In the age of technology, businesses are experiencing a digital renaissance. Customers are interacting with companies through mobile devices and social media platforms more than ever, and they expect a higher level of service. This has forced businesses to re-evaluate how they operate to meet customer demands. One such way companies are changing the way they work is by adopting the benefits of microservices.
The question is, why are microservices so helpful to modern enterprises? What benefits do corporations receive from using this architectural style?
In this article, we provide an in-depth exploration of seven key benefits of microservices. But first, we’ll briefly define microservices to bring newcomers up to speed on this technology.
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What Are the Benefits of Microservices?
Microservices application architecture involves breaking a monolithic application into component functions or services. After identifying the individual services, developers refactor the monolith so that each service runs autonomously as a separate “microservice.” Then, they loosely connect these microservices via APIs to form a more extensive microservices-based application.
The resulting microservices-based application offers a pluggable architectural style. This style enables fast, cost-efficient upgrades, making it easier and less expensive to scale one part of the application. Importantly, you can do this without affecting the rest of the application.
Developers usually run each microservice in a container on a cloud-based service such as Amazon AWS. Then they use container orchestration tools like Kubernetes to efficiently allocate processing power and other resources to the containers as required.
For a more detailed overview of microservices, check out our DreamFactory guide, “What Are Microservices?”
The Benefits of Microservices
Below we’ll explore seven key benefits of microservices with illustrations and examples:
1. Improved Scalability
Scalability is one of the most significant benefits of microservices. In a monolithic application, increases in user traffic affect all aspects of the app. For example, if website visitors purchase more products on an eCommerce site, the increased load might cause the entire application to crash. This is because all components of the monolith share the same server resources, so the front-end, back-end, database, and other components become overloaded simultaneously.
In a microservices application, on the other hand, each service has its dedicated resources. So if traffic to the front-end website increases, only the front-end services will use more resources. The database, for example, won’t be affected since it runs as a separate service with independent resources. This improved scalability helps prevent outages and ensures that users always have a positive experience.
An orchestration tool like Kubernetes can improve scalability by dynamically allocating resources to services as needed. So if traffic to the front-end website increases, Kubernetes will automatically provision more resources to that service. But if traffic decreases, it will de-provision resources accordingly. This ensures that services only use the resources they need, which helps keep costs down.
Scalability also makes deploying new features and updates easier without taking the whole system offline. With a monolithic application, even a tiny change can require the entire system to be taken down while the new code is deployed. But with a microservices architecture, only the affected service needs to be taken offline for changes or updates to be made.
This can significantly reduce the time and cost of deployments and minimize the risk of errors or downtime.
Microservices offer a clear advantage for companies that expect to experience rapid growth.
Netflix offers an excellent example of using microservices to overcome scaling challenges. In late 2008, Netflix experienced a three-day service failure caused by increasing server demands. After struggling to rise to these demands, Netflix decided to refactor its monolithic application into a horizontally-scalable, distributed system of microservices running on Amazon AWS cloud servers.
As Yuri Izrailevsky, the vice president of cloud and platform engineering at Netflix, states:
“We realized that we had to move away from vertically scaled single points of failure, like relational databases in our datacenter, towards highly reliable, horizontally scalable, distributed systems in the cloud.”
The switch to microservices came with many benefits, including:
- Denormalized data leading to faster performance
- Loose coupling leads to easier development and deployments
- Centralized logging and monitoring
- Increased fault tolerance
Here’s a map of the Netflix microservices architecture:
2. Better Fault Isolation for More Resilient Applications
With a microservices architecture, the failure of one service is less likely to negatively impact other parts of the application because each microservice runs autonomously from the others. Nevertheless, large distributed microservices architectures tend to have many dependencies, so developers must protect the application from a dependency failure-related shutdown. According to InfoQ, “on a high volume website, a single back-end dependency becoming latent can cause all application resources to become saturated in a matter of seconds (see image).”
Fortunately, the benefits of microservices architecture allow developers to prevent cascading failures with features like circuit breakers, which averts server resource depletion if a calling service has to remain on hold for a failed service that never responds.
Avoid Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs) between microservices if possible – they cause cascading failures. If you refactor an operation into a separate service, redesign the containing operation to be fully asynchronous. Leverage the message bus to insulate services from one another so that temporary failures, redeploys, or downtime in one service don’t guarantee failures in another.
