The Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Microservices Architecture


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Thursday, December 22, 2022

Microservices is one of the biggest trends in agile software development. What can it offer your firm, and what cons should you be aware of?

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The Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Microservices Architecture
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Improving the software development process must be the top priority for any IT manager. No matter what line of business you're in, these applications will underpin almost everything you do. Yet in today's agile environment, traditional ways of building software solutions can struggle to keep up with the pace of change.

Approaches such as DevOps offer a more flexible alternative to processes like the waterfall method and promise benefits including faster time to market, but is this enough to keep pace with more innovative competitors?

One increasingly popular solution is to turn to microservices architecture. Indeed, the majority of firms already deploy these to some degree, with research by Vanson Bourne suggesting 81% of IT leaders now utilize microservices within their organization.

But if you're looking to become one of them, what are the pros and cons you need to be aware of? Here's a brief overview of what you need to know about this technology.

Microservices explained

First, you need to understand what microservices are. In essence, this software development strategy takes a modular approach to architecture. Instead of building a single, large solution where everything is connected, microservices utilize a collection of individual modules linked by APIs, each of which has its own distinct purpose.

This allows you to add services and functionality to an application as and when they’re needed without reauthoring major parts of the solution. You can experiment with new features and expand them out or roll them back easily. In short, it offers a 'plug and play' approach to software development.

What are the benefits of microservices?

Deploying microservcices architecture offers a number of benefits for IT teams. Get it right and you'll be able to quickly develop high-performing applications that meet the needs of users and are ready for whatever the coming years may hold. Here are five of the biggest benefits you can expect to see.

1. Better scalability

The primary advantage of microservice architecture for many deployments is better scalability. The ability to add modules quickly means you can respond to new demands and remain confident anything new will be compatible with existing functionality. Each uses its own resources and can significantly reduce the cost of development, as well as cutting the risk of downtime.

2. Improved fault isolation

Even the best-designed software will occasionally have something go wrong. But with microservices, a fault or error in one part of the solution doesn't mean the entire

application fails. Because each part of a microservice runs autonomously, if a module fails, the rest of the application should remain unaffected. This allows you to quickly identify and isolate the issue and move to resolution without disruption.

3. Futureproofing your business

Related to scalability, microservices allow you to quickly add new services as required, greatly reducing the time to market for deployments. As well as enabling you to add new features and respond to emerging requirements, it ensures that you won't have to go back and make changes to your existing applications in order to accommodate future demands.

4. Reduced resourcing demands

Microservicing also means you need fewer people to manage your architecture. It's what Amazon boss Jeff Bezos calls the 'two pizza approach' - i.e. ensuring your teams are small enough to be fed by two pizzas. By keeping groups small, where each is responsible for its own microservices, this makes dev teams more productive, as well as encouraging innovation by enabling small numbers of people to work independently and more closely together.

5. A technology agnostic approach

Another benefit of microservices is that you won't be locked into a certain approach, such as requiring all new features to be written in a specific programming language. Because APIs can connect services running on any platform, you can maintain a technology-agnostic strategy that lets your team work to their own strengths and provides the flexibility to choose the most suitable tools for each scenario, rather than being forced down a route where compromises have to be made.

The drawbacks of microservices you need to be aware of

Despite these advantages, you shouldn't assume microservices will always be plain sailing. The approach does have its disadvantages as well as its benefits, but as long as you're aware of what these are and take adequate precautions, they shouldn't prevent you from deploying highly successful microservices-based applications. Here are three areas to keep an eye on.

Greater complexity

The more connected parts you have, the harder it will be to ensure they’re all working well and communicating with each other effectively. While APIs ease some of the burden, large organizations may quickly find themselves relying on hundreds of independent microservices. Therefore, a clearly-defined strategy of managing and maintaining these is essential

Lack of standardization

Similarly, the fact each microservice works autonomously means there’s no clear standard for how they should be built. This can result in a lack of consistency between elements of an application, which can in turn lead to challenges in testing and maintenance. Each microservices will have its own structure, testing and debugging requirements, and its own logs. This translates to uncertain timelines and costs in the deployment process.

Shortage of expertise

Finally, working with microservices requires a high level of expertise in software development, infrastructure maintenance and agile development. While your DevOps teams may have some of these skills, research by IBM suggests almost half of firms (49%) say they lack sufficient in-house expertise to manage microservices projects. Therefore, you'll likely have to upskill or hire new personnel if you want to make this a success.

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