What are Microservices?

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What are microservices?

The larger, more complex, and more advanced a software application becomes, the more difficult and costly it becomes to manage, evolve, and scale. In addition, innovation becomes more difficult as complex changes to the code base are required to make changes or experiment. Microservices offer a solution to all these problems - we reveal how.

Microservices as an alternative to monolithic architecture

Microservices refer to an architectural, organizational approach in which software consists of smaller services. These services act independently of each other and communicate via clearly defined API interfaces. In simple terms, therefore, the software does not consist of one large program, but rather many small functions that communicate with each other and thus ensure the availability of the various functions of the software.

Microservices thus circumvent the basic problem of monoholistic architecture, in which all the functions of a software are directly related to each other. This not only leads to scalability issues, but also increases the risk to application availability. Since every small part of the software is interconnected, even one faulty part can cause the entire system to become inoperable.

In everyday business, the microservices are also assigned to independent teams that only take care of this section of the software. This creates teams that are not only significantly more productive due to shortened communication and hierarchies, but can also react much more flexibly and quickly to new trends, or fix bugs and other problems. In addition, this model enables a high level of specialization of the various teams, which allows better results to be achieved.

How microservices work

Unlike the monolithic model, where all functions and areas are interconnected, in a microservices architecture a software system is divided into many small areas that are completely independent of each other - called microservices. The various microservices communicate with each other via carefully planned API interfaces and thus function as a unified software system.

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However, the microservices are actually completely independent of each other - for example, each service can easily be designed in a different programming language and implemented on a different platform. This has the advantage that the development team can always find the best solution for the particular service - for example, one microservice may use Java, while the next microservice of the same software system uses nod.js.

In addition, a microservices approach also makes it much easier to implement external interfaces. The best example of this is Netflix. The streaming provider has not only very successfully converted its entire architecture to AWS cloud-based microservices, but also makes a large part of its successful applications available to other users for free as Netflix OSS (Open Source Software Center).

The technological advantages of microservices

One of the most important advantages of microservices is certainly the minimized risk to application availability. This is because if one of the areas is affected by a serious error, then this has no impact on all other areas of the software system. This contrasts with monolithic architecture, where it only takes an error in a single area to render the entire system inoperable.

This, in turn, makes one's team much more willing to innovate and experiment, and more able to work according to the "fail fast, fail forward" principle. After all, a single failure in a microservice system has nowhere near as drastic an impact. In addition, the teams also become more independent and can work much more effectively and quickly in small, independent groups.

In addition, such a division also enables significantly better scalability of one's own system. If a single area becomes overloaded, this has no effect on the other areas - only the microservice in question needs to be scaled. This also allows developers to react much faster and more efficiently to new trends and changes on the market, thus avoiding software obsolescence.

Here is an overview of the most important advantages:

  • Minimized risk for application availability
  • Innovation incentives
  • Better scalability
  • Increased autonomy
  • Increased specialization
  • Avoidance of software obsolescence

The benefits of microservices using Uber as an example.

Uber is another great example of a highly successful microservices implementation. When Uber was founded, it was only intended to be a ride-hailing service provider for the city of San Francisco. In other words, a solution that had to serve only one service and only one region - perfect for a monolithic architecture.

The system quickly reached its limits, however, when Uber began expanding first to other cities and then to other countries. First, for each new region and feature added, the entire system had to be edited. As a result, Uber could only use developers who had been working on the program since its founding days. At the same time, an increase in peak loads in just one region caused the entire Uber system to become overloaded.

Moreover, every small update to the software became a risk factor; after all, a single bug could cripple the entire system. To avoid precisely these dangers, Uber switched to a microservices structure that not only made systems more decentralized, but also more productive. The company's unbroken success underscores that this decision was exactly right.

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