What Are Microservices?

In the past, applications were typically structured as one large entity – commonly referred to as a monolith. Everything was so tightly coupled together that is was virtually impossible to change one area of a piece of software without impacting another in some way.

The answer to the question “what is microservice architecture ?“, on the other hand, is in stark contrast to that idea. With microservices, applications are structured not in that monolithic style but as a series of smaller and more independently deployable services. They all still add up to that same larger application, yes. But each service is also smaller and more singularly focused making it easier to build, easier to maintain and much faster to deploy moving forward.

What are the Benefits of Microservices?

There are many advantages of microservices that aren’t just important. They’re virtually impossible to replicate via the “old school” method of software development

An Inherently Simple Structure

The most immediate benefit of a microservices architecture is also, for many development teams, the most important. Because the underlying structure of a microservices application is far more straightforward than their monolithic counterparts of the past, applications become easier to build and easier to maintain across the board.

Each microservice essentially breaks down into its own unique portion of the code. Because of that, making even a significant change in one area of the app won’t necessarily impact the other parts. Essentially, you don’t have to worry about accidentally creating five new problems every time you try to fix one.

This creates benefits in other areas of the DevOps process, too – like the fact that certain services within the structure can be written in different programming languages depending on the needs of the situation. In general, developers are able to make better and more informed decisions based on the needs of their end users without worrying about coming into conflict with the limitations that are essentially built into the monolithic development process.

Productivity and Speed

Along the same lines, another major benefit of microservices is that they’ve become virtually synonymous with both productivity and speed improvements. When you’re designing a monolith, you essentially have to wait for everything to be “finished” before that app can be deployed to end users.

With microservices, however, those individual services can be both developed and deployed totally independently from one another. You can quickly roll out certain core functions of the app, even if the entire thing isn’t “100% complete.”

This also means that each microservice can be tested on an individual basis, too. Debugging microservices and fixing issues is a far easier process when you’re talking about smaller and more loosely coupled applications as opposed to one massive one.

Organized Around Business Capabilities

Another one of the reasons why microservices have become so popular has to do with how they are better organized around business capabilities. By their nature, microservices allow you to easily re-use the same service in more than one business process. From a DevOps perspective, embracing microservices also almost always results in smarter, more cross-functional development teams.

This ultimately gives way to the most important benefit of all: a higher quality finished application delivered far faster to end users than ever before.

Best Practices for Microservices

To truly make the most out of your microservices architecture, there are a number of important best practices to follow.

Continuous Delivery

Because each microservice can be deployed independently, you’ll want to make use of automation to help guarantee the continuous delivery that your users will come to expect. If your application is made up of 200 different microservices, deploying them all manually will take an incredible amount of time when you consider you essentially have to do so one-by-one.

Many experts agree that CI/CD is one of the major prerequisites of using a microservices architecture in the first place, so this is one step you will not want to skip.

Observability and Monitoring

To run the CI/CD process as outlined above effectively, you always need some form of feedback to gauge your efforts against. You need to know that the changes you’re making to your architecture are actually improving things for end users and the principles of observability and monitoring are a big part of how you do it.

In terms of microservices, monitoring is the task of collecting and displaying data related to the performance metrics that are important to you. Observability involves taking the next step and acting on that data that has been made available from within the system.

So if monitoring tells you “what” is going on with your application in a larger sense, observability tells you “why.” All of this puts you in a better position to understand the root causes of the problems you’re experiencing, stopping them today and creating a better product for customers sooner rather than later.

In the end, it’s easy to see why the microservices architecture has become so popular in a (relatively) short amount of time. For many organizations, the productivity and efficiency gains alone would be more than worth this DevOps shift as it’s finally an opportunity for your teams to work “smarter, not harder.”

But when you also consider the benefits to end users – like the fact that they enjoy faster access to better applications than ever – it truly creates a perfect storm in the best possible way. That is a very exciting position for any business to be in, without question.

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