
The use of microservice architecture has become important when any new features are coming up for any website or application, when the company is very fond of releasing frequent updates and has many subdomains or when an organization is planning to increase its area of operation and trying to grow in the industry.
There are certain principles that the microservices work upon, which are:
- Microservice must be engaged in a single concern, making it a lot easier to handle and maintain. If it is following a single concept, it should work all around the same concept only and must not expose itself to round corners of other topics.
- Each microservice must be isolated from other microservices during development and testing. It should carry discrete boundaries because it must be differentiated and separate from its environment.
- It could be able to move. That is, it can be transportable from one environment to another.
- It should have its own space where it can store all its data which is separate from other microservices.
- It could be created, destroyed, and recreated as per the needs.
Features of Microservices Architecture
Decoupling means being connected easily. In microservices, the tiny units work independently. They don't know about other services, and any change made to one of them will not affect the working of other services. Microservices architecture is decoupled from within for easy building, alteration, and monitoring. The software developer can make changes in any of them without being worried about the working of the other services.
This means that the software is divided into various components having different services but working together with the help of network connections. It becomes flexible for the developer to get these components replaced easily in case of any faults. Each component is assigned a defined set of work, and it does that work by providing a complete solution for a full-fledged application.
3. Business Capabilities
Microservice components are designed individually and aligned with the business capabilities. The features of microservices allow them to take and execute business capabilities successfully. They perform only one function and are a top choice for many business enterprises.
One of the important aspects of microservices is the responsibility of the developer. In this, the developer who develops it also takes the responsibility to maintain it in the future. In this way, they get to understand it better and its usage by the rest of the users.
5. Continuous Delivery
It is one of the essential components of microservices. Continuous delivery means that the codes are developed in advance and are kept ready to be deployed whenever required without waiting. Anything revised in any unit automatically flows through a network where it builds, tests, and updates the changes. The developer does only the final step of deployment.
6. Decentralized Governance
Microservice governance is a framework for the policies, practices, and guidelines enterprises adopt with microservices. The main concept here is to reuse resources. Hence, the government is decentralized, enabling it to use different stacks to develop software. However, it does not follow a standardized pattern enabling the developers to choose from various options to solve their problems.
Agility means to move quickly and easily. Microservices give an edge over the old technology by providing agility to business processes. Since the units are separate services that can be changed according to the changing demands of the environment quickly and efficiently, it helps to pivot on the different software segments very easily. Moreover, it can accept and reject any updations quickly without any hassle.
Advantages of Microservices Architecture
Here are some of the benefits of microservices architecture:
1. Easy Deployment
Since microservice-based applications are much smaller and less complicated than traditional monolithic ones, it is very easy to deploy them. This feature allows the developer to do various experiments regarding different logic or business processes. One can substitute one service with another similar service if it's not working properly according to the needs.
2. Require Less Development Effort
Since it works on distributable development, one can concurrently create and develop multiple microservices, which means more and more developers will be able to work on the same service simultaneously, thus decreasing the period of its development.
3. Mixed Technical Stack
A combination of various tools combined to develop software or a program is called a stack. They can be used together and form a microservices technology stack consisting of various services working together and providing flexibility as a centralized system will no longer manage it. Rather it could be changed or modified according to our needs for a completely new experience.
4. Independent Development
Microservices architecture consists of small modules developed individually with an independent code without being affected by other modules. These services are loosely packed, completely independent, and may not have the same stack or framework. Hence, they can be developed and modified independently.
5. Improves Workflow
The different individual services of microservice infrastructure are focused on different business capabilities. As a result, the work is automatically distributed among these services, improving the overall workflow.
6. No Dependence On One Technical Slack
It is very open because developers are not bound to use slack to develop each service. They are free to use and choose what the best-suited technology or language for a particular service.
7. Offer Improved Fault Isolation
One of this architecture's greatest advantages is that one can isolate the fault of services without affecting other services. For example, a customer might not be able to upload a picture, but he will still be able to browse, edit, or do anything else on the web application. Hence, it restricts complete failure and can partly solve the isolated faulty service.
Now that we have understood microservices' benefits and advantages let's look at a few challenges.
Challenges in Microservices Architecture
One of the biggest challenges that enterprises face while shifting towards microservices architecture is the dependency of various services on each other. Thus, this dependency must be checked before microservices as it might adversely affect the company data.
The testing part is also very important to focus on, as any one defect in any of the services might affect any other service in the network due to some other failure depending on the connection built by the developer.
Versioning: one has to be very careful while introducing any update in the architecture as it might break backward compatibility. The code to handle this might become extremely complex and difficult to maintain and handle.
Deployment of these services is a bit complex at the initial stages. One must think about the many services to be deployed and their order. This could be very overwhelming for the developer.
4. Logging and Monitoring
It is also important to have a centralized view of the system to monitor activities efficiently without affecting the whole system.
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Examples of Microservices
Microservice is an architecture style of developing software applications that comes with the features:
- Loosely created services
- Divided into various components
- Continuous delivery
- Decentralized governance
- Alignment with business capabilities
In today's era of fast-moving technology and the need for complex web applications, microservices have stepped in to solve this problem. Microservices refers to the style wherein developers can develop complex applications in separate services and codes that work individually and deliver continuous services without affecting the rest of the services.
Each service component has its work and program to perform and give the results while communicating with other services. It comes with easy deployment. It is not necessary to develop it according to one slack only. It can be developed with multiple slacks. It helps to improve workflow and have a smooth, functioning, and efficient system.
In today's fast-paced business environment that is continuously changing with changing demands of the customers and stakeholders, more and more organizations are turning towards microservice architecture to meet the standards and continue to grow. We have mentioned examples of organizations where microservices are prominent in the next sub-heading.
