Businesses and organizations, from the likes of Netflix to the BBC, are increasingly migrating from a monolithic to a microservices architecture. Microservices are a great fit for the cloud model and provide businesses with agile and customizable software. Businesses have the opportunity to quickly develop their software and stand out in an increasingly competitive technological landscape.

A recent report by Forrester [Ed: commissioned by Ensono] revealed that 76 percent of organizations believe that microservices are a crucial business agenda, with just four percent of organizations disagreeing. With microservices set to become even more essential to business’ IT strategies in 2020, how should you be implementing this model?

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– Thinkstock / Antrey

What are microservices and why do they make your business more efficient?

The term ‘microservice’ is a relatively new one. In its current use it’s not even 10 years old. But the ideas have been around for much longer as developers have strived to make code less brittle and large-scale, complex software systems more agile to change.

Traditionally, applications were built in a monolithic architecture - a project composed of modules that work together to form a single self-contained application. However, this has its limitations. As the application grows, and development teams add code and capabilities, it becomes more complex. Occasionally, it will become too complex for a single developer to understand, so fixing bugs and implementing new features becomes difficult and error prone. As a result, testing and upgrading becomes tough. Reliability also becomes a problem, as a bug in any module can impact the availability of the entire monolithic application.

Microservices were devised to solve the inherent problem of monolithic design. To put it simply, ‘microservices’ describes a process whereby applications are segmented into a series of smaller, loosely coupled parts or services.

Key benefits include:

  1. Complexity is reduced as each microservice becomes a mini-application that is much simpler and easier to understand
  2. Development cycles are sped up as the development team is focused solely on that service and the services can be written once and used by many applications
  3. Upgrade cycles are sped up, and risk is reduced, as individual services can be upgraded independently of the other services
  4. Microservices can run on the cloud on a VM, in a Docker container or on serverless instances, making it well suited to modern cloud services
  5. Microservices are easier to scale, and it is quicker to identify and resolve bottleneck

A good example of how microservices have been successfully utilized can be found in streaming-giant Netflix. Netflix ran on a monolithic model until 2008, when it suffered an IT outage due to major database corruption. Following this, the decision was made to break apart the application, moving from monolithic to multiple independent services in order to increase scalability, reliability, and availability.

As the same Forrester report indicates, 29 percent of businesses struggle with the length of their deployment cycles, with 16 percent failing to meet delivery dates. Increased deployment cycles through microservice can result faster revenue and reputation growth, and the ability to release multiple times a year and even multiple times a day.

How to implement microservices in your business

With all this in mind, if you’re thinking of re-architecting your businesses’ infrastructure there are steps you can take to ensure that your implementation is successful. The switch from monolithic to microservices is a significant one - but there are ways to make the transition as smooth as possible - so you, and your business, can reap the benefits of cloud-based architecture.

Don’t start with a monolithic structure and expect it to function like a microservice. It goes without saying that microservices and monoliths are completely distinct models; both have benefits and drawbacks.

Make sure you define your goals from the start. Create a well-defined governance process so there is not confusion as to who owns what, and make sure you automate as much of the process as possible.

Make sure you have a well-planned and complete platform for developing microservices before starting as you will most likely need a new development platform.

When implementing your microservice, think carefully about exactly what you want your microservice to achieve. How many partitioned services do you believe your software requires and how do you avoid bloating your application? Try to reach the middle ground by doing your research beforehand.

Try to be flexible when it comes to language. Choose a language that simplifies your code and prioritizes speed and automation. An added benefit of microservices is that not all the services need to be written in the same language, so you won’t be tied to just one.

Cultivating a reliable monitoring system is also extremely important. The scalable nature of microservices demands a strong monitoring system, so choose a system that is malleable and can accommodate the changing nature of microservices.

Your business will continue to implement new technologies that reflect the desires of your customers, so ensure that your microservices architecture is reusable. This will save you and your organization valuable time, whilst guaranteeing a solid foundation for new products.

Finally, understand and be prepared for the cultural changes that will be required to develop using microservices. Microservices should make development faster and more efficient, but implementing these will require a different mindset.