In a world where everything is now digital and the cloud has firmly become all things to all companies, the focus has turned squarely on the architectural and organizational approach to software development—and rightfully so. More so, these architectures known as microservices—which make applications easier to scale and faster to develop—are now igniting endless possibilities for organizations around the world, vastly accelerating innovation and time-to-market for new features, and representing overall success.
So what’s so special about microservices? Put simply, microservices is the approach to software development where software is composed of small independent services that communicate over well-defined APIs. These services are owned by small, self-contained teams. And that’s where the magic happens.
But first, let’s compare the microservices approach to the older, less agile monolithic scenarios.
Dwindling are the days of old-school monolithic architectures—ones where all the processes are tightly coupled and run as a single service. Looking back on that approach, it’s a wonder anything ever got accomplished. For instance, imagine if one single process suddenly experiences a spike in demand. This means that the entire architecture must then be scaled. This also means that every time a company wants to add to the architecture, and improve applications and underlying features, the entirety of it becomes exponentially more complex. In this example, this complexity of this older approach results in limited experimentation, and makes new ideas a lot tougher to bring to fruition.
And then, of course, there is the issue of availability. By nature, the complexity associated with aging monolithic architectures immediately adds risk for application availability. This is mostly due to the many dependencies and intertwined processes that increase the impact of a single process failure.
Here’s where microservices shines. With a microservices architecture, an application is built as independent components that run each application process as a service. These services communicate via a well-defined interface using lightweight APIs. Services are built for business capabilities and each service performs a single function. Because they are independently run, each service can be updated, deployed and scaled to meet demand for specific functions of an application.
But what are the actual business benefits of microservices? Outside all the tech-speak, architecture talk and so on, at the end of the day the microservices approach helps fuel innovation, time-to-market and business success. It does this by starting with agility. Microservices by nature creates small, independent teams that take ownership of their services—empowering them to work more quickly and independently. This shortens development cycle times. You benefit significantly from the aggregate throughput of the organization.
Then there is the reality of flexible scalability. With microservices, each service can be independently scaled—enabling the right-sizing of infrastructure needs, accurately measuring feature costs, and maintaining availability.
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