When it comes to solving software problems (or any kind of problem, for that matter), the hardest challenge can often be our perception of the size or complexity of the solution we need to implement. Although some obstacles demand truly sophisticated solutions, this frame of mind can generate unnecessary inertia and prevent leaders from acting.
If this situation sounds familiar to you and you want to take a different approach for your next product, then it may be time to consider microservices as an alternative to the traditional monolithic model.
What are Microservices?
In the classic software development paradigm, products are designed and built almost like skyscrapers. Their foundational infrastructure needs to be firm and immovable because each subsequent level (or feature) will be strictly dependent upon its predecessors. This requires equal measures of foresight and good guessing because it represents a commitment to an architecture or technology stack that can come to feel rigid.
In microservices, on the other hand, products are designed like custom homes, with each feature (or “service”) being developed independently from its counterparts by specialists and then loosely coupled with others to create a cohesive whole. These services are typically created and maintained by small teams and can leverage completely different technologies.
Features of a Microservice Architecture
The defining feature of a microservice architecture is the agility through which it unifies many discreet software components to address a larger need. The smaller features it unifies address specific, narrow needs that are factors in an overall business outcome.
For instance, in a web application for project management, some examples of separate services might be user account management, workflow catalog management and customer support management. Any of these services could be built individually with an appropriate technology stack and then subsequently unified via APIs on the back end and a single web layer on the front end. This combination of disparate parts is the essence of microservices.
Advantages of a Microservice Architecture
While the monolithic model has its advantages, microservices offer at least the following benefits:
- Flexibility: With less emphasis on interdependencies, the focus can shift to developing services (using whichever technology is most suitable) for well-bounded purposes.
- Scalability: As user needs evolve, new services can be rapidly created to address those needs and then readily integrated into existing systems.
- Specialization: Not only do individual services specialize in their respective functions, but development teams specialize in solving specific problems.
- Innovation: As engineers concentrate on optimizing separate services, they uncover novel approaches and can adapt uninhibitedly to new technologies.
Software architecture is an early stage consideration for any product, so it is important to identify the correct option for the products you hope to deliver—and to do it well in advance of beginning development. However, as you consider launching something new or expanding your existing offering, these advantages can guide your decision.
Best Practices for Designing Microservices
Once you have decided to pursue a microservice architecture, it is crucial to spend adequate time assessing your business objectives and mapping out your plan for achieving them. These are the basic steps we recommend you follow:
- Succinctly state your goals and describe how microservices will help you accomplish them.
- Identify the services you will need, with their business justifications, and then categorize them into two groups: “Mission Critical” and “Nice to have”.
- Diagram the relationships between the mission-critical services and define how they will interact (including the method by which they will connect to one another).
- Repeat Step 3 for the nice-to-have services.
- Identify service-agnostic backend and frontend components that will be used to tie all the services together.
Completing this exercise will help you establish a reasonable baseline to which your development teams can align their efforts. If you encounter any challenges during this process or would like additional input from an expert, our seasoned consultants are always available to assist you. We have helped many clients successfully implement microservices to solve problems like those your business no doubt faces today.