Microservices architecture is a framework where an application is separated into smaller services and each of those services typically runs a unique process and manages its own database. There are many pros and cons to microservices. Let's explore them.
Advantages of microservices architecture
Since each microservice runs independently, it is easier to add, remove, update or scale each cloud microservice. Developers can perform these tasks without disrupting any other microservice in the system. Companies can scale each microservice as needed. For instance, if a particular microservice experiences increased demand because of seasonal buying periods, more resources can be efficiently devoted to it. If demand drops as the season changes, the microservice can be scaled back, allowing resources or computing power to be used in other areas.
Improved fault isolation
Under a monolithic architecture structure, when developers experience a failure in one element of the architecture, it will collapse all architecture components. With a microservices architecture, if one service fails, it’s much less likely that other parts of the application will fail because each microservice runs independently. However, businesses need to be careful, because large volumes of traffic can still be overwhelming in some cases.
The benefit of a microservice architecture is that developers can deploy features that prevent cascading failures. A variety of tools are also available, from GitLab and others, to build fault-tolerant microservices that help improve the resilience of the infrastructure.
Program language and technology agnostic
A microservice application can be programmed in any language, so dev teams can choose the best language for the job. The fact that microservices architectures are language agnostic also allows the developers to use their existing skill sets to maximum advantage – no need to learn a new programming language just get the work done. Using cloud-based microservices gives developers another advantage, as they can access an application from any internet-connected device, regardless of its platform.
Simpler to deploy
A microservices architecture lets teams deploy independent applications without affecting other services in the architecture. This feature, one of the pros of microservices, will enable developers to add new modules without redesigning the system's complete structure. Businesses can efficiently add new features as needed under a microservices architecture.
Reusability across different areas of business
Some microservice applications may be shareable across a business. If a site has several different areas, each with a login or payment option, the same microservice application can be used in each instance.
Developers can plug this new “microsurgery” into the architecture without fear of conflicts with other code or of creating service outages that ripple across the website. Development teams working on different microservices don't have to wait for each other to finish. Companies can develop and deploy new features quickly and upgrade older components as new technologies allow them to evolve.
Ability to experiment
Deciding to go forward with experimentation is much easier with microservices architecture.
It’s simple to roll out new features because each service is independent of the others. If customers don't like it, or the business benefits aren’t clear, it's much easier to roll it back without affecting the rest of the operation.
If a new feature is a customer request, a microservices architecture means they’ll get to experience it in weeks, rather than months or years.
Improved data security
If the components of the computer systems architecture break down into smaller pieces, sensitive data is protected from intrusions from another area. While there are connections between all microservices, developers can use secure APIs to connect the services. Secure APIs safeguard data by ensuring it is only available to specifically authorized users, applications and servers. If a business requires handling sensitive data such as health or financial information, it's easier to achieve compliance under data security standards such as healthcare's HIPAA or the European GDPR.
It may be necessary for a business to outsource certain functions to third-party partners. Many companies are concerned about protecting intellectual property with a monolithic architecture format. However, a microservices architecture allows businesses to segment areas just for partners that won’t otherwise disclose core services.
When considering the size of teams you assign to each microservice, consider the two-pizza rule. First articulated by Amazon, which pioneered microservices, the idea is to keep development teams small enough to feed them with two pizzas. Experts explain that this guideline improves work efficiency, allows businesses to achieve goals faster, makes teams easier to manage, creates greater focus among the group and results in higher quality products.
Attractive for engineers
Engineers find microservices architecture enticing, and companies have a better chance of finding top-flight talent to work on microservices application development. Microservices rely on the latest engineering practices and developer tools. This provides an important advantage for businesses hoping to attract specialists.
Disadvantages of microservices
While there are a solid number of advantages for any business, there are also a few disadvantages of microservices to consider before adoption.
Upfront costs are higher with microservices
While cloud microservices are a pro, such as saving money over the long run, there are cons, such as the costs associated with their initial deployment. A business needs to have sufficient hosting infrastructure with security and maintenance support. Even more important, it will need skilled teams to manage all services.
Interface control is crucial
Since each microservice has its own API, any application using that service will be affected if you change the API, and that change is not backward compatible. Any large operation using a microservices architecture will have hundreds, even thousands, of APIs so controlling those interfaces becomes critical to the business's operation, which can be a disadvantage to microservices architecture.
A different kind of complexity
Debugging can be more challenging with a microservices architecture. Each microservice will have its own set of logs. This provides a minor headache when tracing the source of a problem in the code.
Unit testing is more manageable with microservices architecture. Integration testing is not. Since the architecture distributes each microservice, developers cannot test the entire system from their machines.
Service-oriented architecture vs. microservices
If you work in cloud computing, you're probably aware of the service-oriented architecture (SOA) versus microservices debate. In many ways, the two architectures are similar as they both involve cloud computing for agile development. Both break large monolithic components into smaller units that are easier to work with.
The biggest difference is that SOA is an enterprise-wide approach to developing software components. Microservices, meanwhile, build standalone applications that perform a specific function and this cloud-native approach to development and deployment makes them more scalable, agile and resistant.
So, in essence, the difference between the two comes down to scope. SOA is an enterprise-wide approach, while a microservices architecture has an application scope.
Read on to learn how to get started with a microservices architecture.