Need for Microservices

When you hear microservices, what comes to your mind first? Every other organization these days is moving to microservices. If you are looking for an answer to the question – what are microservices and does your organization need them? Then you are at the right place.

However, before we answer these questions let us understand the architecture that has been used by the industry for decades – Monolithic architecture.

Monolithic Architecture

Monolithic applications are built to handle multiple related tasks. These are typically complex applications that are made up of several tightly coupled components that make them highly dependent on each other. Monolithic architectures have worked successfully for many decades. Many of the most successful and largest applications were developed and deployed as a monolithic architecture style application.

Many big companies are still using monolithic architecture to build and deploy large-scale enterprise applications. But with emerging technologies and change in the market, there has been a paradigm shift in the way the IT industry works. There are some issues with monolithic architectures, which most companies are trying to address these days.

Problems with monolithic applications:

  • Continuous Deployment: It is difficult to deploy big applications. Every time you make changes in a single module, the entire application needs to be redeployed and tested.
  • Scalability Issues: Scalability becomes a serious issue as the application size grows. different components might have different resource requirements- one might be memory intensive while the other might be CPU intensive.
  • Reliability Issues: If one feature goes down, the entire application might go down as well.
  • Flexibility Issues: Monolithic architectures aren’t flexible in terms of the technologies used. The technology stack is decided in the initial stage and followed throughout. It’s difficult to upgrade as well.

Let us see how microservices are different from monolithic architecture.

What are microservices?

Microservices are an architectural style that allows us to develop smaller applications and deploy them independently as loosely coupled services, tied together through application integration.

Microservices overcome the shortcomings of Monoliths in the following ways:

  • Deployment flexibility: Deployment is easier compare to monoliths. To update a component we just need to redeploy that particular microservice.
  • Can be scaled separately: It gives a major advantage in terms of scalability. Each microservice can be scaled individually. As microservices are smaller in size, caching becomes very effective.
  • Reliability: microservices can be very reliable. If one feature goes down, the other components won’t be affected. We can fix the issue in the corresponding service and deploy it immediately.
  • Technology flexibility: It’s quite flexible in terms of technology. Different microservices can be developed using different technologies. As microservices have a smaller code base, so it’s not difficult to upgrade the technology stack version. Also, we can internally adopt new technologies without much difficulty.

Microservices do solve a lot of issues faced with monolithic applications. However, it also has some drawbacks.

Challenges with microservices:

  • Architecture Complexity: we are dealing with hundreds or thousands of mini-applications that could lead to deployment or architecture complexity.
  • Service Discovery: Service discovery is the first thing that needs to be taken care of when moving to microservices.
  • High Costs: Microservices are costlier compared to monoliths as you need to deal with the whole wrath of the distributed system.

It is easy to understand microservice architecture when we compare it to traditional monolithic architecture. Both the architectures have their pros and cons, not all the applications are needed to be architected as Microservices no matter how buzzer-worthy the term is right now. Plus there’s already been a similar kind of architecture available like SOA (Service-oriented architecture) that has been here for two decades.

There are more similarities than differences in SOA and microservices but we will not get much into details on SOA in this part. However please don’t believe that microservices are always better than Monolithic architecture. Many applications should be built as monolithic applications. So how do we know what architecture should be used for our application?

Do we need Microservices?

Microservices have created a buzz in the IT industry right now. Every other organization is trying to incorporate microservices. But is it worth it for your organization simply because the competitors are doing it? Your organization should incorporate the framework and strategies required for microservices. Before jumping to the conclusion we need to pause for a moment and ask the following questions to help us understand:

  • How much do you understand microservices?
  • What are the ways they could influence your development process?
  • Is your business mature enough to adopt microservices?
  • Do you have the tried and tested agile or DevOps methodologies in place?
  • Do you have enough support from the data management team to incorporate the changes?
  • is your product at the heart of your business model?
  • What are your targets and plans on scaling up?
  • Is your business model tested and proven?

When should we use microservices:

  • When the applications are too big to maintain.
  • When you want scalability, agility, manageability, and delivery speed to be incorporated into your monolithic system.
  • When you want to upgrade the tech stack for your legacy applications with the latest business needs or solutions.
  • When there’s a need to reuse the standalone business applications or modules across diverse channels
  • When you’re building highly agile applications that demand speedy delivery, innovation, and more.

Use Monoliths:

  • For an early-stage company, well-designed monolithic architecture is good to start with. A strong monolith structure will allow you to replace any segment of the application with microservices when needed.
  • Many successful startups like Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, etc started with a monolithic architecture. They switched to microservices when they were ready to scale up. This change allowed them to stay agile and continue to increase velocity in their core business.
  • When a single component of your system isn’t big enough to require continuous development by more than one developer.

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