In the IT world — including the app development sector — some trends are just that: trends. That’s not the case with microservices architecture, and for good reason. Microservices are changing the way apps are built and generating significant benefits for end-users, as well as developers. To understand why first think about how enterprise apps have traditionally been built.

The Monolith Approach

Software developers have typically created large, monolithic apps. A single monolith contains all the code for all the business activities the app would perform. Monoliths are usually updated and maintained using waterfall development processes, which take longer, make changes difficult, and are typically more expensive than agile methods.

Because a monolithic app’s components ship together, it’s difficult and costly to add features given the complexity and integration challenges. If a single component of an app is facing load and performance challenges, it can become necessary to scale up the entire app only to serve the most demanding single component. This entails wasted compute.

In addition, multiple independent development teams may work on the same code base and change the same sections of code. It’s difficult to know who’s working on what, and teams can lose sight of the potential incompatibility of what they’re doing with what other teams are doing. Code changes collide, and code quality suffers — as do app quality and availability. Development schedules become longer.

Microservices architecture changes all of this.

The Benefits of Microservice Architecture

Microservice architecture breaks an app down into smaller pieces that work together seamlessly. Software functionality is isolated into multiple independent components that are individually responsible for performing precisely defined, standalone tasks. These components communicate with each other through simple, universally accessible application programming interfaces (APIs).

With apps split into distinct independent services, work can be done by different teams without affecting each other’s work. There’s less chance of delays.

The use of microservices isn’t limited to new app development projects. They can also be used to rearchitect legacy apps, generating numerous benefits such as:

  • Allowing for the app to build off itself, so developers can create new capabilities without writing code from scratch or dealing with implementation details
  • Enabling each service to be independently scaled to meet the demand for the app feature it supports
  • Reducing the effects of a failure to a single part of the app, so that any individual component failure only degrades functionality instead of crashing the entire app
  • Allowing for consuming services from a rebuilt app so functionality doesn’t have to be built from scratch
  • Facilitating continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) and deployment
  • Giving teams the freedom to choose the right mix of technology, framework, and tools to independently build, deploy and maintain services, and achieve the desired business output
  • Making it easy to try out new ideas and to roll back if something doesn’t work

The Challenges of Microservices

For all its benefits, microservice architecture isn’t perfect. Microservices can introduce latency at the network layer. There’s extra management overhead because you have to abstract each microservice from each other. And while microservices may be easier to understand and manage, the app can end up with more moving parts. The more parts, the more interdependencies. That can increase the app’s overall complexity.

There’s also the issue of third-party microservices. Third-party services can change their APIs or dependencies at any time and in ways that can break your app. In addition, downstream dependencies are difficult to track. When downstream problems happen, they can cascade through the entire ecosystem.

Yet another issue: increased vulnerability. The use of microservices allows for employing multiple operating systems and languages when building an app, so there’s the possibility of more soft targets for malicious intruders.

These and many other potential issues are why using microservices requires careful planning. Development teams must carefully determine how to break down all functionality and dependencies, as well as to properly size the microservices.

ClearScale Knows Microservices

Fortunately, companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS) offer numerous tools to overcome many of the challenges associated with microservices. Working with app developers experienced in working with both AWS services and microservices can help ensure an optimal project.

ClearScale fits the bill on both counts. As an AWS Premier Consulting Partner, ClearScale is well versed in the use of AWS services and best practices with experience spanning more than 850 client engagements. Many of those projects have involved the use of microservices for new app development and modernization projects.

One project to take note of, in particular, incorporates artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL) to create an app that increases the efficiency and accuracy of the medical coding process. It works on four different operating systems while using a single code base, in essence, delivering four apps for the price of one. You can read the case study about this AI/ML project.

Learn More About the Benefits of Microservices

If you’d like to learn more about using microservices for app modernization, download ClearScale’s free eBook.

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Application Modernization – The Microservices Approach

Talk to ClearScale’s solution architects about your specific app development and modernization project. They’ll help you determine if microservices or another approach is best suited to your needs, and work with you to ensure a successful outcome.