Are Microservices Dead?
Ultimately, microservices are not dead, and they continue to be a viable approach for many businesses. However, besides their benefits, you also should consider the architecture’s drawbacks and the type of project you’re working on before making your decision.
No, microservices are not dead. In fact, they remain a popular architectural style for building software systems, particularly large and complex systems. This is due to microservices’ emphasis on agility, scalability, and high fault tolerance.
However, with the rise of new technologies such as serverless computing and Kubernetes, some in the tech community have begun to question whether microservices are still relevant. The question of whether microservices are dead is therefore an important one for organizations considering how to structure their software architecture.
In this blog post, we'll explore both the case for and against microservices and consider the potential impact of emerging technologies on the future of this approach.
The case for microservices
Microservices is a software architecture approach that involves building applications as a collection of small, independently deployable services. These services are organized around business capabilities and communicate with each other via APIs. This makes it ideal for designing enterprise systems. The key benefits of this architecture include:
Microservices are designed to be independently deployable and scalable, which means that organizations can easily add or remove instances of individual services as needed to handle changes in traffic or demand.
With a monolithic architecture, scaling an application often requires scaling the entire application, which can be costly and inefficient. With microservices, however, organizations can scale individual services independently, which allows them to optimize resources and reduce costs.
By breaking down applications into smaller services, teams can work on individual services independently, which makes it easier to introduce new features and make changes without affecting the entire application. The ability to work on individual services independently also allows teams to adopt an agile approach to software development. Teams can work on smaller, more focused features, and release them to production more quickly. This makes organizations competitive by allowing them to respond quickly to customer needs.
Because microservices are designed to be independent, a failure in one service won't necessarily bring down the entire application. This means that organizations can build more resilient applications that can withstand failures in individual services.
In contrast, in a monolithic architecture, a single point of failure can bring down the entire application. For example, if the database crashes, the entire application may become unavailable. With microservices, however, each service can have its own database or data store, which reduces the impact of a failure in any single service.
Microservices consist of modular services and as such organizations can arrange services around specific business capabilities, making it easier to understand how each service contributes to the overall application.
This modularity can improve the maintainability of the application, as developers can easily identify and fix issues. For example, if a bug is found in a specific service, developers can isolate the service and work on it without affecting the rest of the application. This can help organizations deliver solutions quickly, without disrupting the overall application.
Since each service is independent in a microservice architecture, organizations can easily reuse individual services across multiple applications and use cases. For example, consider something like user authentication. This service could be developed as a separate microservice that handles user authentication and authorization and can be used across many services. Thanks to its reusability, developers don't need to build authentication functionality from scratch for each application, saving time and resources. This may consequently result in faster time-to-market.
Reusing services also help ensure consistency and standardization across different applications and use cases. This can help organizations avoid duplicating functionality and reduce the risk of errors and inconsistencies.
While microservices architecture may not be the right approach for every organization, it remains a powerful tool for building scalable, reliable, and flexible applications to help organizations stay competitive. As more organizations adopt DevOps practices and move toward cloud-native architectures, microservices architecture is becoming even more appealing since it complements the principles of cloud-native architecture.
The case against microservices
While microservices architecture has many benefits, it's important to acknowledge that there are also some criticisms of this approach. Here are some arguments against microservices architecture:
Microservices architecture can be more complex to design, build, and operate than monolithic architectures. Managing multiple services, APIs, and data stores can require additional tooling and operational overhead, increasing the overall cost of running a system.
Conversely, monoliths are easier to build and maintain. The architecture is simpler and exists as a single cohesive unit, meaning developers can work on the entire application as a single codebase.
Latency refers to the delay that occurs when data is transmitted over a network or between different components of a system. In the context of microservices architecture, latency can be a disadvantage because of the additional network communication required between the different services.
In a monolithic architecture, all components of the application are contained within a single process, and communication between them occurs via in-memory function calls. This means that the latency is low, as data doesn’t travel over a network.
In a microservices architecture, however, each service is typically deployed independently and communicates with other services over the network. This can introduce additional latency and overhead, as data needs to be transmitted over the network and processed by each service. This can result in slower response times and reduced performance.
