The Significance Of Microservices In Cloud Computing
By Kamal Jacob
As cloud computing takes the center stage across most IT infrastructures, there is also a rise in the new trends and the demands from the users. Everyone prefers to have an application that is highly scalable and available on a cloud platform. On the other hand, businesses are keen to make regular updates to the application. With the traditional monolithic architecture models where different components of the application are combined into a single piece of program, it is very difficult to achieve these requirements since it consumes a considerable amount of time to build and deploy the entire application. Performing this multiple times to deliver frequent updates to the application is definitely something that will cost the organization's time and resources. So what is the solution?
The name itself is a give-away – splitting and designing the entire application as multiple independent services that are interconnected with each other and modeled around a particular business domain. Every individual service in the architecture can be developed, tested, built and deployed independently. Even better – every service can be developed using different programming languages. To define the term Microservices, it is a software development approach where the application is made up of small independent services that communicate over defined APIs. This architecture design makes it easier to develop applications and scale them faster with new features.
Over the last few years, the adoption of microservices has been on the high. According to a survey conducted by Nginx, Microservices are used in pretty much every mainstream projects. About 70% of the businesses are using microservices or either evaluating them. Among this, about 29% of the businesses are using it in their production environments, while 15% are using it in their development environments. Microservices has been widely used by well-known companies such as Amazon, Uber, PayPal, Netflix and a lot of small to medium enterprises. The key reason for businesses to opt for the microservices approach of application development is to improve resilience and expedite their time to market.
Monolithic vs. Microservices – the Differences
Image Source - https://medium.com/startlovingyourself/microservices-vs-monolithic-architecture-c8df91f16bb4
The traditional monolithic architecture consists of the following components – a web-application that has a client user interface, server-side application, and the database. The server-side application normally has 3 layers (presentation, services, and data layers). All these components are tightly coupled with each other and work as a single component. Moreover, the entire application depends on a single database to store the application data.
The challenges with the traditional monolithic approach are –
a) If any change is to be made in the code, the entire application (code) should be built and deployed for the application to reflect the change
b) If there is a sudden, unexpected load spike, the whole architecture must be scaled to meet the load demand.
c) Ensuring the high availability of the application is a challenge as the dependency between the components (due to the tightly coupled nature) increases the chances of failure.
In the case of Microservices architecture, every individual process in the application runs as a separate service. Each service performs a specific function of the application and can be separately developed, deployed and scaled in such a way that it will not affect the other services. The services communicate with each other using APIs. Over a period of time, if the service bloats up and becomes complex, it can be further split into smaller services. With Microservices architecture, each service has its own database.
Why implement Microservices architecture?
Now that we have a clear understanding of microservices and how different it is from the monolithic architecture, let’s try to understand the main reasons why businesses should consider moving to the microservices architecture and overcome the monolith challenges.
1. Application Scalability
In the case of the monolithic architecture, the entire application can only be scaled horizontally by creating multiple instances of the same application and setting up a load balancer. If a particular component/process in the application has to be scaled to meet a sudden spike in the load, there is no simple way to achieve this. The entire application must be scaled to meet the demand.
However, with a microservices architecture, scalability is one of the key aspects of the whole architecture. Since every process in the application runs as an individual service, it is very easy to scale the specific service without having to scale the entire application. Additional components can also be added into the system without breaking the system. The ability to be able to change things instantly is the special characteristic of microservices architecture.
2. Developer Friendly
Since microservices architecture follows the loosely coupled architecture, it becomes very easy for developers to adapt quickly to dynamic market conditions. Developers can easily update, test and release the application with the new features. There is no need to rewrite the entire code or build/deploy the entire application. Changes can be made only to the specific service and they can be tested and deployed independently without any dependency with the other services. Microservices gives developers the freedom to work on the code without having to worry about breaking the application elsewhere.
3. Seamless collaboration amongst the full-stack teams
Microservices help organizations to be more agile and switch to the DevOps and continuous testing culture. Unlike the monolithic architecture where dedicated teams work on separate functions of the application, with microservices, cross-functional teams such as developers, testing teams can work on a particular service at the same time. One team need not have to wait for the other to finish their work to take over. As a result, it saves quite a lot of time and the process becomes easier for the internal teams to collaborate and update the software.
Continuous delivery helps teams to work with an incremental development mindset where the code is continuously developed, tested, and deployed into production. Continuous delivery also helps businesses to push out regular updates to the applications without causing any inconvenience to the users and application downtime.
4. Write your code using different technology
Developers no longer have to worry about using a single technology or programming language for the entire application. Within the microservice architecture, since there are multiple services, developers can choose to write each service using different technology. Every service can have its own framework and language and can interact with other services in the application. Over a period of time, if a particular service needs changes or has to be rewritten, it can be performed without harming the other services and the entire application.
5. Reduced costs
As explained earlier, in the monolithic architecture, since everything is tightly coupled, making even a small change will require to build, test and deploy the entire application. That’s not just it! There are chances that the modified piece of code can impact other areas of the application. This can result in additional overhead for the development team and also increases the cost of the resources used. Performing frequent changes will result in higher costs spent by the business.
Microservices architecture allows cross-functional teams to work on the application (or even a particular service) at the same time. As a result, it reduces the development time and also optimizes the resources that are used. This improves the ROI and the costs for the business. In 2012, Walmart moved their business architecture to microservices which helped them improve their conversion rates, reduce the downtime and realized cost savings between 20-50%. Uber, the American based multinational transportation network company, started off with a monolithic architecture that targeted a specific city. As they grew into multiple cities and countries, they had continuous integration and scalability problems. To tackle this problem, Uber switched to a microservices architecture to make each unit in the system (such as passenger management, driver management, UI, billing etc) work independently and perform specific functions.
Microservices is one of the simplest methods where independent applications can be combined to make a single system. Each application can be perfectly containerized such that making changes on one will not affect the others. Microservices helps full-fledged businesses & even Startups to cut down on their development cycle time, release cycles and costs. Though it takes considerable effort, time and resources to learn about microservices architecture and implement it in the business, if done the right way, the business can be benefited in a lot of ways. If you are keen to learn cloud computing and master the different services offered, join the post graduate certificate program in cloud computing today!