Flexibility, scalability, and reliability are vital requirements of applications in a world that heavily relies on massive amounts of data and experiences fluctuating user demands. But many businesses across all industries still operate with monolithic systems, which restrict and limit a company’s ability to offer a product or service that meets those essential requirements. Microservices provide an alternative to monolithic systems and offer advantages over monolithic systems too.
Let’s look at these two software development approaches to better understand the benefits of moving to microservices-oriented infrastructure.
Before microservices and distributed computing arrived on the scene, monolithic systems essentially served as the standard in software development. This approach was predominantly the only way to build large applications, and they were intended to be self-contained and specifically designed to be independent of other applications. They share the same codebase, data store, and runtime environment. But the limitations of monolithic systems were highlighted as applications became more complex.
These systems can be difficult to scale because changes to one component in a monolithic system can affect everything else. So making adjustments for increased traffic or adding new features can be challenging. Maintaining these systems can be arduous for the same reason; changing a single component can result in ripple effects throughout the system. Although all the code is in one place, engineers must make changes to all components, which can be time-consuming and increase the possibility of error introduction.
Security is another limitation of monolithic architecture. These systems are more challenging to secure because, again, with all components tightly coupled together, a vulnerability in one component can expose the entire system. And this limitation speaks to the overall reliability of monolithic systems. It’s stressful and unsustainable when a single failure in one component can bring your entire system down.
And while were discussing potentially disruptive and time-consuming issues, deployment also suffers for similar reasons in a monolithic system. Any change requires redeployment of the entire system.
The Microservices Approach
Having briefly discussed the monolithic approach, let’s now look at the distributed solution offered by microservices.
In contrast to the cohesive monolithic approach, the microservices software development approach breaks down single applications into a grouping of smaller services that are independent of each other. Microservices infrastructure offers several advantages over the monolithic approach.
As previously mentioned, scalability is an absolute requirement of any modern infrastructure. Monolithic systems struggle in this regard. But with microservices, individual services can be scaled independently, enabling efficient resource allocation. The entire application doesn’t need to be scaled because optimization can be performed on, and limited to, the specific services requiring it.
The small, independent nature of microservices allows for easier development and deployment over monolithic systems. Developers have the freedom and flexibility to perform their work without affecting the whole system. This enables faster development cycles as different teams can work on other services independently without waiting for the development of an entire application. The modular microservices approach also means new services can be introduced, modified, or removed without disrupting everything else.
This reflects the resiliency and reliability of a microservices architecture. A failure in one service won’t bring down the entire system because each microservice runs independently. A fault can be isolated to a specific service, which enables more efficient and effective containment and management of failures. For the same reason, microservices are typically easier to maintain than monolithic systems. Issues are easier to identify and fix, reducing downtime and adding to the system's overall reliability.
Another powerful benefit of microservices is flexibility. Again, thanks to the independent, distributed nature of a microservices architecture, each service can be developed using different frameworks, tools, and programming languages! This eliminates the restriction of being tied to one technology for an entire application. Organizations can select whichever tech stack is the best fit for each service.
Which Approach is Right for You?
Microservices are a popular approach for modern software development as they provide greater scalability, reliability, flexibility, and maintainability over traditional monolithic systems. But are microservices the correct solution for everybody?
Every situation is unique. But, aside from the already-highlighted benefits of a microservices approach, here are other factors to consider. Microservices architecture requires a more complex infrastructure and development process. Added complexities such as distributed system management and communication between services are issues requiring attention for successful implementations.
Not all organizations can handle the increased complexities and operational overhead that can come with microservices. So it’s crucial for each organization to adequately weigh the pros and cons before deciding on an architecture. But with proper planning, correct architecture design, and a clear implementation strategy, it’s possible to mitigate any drawbacks and ensure a successful migration to a microservices architecture.
Xebia’s engineers are experts at microservices, and our team has an extensive history of providing high-profile clients with everything from consulting and architectural guidance to team augmentation and training. If your organization is considering a move to a microservices-based architecture, we’d love to hear more about your objectives and share with you how the team at Xebia can streamline your transition.