Finally, you can build fault-tolerant microservices using Hystrix, an open-source solution that Netflix created to stop cascading failure and bolster the resilience of its infrastructure. According to Netflix, “Hystrix is a latency and fault tolerance library designed to isolate access points to remote systems, services, and 3rd party libraries, stop cascading failure and enable resilience in complex distributed systems where failure is inevitable.”
3. Programming Language and Technology Agnostic
When creating a microservices-based application, developers can connect microservices programmed in any language. They can also connect microservices running on any platform. This offers more flexibility to use the programming languages and technologies that best fit the project’s needs and your team’s skill sets.
By becoming programming language agnostic, you can quickly adopt new technologies as they emerge and evolve. You’re no longer tethered to a single technology stack because you can use the best tool for each job. For example, if you need to develop a data-intensive microservice, you can use Java and the Spring framework. But if you need to create an event-driven microservice, you might choose Node.js.
The benefits of technology-agnostic microservices include:
- Increased Productivity: Developers can use the tools they know best, which leads to increased productivity and fewer learning curves.
- More Flexibility: Technology-agnostic microservices offer flexibility in using the best languages and tools for each project.
- Improved ROI: You can improve your return on investment by using existing resources and adopting new technologies quickly.
- Enhanced Integration: Microservices can be written in any language, making it easier to integrate with legacy systems.
4. Better Data Security and Compliance
One of the most significant benefits of microservices is that it enables businesses to take a more granular approach to data security. Since each service is responsible for a specific task, it’s easier to implement security measures at the service level. This approach is far more secure than storing all data in a single monolithic database accessible by the entire application.
Additionally, compliance with various regulations is essential for success in today’s business world. Regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA place strict requirements on how businesses must handle personal data. Microservices make it easy to audit data processing activities.
Most developers use secure APIs to connect microservices. A secure API safeguards the data it processes by making sure it’s only accessible to specifically authorized applications, users, and servers.
Suppose your microservices are managing sensitive health, financial, or other kinds of confidential information. In that case, a secure API gives developers complete control over the data accessible to the larger application and those using it. This makes achieving compliance under HIPAA, GDPR, and other data security standards easier.
An iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) like DreamFactory can assist with the process of developing secure APIs to support a microservices architecture. DreamFactory’s automatic API generation tools empower you to build and publish secure APIs in minutes.
5. Faster Time to Market and “Future-Proofing”
The pluggability of a microservices application architecture allows for easier, faster application development and upgrades. Developers can quickly build or change a microservice, then plug it into the architecture with less risk of coding conflicts and service outages. Moreover, due to the independence of each microservice, teams don’t have to worry about coding conflicts, and they don’t have to wait for slower-moving projects before launching their part of the application.
Microservices also support the CI/CD/CD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, Continuous Deployment) development philosophy. This means you quickly deploy the core microservices of an application – as a minimum viable product (MVP) – and continuously update the product over time as you complete additional microservices. It also means that you can respond to security threats and add new technologies as they appear. The result for the user is a “future-proof” product constantly evolving.
6. Greater Business Agility and Support for DevOps
As enterprises strive to become more agile, they’re turning to microservices to increase their speed-to-market. A microservices application architecture supports the rapid delivery of software by allowing developers to work on small, independent pieces of an application. These pieces can be quickly deployed and tested without affecting the rest of the application.
The independence of each microservice also lends itself well to DevOps.
DevOps is a set of practices that streamlines the software development process by automating tasks and increasing communication and collaboration between developers and operations teams. Because microservices are independent of each other, they lend themselves well to automation.
A safe, isolated microservice environment allows developers to experiment without fear of breaking the production system. This helps to foster a culture of innovation and creativity.
7. Support for Two-Pizza Development Teams
Each team is responsible for one or more services in microservices application architecture. This structure supports the “two-pizza” development team philosophy.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first coined the two-pizza rule. It states that a development team should be small enough to be fed by two pizzas. In other words, the group should be small enough that everyone can get to know each other and work together effectively.
This philosophy is in line with the Agile Manifesto, which advocates for “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.”
With microservices, each team can work independently on its own service. They can move quickly and make decisions without having to coordinate with other groups. This increases efficiency and allows for more rapid innovation.