Examples of Microservices Architecture
Netflix is a video streaming platform that is famous worldwide, with a huge customer base of paid subscribers. It has been a pioneer in the world of microservices. It has been serving its customers with huge success, and its fail-proof architecture is the main reason behind this success. Around 2008, Netflix was facing huge demand for its services which it could not fulfill, and hence it was when it realized the importance of microservices and started to shift its work towards this. Netflix deployed an architecture wherein it managed to build its huge set of services by dividing them into smaller parts, each connected but having its working structure.
Through this, it was able to handle its workload. Its engineers used to isolate any individual service that was faulty. Netflix used two main components as part of its microservice architecture: Amazon Web Services to host the data and Open Connect, which was its self-developed thing for content delivery. Both components must work together for the customers to enjoy uninterrupted video streaming.
Amazon started its operations as a bookstore, and today it is the world's largest e-commerce platform. All this was possible because it understood the need for microservices. Amazon divided its developers into small groups and gave them the work of developing different parts of the whole giant into small individual services. Each software developer was responsible for the part he created and developed. Because of this, amazon became very capable of handling its increasing customer base and moving forward with growth.
For this purpose, it came up with its own-house cloud computing solution known as Amazon Web Services(AWS). It was so successful in managing a huge workload that it became available for commercial use by other companies. Through this, it became easy to keep track of customers visiting the website, to keep the data safe, to know user purchase behavior, etc.
Uber is a riding application. Initially, it used the old monolithic structure for its services as it used to operate in a limited area and driver availability as well as a limited number of rides in a whole day. But now, as we know Uber, it offers a large number of rides in a single day involving a large number of customers per day. When it expanded to various cities, it faced the problem of handling all this in monolithic structures. Uber had to depend on one developer for the whole system, which was risky and came with a huge dependency on a single developer who had been working on it for a long period.
Hence, they turned themselves toward microservices architecture. Diving the whole code into various small units would mean that each unit can be developed individually, and each unit can have its framework and database. This helped Uber cope with the problems faced and grab the opportunities successfully.
E-bay is an e-commerce platform that uses microservices for its operations. It started its operations with a monolithic structure, and it used to have a suggestion committee of architecture that would review large-scale projects. But soon, this committee could not say yes to many projects because of their complex structure. It became very cumbersome for their members to study the project and revert fully. This encouraged them to move towards microservices.
Today, e-bay uses more than 1000 microservices. To handle this, e-bay has different teams of developers for each service. They work independently and handle the whole infrastructure on their own. They also tend to remove any other dependency to make the services work smoothly without any faults.
Monolithic Architecture vs. Microservices Architecture
Monolithic infrastructure is the one companies used in the past, and some are still using it. It is a style wherein the developer used to develop and maintain only one system, composed of different modules of codes that are again smushed into one before reaching the end user. It has one large database, and all the services are managed through this only. It is more of a traditional way of developing web applications. Now, it poses huge challenges when a company wants to bring any updates or wants to isolate any service, or wants to expand its operations. On the other hand, monolithic architecture has various advantages also.
Points of differences between Monolithic architecture and microservices architecture can be described below:
- Some processes, like logging and monitoring, are easy to handle in monolithic structures as they only have to be handled on one platform. Still, in microservices, this can pose a problem.
- In case of updating, microservices have to be very careful regarding the unit to be updated as it also has to check any other dependent service over the one that is being updated, whereas, in monolithic structures, engineers know the right kind of changes needed to be made for introducing updates plus it has to be done in one single base at once.
- Monolithic structures pose huge challenges when accepting new opportunities, as the adoption and testing procedures are lengthy and cumbersome. In contrast, microservices can handle the complex testing and adoption part easily by isolating the service to be developed and then running the final testing.
- The monolithic structures are huge and could be very slow, increasing the opening time. In addition, it takes time to open when the codebase is large and complex. Microservices eliminate this slow startup time as each service runs individually, carrying its database.
- If the interface faces any fault in the monolithic structure, the whole application must be troubleshot, which will be very time taking. In contrast, microservices do away with this drawback as only a single faulty unit can be isolated, providing flexibility.
Monolithic and microservices architecture both have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, a small business with a limited workforce should adopt a monolithic structure for its services because microservices will be a huge thing to handle then. On the other hand, if the application that a business plans to develop is very simple and involves very few features, then it should adopt a monolithic structure.
A monolithic structure should only be used if a business wants to spend less time initially in application development and come up in the market as soon as possible without needing much expertise. On the other hand, businesses with huge customer bases and daily demand must shift to a microservices structure. It will make all these changes possible in less time with less complexity but require a great set of skilled developers and engineers.
Thus, one should use the microservices structure for complex and multifold applications and monolithic structures for simple and easy applications. Some organizations might start with monolithic and then move towards microservices. In contrast, some organizations may take time to develop completely but start with a microservices structure only. But to understand microservices, one must first study monolithic structures to have a better and clear understanding of web application development, as microservices involve individual units of code, which are like mini monolithic structures.
Thus, microservices have proven great, but it also comes with challenges. For any organization, a monolithic application that backs intelligent developers can prove a great success. But, on the other hand, with microservices, any bad decision regarding the design of any service might prove costly for the organization.
Micro-service may become the preferred style in the future for application development by developers because it provides great benefits.
Although it seems to make things a lot simpler and easy to manage, they might create complexities in the communication of services, making them difficult to control. Hence, a brilliant architectural design from an expert is extremely necessary to move forward. For the same, one must have good coding knowledge in languages like Java, Python, etc. To start, you can look at Java Programming for beginners and then advance your skills as per requirements.