Integrating multiple services can be more challenging in microservices architecture, especially when dealing with legacy systems or services that don't support modern APIs and protocols. This can require additional integration infrastructure and tooling, which can increase complexity and cost.
The Future of microservices
The future of microservices is likely to be shaped by several emerging technologies and trends, particularly serverless computing. Serverless computing is a cloud computing model in which the cloud provider manages the infrastructure and automatically allocates resources as needed.
It's an event driven-architecture whereby developers write code in the form of functions, which are triggered by events and executed in a stateless environment. By being event-driven, serverless computing is therefore focused on code efficiency which ensures applications consume only the required amount of computing resources. However, this comes at the cost of higher cold start times.
On the other hand, Microservices are typically deployed on containers or virtual machines and require a certain level of infrastructure management. They’re more suited to run long-running processes since each service can run continuously even without an event trigger, making the architecture an ideal long-term solution for businesses looking to scale.
Other notable differences between the two architectures include:
IT operation management
Microservices require an in-house team for deployment, monitoring, and maintenance. In a serverless architecture, the maintenance operations are handled by the vendor, for example, AWS Lambda or Microsoft Azure. This can reduce the overall cost of the project, as the organization does not need to invest in hiring or training a team of experts to manage the infrastructure. However, it also means that you may have less control over the infrastructure, and may be subject to vendor lock-in.
In serverless computing, developers write code in the form of functions, which can simplify the development process. However, each function has a limited runtime as provisioned by the vendor. So, this type of architecture may not be suitable for long-running processes. As for Microservices, they require more planning and design work upfront, as well as more management overhead for deployment, monitoring, and maintenance. On the bright side, this architecture does not have a limited runtime; each service can run for as long as required, making them ideal for complex long-term processes.
Serverless computing can handle high loads and scale automatically, making it easier to manage sudden spikes in traffic. Microservices can also be scalable but require more manual intervention to manage load balancing, clustering, and other scalability concerns.
Note that the two architectures aren't mutually exclusive, and organizations may choose to use one or even both approaches depending on their needs. When combined, microservices are used to break down the application into smaller manageable components, while serverless technology is used to manage the execution and scaling of these components.
Combining microservices and serverless computing
One common approach to combining microservices and serverless is to use a serverless function as a microservice endpoint. In this approach, the serverless function is responsible for handling requests to the microservice and can be triggered by a variety of events, such as HTTP requests or changes to a database. This way, developers can take advantage of the scalability and cost savings of serverless computing, while still maintaining the benefits of microservices.
Keep in mind that there are limits to combining the two. For example, if a microservice requires long-running processes or requires a dedicated set of resources, then a serverless function may not be the best option. In these cases, it may be better to use a traditional microservice architecture or a container-based approach.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Are microservices suitable for all types of applications?
A: While microservices can offer many benefits, they may not be the best approach for all applications. For smaller applications, using the microservice architecture is an overkill. A simple monolithic will do, as it doesn't require the additional complexity and maintenance overhead that microservices can introduce.
Q: What role do emerging technologies like serverless computing and Kubernetes play in the future of microservices?
A: Emerging technologies like serverless computing and Kubernetes can offer new options for deploying and managing microservices, and can help organizations reduce operational costs and improve scalability. However, they may also introduce additional complexity and require new skills and expertise from development teams.
Q: Are microservices still relevant in modern software development?
Answer: Yes, microservices are still very much relevant in modern software development. While they may not be the best approach for every organization, microservices architecture has many benefits, including scalability, flexibility, and modularity. With the rise of cloud-native technologies and the need for rapid application development, microservices have become increasingly popular.
Ultimately, microservices are not dead, and they continue to be a viable approach for many businesses. However, besides their benefits, you also should consider the architecture’s drawbacks and the type of project you’re working on before making your decision. Emerging technologies such as serverless computing and Kubernetes may impact the future of microservices, and organizations should stay informed about these developments to make informed decisions about their system architecture strategy.
Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!