Challenges of Implementing a Microservice Architecture
Implementing microservices can help you deliver features faster and improve scalability. However, several challenges need to be considered. Addressing these challenges head-on will help ensure successful implementation. Here are some common challenges that must be addressed:
- Increased Complexity: One of the most significant disadvantages of microservice architecture is that it can lead to increased complexity. This is because each microservice is its own self-contained unit with its codebase, database, and dependencies. When you have hundreds of microservices, this can quickly become difficult to manage and keep track of. You must have a well-defined strategy for managing your microservices to overcome this disadvantage. This includes having clear boundaries between services, versioning your services, and using containerization or serverless technologies to reduce the complexity of deployments.
- Communication Overhead: Another disadvantage of microservices is the communication overhead that comes with them. Each microservice needs to communicate with other microservices to perform its tasks. This can lead to increased network traffic and latency issues. To solve this problem, you must carefully design your communication protocols and use caching or message queues where appropriate. You should also consider using asynchronous communication to decouple your services.
- Difficulties With Testing and Debugging: Testing and debugging microservices can be difficult due to their distributed nature. Each microservice needs to be tested and debugged separately from other microservices. When you have a large number of microservices, this can quickly become time-consuming and expensive. To solve this problem, you must invest in good testing tools and techniques such as contract testing and test-driven development (TDD). You should also consider using mocking frameworks to simulate the behavior of dependencies during testing.
- Lack of Standardization: Because each microservice is developed independently, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building them. This can lead to inconsistent design and implementation of your microservices, making it difficult for new team members to understand your application and more challenging to maintain over time. Developing standards for your microservices is one way to solve this problem. This includes coding conventions, directory structures, and communication protocols. Having a set of standards can help ensure that your microservices are consistent and easy to understand and maintain.
Best Practices for Building Microservices
Microservices can be complex to build and deploy. Here are some best practices for building and deploying microservices to avoid common pitfalls and get the most out of this architecture.
- Keep Services Small and Focused: One of the critical benefits of microservices is that they improve modularity by breaking down a monolithic application into small, independent components. However, keeping services small and focused is essential to remain manageable. A good rule of thumb is that each service should have a single responsibility.
- Define Service Interfaces Carefully: Another important consideration when building microservices is how they will communicate with each other. It’s essential to define service interfaces carefully to be well-documented and easy to use. Furthermore, you should consider using standard protocols such as HTTP or gRPC so services can communicate regardless of programming languages or platforms.
- Use an API Gateway: An API gateway is a type of proxy server that provides a single point of entry for clients to access multiple services. An API gateway can simplify your architecture and improve performance by reducing network traffic. Furthermore, an API gateway can provide additional features, such as authentication, rate-limiting, and monitoring.
- Use Version Control for Services: Version control is essential for any software development project, but it’s vital when working with microservices. That’s because each service is a separate codebase that needs independent management. You should use a version control system such as Git to track changes and ensure that each service can be deployed separately.
- Implement Continuous Integration and Delivery: Continuous integration (CI) is the practice of merging code changes frequently, so there is always a working version of the codebase available. Continuous delivery (CD) takes this one step further by automating the process of deployments so code changes can be pushed to production quickly and easily. CI/CD helps to ensure that bugs are found and fixed quickly, which is especially important in a microservices architecture where there are multiple codebases to manage.
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DreamFactory: Automatically Build and Publish Rest APIs to Connect Your Microservices
Now that you understand the key benefits of microservices application architecture, you might consider a microservices adoption strategy for your enterprise. If that’s the case, you’ll want an advanced iPaaS to integrate the microservices that comprise your application.
The DreamFactory iPaaS features a user-friendly visual interface for integrating the microservices that comprise microservices-based applications. With DreamFactory’s automatic REST API generation tools, you can transform the time-consuming and labor-intensive task of building and publishing APIs into a point-and-click process that takes only minutes. Try a free hosted trial of DreamFactory now!
Fascinated by emerging technologies, Jeremy Hillpot uses his backgrounds in legal writing and technology to provide a unique perspective on a vast array of topics including enterprise technology, SQL, data science, SaaS applications, investment fraud, and the law. Contact Jeremy at [email protected]