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More and more companies are opting to build cloud-native “microservice” applications to accelerate development speed of development, and take advantage of the scalability and availability of the (multi) cloud.
Up until about 10 years ago, virtually all apps were monolithic by design – think of a big, singular block of highly interdependent code. It may be a simple and robust way to develop solutions, but a monolithic architecture also poses a lot of challenges in the shape of risks, inefficiencies, and lack of flexibility:
- The failure of a single element risks taking down the entire app
- Even small updates may require testing, if not recreating, the whole system
- Developers have to wait on the slowest members of their team to finish their part to proceed with a release
- Teams are limited by the languages and technologies they can use
Microservice architecture and cloud-native development came about as a response to these and other issues. With microservice architecture, instead of having a single solution, an app is composed of a swarm of small, loosely coupled modules (microservices), each responsible for a particular capability.
For example, if you've created a jogging app, you can have one microservice for registration, another for messaging, another for leaderboards, another for Cron scheduling, another for notifications and so on, rather than having all of those managed by the same application.
Separating modules and making use of microservice architecture has dramatically accelerated software development and improved flexibility. Developers can independently tinker away with each module, continuously update code, increase automation, employ different technology stacks, easily integrate new technologies, and create a more resilient system, where the failure of a single element doesn't necessarily break the entire app.
A cloud-native approach not only unlocks access to a growing number of useful and increasingly specific services offered by cloud providers, but it also enables to mix-and-match them between different providers and is a prerequisite for adopting a multi-cloud strategy.
Why is microservice architecture adoption booming?
The microservices market is predicted to triple between 2020 and 2026. And while IDC's 2018 prediction that 90% of apps will feature microservice architecture by 2022 may have been a little too ambitious, we're certainly getting there.
The microservices market is propelled forward by continuous advances in technology that improve performance and optimize use of resources. Integrating novel solutions in monolithic structures grows more complex and time-consuming, whereas the adaptability of microservice architecture enables cloud-native applications to evolve with the times and meet the needs of modern technologies efficiently and cost-effectively.
Moreover, a properly managed microservice architecture offers significant cost savings for companies. Each module can be automatically scaled up and down when necessary independently to the rest of the system, allowing developer teams to get a much better grasp of what resources are required and optimize cloud resource use – and do so across multiple cloud service providers (CSPs). Such a multi-cloud strategy where one provider is used for storage, another for hosting, a third for infrastructure, etc., makes it possible to achieve the best price-performance ratio for your solution.
Upcoming microservice trends to look out for
With the rising popularity of microservices, the ecosystem is set to evolve massively over the coming years. Here are three trends to keep an eye out for in 2022 and beyond.
All eyes on “Glue” products
Given the decentralized nature of microservice architecture, going forward a lot of attention will be paid to “glue” products – tools that enable the observability, messaging, and queueing of the various microservices, further automating and simplifying certain maintenance and development processes.
Observability tools, essential for keeping track of microservice architecture health, will become more advanced and gain broader traction, particularly given the complexity of debugging. Adoption of the service mesh, a layer that helps various microservices communicate with each other, will also continue to rise.
Serverless will make life easier
**Whilst not microservices per se, Serverless apps pave the way for microservices, as they require developers to deploy in a modular, non-monolithic manner. This takes the burden of server management (provisioning, scaling, maintenance, etc.) off the shoulders of developers and puts it on CSPs. Typically, these are routine, time-consuming tasks that offer little overall added value.
By automating server management and freeing up talents, companies have one less thing to worry about, allowing them to focus on accelerating development and making better use of resources. A serverless approach is likely to become the status quo in the near future.
Developers will push for microservice architecture adoption
Engineer experience matters, and there are several reasons why a microservices architecture speaks to developers on a professional level.
For one, developers can own a certain part of the product, instead of just being a cog in the larger machine. Two, they gain more freedom in tackling specific problems, as they have more options in regards to technology choice, independence from the rest of the app, and room for safe experimentation. Three, microservices are a hot trend and new technologies are exciting and important for professional development. And finally, broader automation means less time spent on routine tasks.
Adopting microservice architecture: what does it mean for your organization?
A shift towards microservice architecture is no small undertaking. The larger your monolithic application, the more difficult migration will be.
That said, it's not something to be done in one go, but rather over an extended period by incrementally decoupling modules. And “decoupling” teams, too – team organization must adapt to a new way of working.
Moving away from a melting pot of responsibilities, all services in a microservice architecture deserve independent attention, which often means a dedicated team and, hence, internal restructuring. To keep the respective teams independent, upskilling or hiring may be necessary to ensure each team possesses the necessary skill-set to handle everything – development, management, testing, and administration – internally.
Moreover, to ensure successful adoption of microservice architecture, it must be driven by a highly skilled team. While microservice architecture enjoys greater flexibility in terms of tech stacks, it shouldn't be a carte blanche for teams to do whatever they please, as this could notably complicate any future hand-overs. In short, microservice architecture adoption should not be taken lightly.
A few years ago, microservice architecture was very much avant-garde. Today, it's an established approach that's on its way to becoming the default application architecture choice.
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