Microservices: Benefits and Challenges

Microservices: Benefits and Challenges

sky puzzle by jared, on Flickr

Image Source: Microservices “Sky Puzzle” by Jared Tarbell

Microservices architecture has become a common approach for enterprises to achieve agility and continuous delivery of applications to meet the growing demand of their users, as well as to gain a competitive advantage. Microservices are small, light, modular software programs, designed to fulfill one or a few purposes. They may be deployed independently, in small groups, in a container or as part of a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) framework. They stand in contrast to more traditional, “monolithic” programs, which are designed to fulfill several needs.

Developers and users today are concerned with speedy development cycles, software scale, performance and flexibility. Microservices offer all of these — but not without a few drawbacks.

The Benefits of Microservices

Microservices have become popular in the software development world because they have several substantial benefits over their monolith predecessors:

  • Microservices are quicker to build and deploy. Larger applications are slower because they have many different modules, all of which must be integrated and deployed as part of the program. Microservices architecture allows admins or users to load just the services that are required, which improves deploy times, especially when packaged in containers.
  • They are flexible. Developers can choose exactly how a microservice is implemented, and change it as needed, with no extra features serving as dead weight.
  • They scale easily. Precisely because they’re lightweight and flexible, a microservices application can typically scale-out easily and hence handle more transactions than a monolithic one. With a microservices application, it’s possible to scale up or down individual services, compared to the entire application with monoliths. In addition to providing flexibility when scaling, microservices also end up taking fewer resources.
  • They’re usually faster and less expensive to develop. Because an individual microservice does less, it’s usually comparatively simple to develop a microservice as opposed to a whole software program.Microservices’ Challenges

But the microservice model isn’t without its challenges. Some are comparatively trivial or easily surmounted, whereas others may require new processes or tools for your company:

  • Microservices can be less stable than other options. While an individual microservice may be well-tested, perhaps in conjunction with some common microservices and programs, it’s virtually impossible to test every configuration of microservices. As you combine them, they may interact in unforeseen ways.
  • They can also be less secure. It’s not always easy to tell where microservices reside, which can make securing them a headache. And with different microservices interacting with each other, this gives hackers more opportunities to penetrate the system. Savvy DevOps teams are moving to a more granular security policy, called microsegmentation, to get around this problem — but the solution isn’t universal yet.
  • It can be difficult to make the transition. If a company has been producing and maintaining a monolithic application, it will take time and discipline to replace it with a microservices architecture — although many companies have successfully accomplished this, and found the investment worthwhile.

Microservices and Container Services

Containers often go hand-in-hand with microservices: they provide a place for microservices to run and help mitigate their challenges. Container Services platforms also help automate the microservice deployment process, which is vital since microservices typically have a relatively short life-span.

Microservices are a hot trend right now in the development world, and with good reason: they solve some critical problems with speed, agility and development time. But they bring their own complications, and developers and admins should be mindful of these when building and deploying microservices.

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