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What are Microservices?

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what-are-microservices

Let's get started with the basics, what are microservices? In a nutshell, they are basically service oriented architectures, but instead of doing it at a large scale you do it on smaller pieces. Microservice architectures allow an organization to use their existing technology stacks and infrastructure without imposing too many constraints on how different teams might want to work in order to achieve their individual goals.

What are Microservices?

Microservices (sometimes referred to as the "microservice architecture") is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API. These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery. There is a bare minimum of centralized management of these services, which may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies.

Since the very early days of computer science, developers have sought ways to break apart software products into smaller pieces that are easier to understand. Large software systems find it difficult to evolve over time due to their size, causing them to become cumbersome and difficult for other developers to work with. A monolithic application can also prove challenging to deploying into production since it may require specific instances of every service that the application is comprised of. These issues are commonplace in many business domains today which must quickly evolve their software products as business needs change.

In the past few years, the microservice architectural style has emerged as a possible solution to challenges with monolithic applications. The benefits of decomposing an application into various small pieces (i.e. "services") include:

· Better alignment with business capabilities that drive software development;

· Smaller development teams and reduced coordination overhead;

· Independent deployability of services;

· Independent scalability of services; and

· Highly technical (or "low-touch") continuous delivery pipelines for releases .

The microservice architectural style is not an all-inclusive, one size fits all solution to development. This approach requires careful upfront planning and a strong foundation in application architecture. The decomposition of an application into services may yield additional benefits, such as the ability to do continuous deployment by releasing changes for individual services without impacting other running service instances.

The microservice architectural style is particularly useful when working with complex applications that must evolve quickly over time. Distributed systems (and especially those that are highly scalable) are notoriously difficult to design. This architectural style reduces the complexity of the overall system by decomposing it into various services, each responsible for its own set of functionality.

Theoretically, microservices are executable programs that are not tied to a specific machine and can be deployed anywhere without needing to change them significantly. For example, a microservice could be written in Python while another could be written in Java. Microservices are typically intended to perform only one task at a time and they offer APIs that other services can use to connect with them.

Microservices are increasingly used across many companies who need to release products rapidly over the Internet. Network-accessible services have become a popular tool for software companies because they eliminate the challenges of working on monolithic applications.


Core Features of Microservices

The first feature is fully automated deployments. When you deploy a monolith your entire application goes through a lot of pre-deployment steps to make sure everything works smoothly and then only after all those steps do you get to do the deployment. This can take a long time and cause deployments to happen at very odd times, such as midnight on a Sunday night when no one is around to help if something goes wrong. With microservices all you have to do is deploy the piece of functionality that your microservice encapsulates and then all other pieces can be deployed independently and automatically.

The next feature is isolation. This comes in two pieces, the first being that you can deploy a piece of a monolith and it will work fine because all other pieces aren't deployed yet. The other benefit isolated microservices provide is that each one can be developed independent from the rest of your application, which means you don't have to wait for someone to finish and deploy their code before you can start working on something new.

The final feature we will cover is that monoliths divide your customers while microservices unify them. What this means is that if you have a bunch of different customers who each use some sort of technology, one customer might use Ruby and another might use Elixir. You can't have a web application that works with Ruby and Elixir, so you would have to create two different applications. However, you could take the Ruby application and the Elixir application, turn them into microservices, and then have an entirely new service to interact with those customers instead of having them go through one monolithic system.

Ok, so now we know what microservices are what kind of features and benefits they provide, but where do they come from?

Microservice architectures were first popularized around 2010 by new start-ups such as Netflix. At the same time some old start-ups also started to go this route such as Amazon and eBay. What finally made it widely accepted was when Spotify announced they were converting to microservices.


Common Misconceptions Related to Microservices

Now that you know what are microservices, what are the features and benefits they provide, where did they come from, and who is using them, let's cover some of the common misconceptions surrounding them. The first is that all your code has to be in a different repository or service in order for this to be a microservice architecture. This is not true, you can have your code split into different repositories or services but still use a monolith architecture with everything in one place. The second misconception is that each service has to interact with the outside world individually, which isn't required either.

The final myth we will cover is that you can't have more than one microservice per system. This is also not true, you could have 10 different microservices interacting with each other instead of being decoupled from the outside world.


How to Leverage Microservices?

When implementing a microservice architecture you have two choices for implementation technology. The first choice is RESTful APIs which follows the principles of the Richardson Maturity Model. This is good for simple applications that do not change much, if at all, because it does not require a lot of effort to implement.

The second choice is gRPC which follows the principles of Protocol Buffers and uses HTTP/2 by default. gRPC has a lot more benefits over RESTful APIs in terms of flexibility and performance, but it requires a lot more effort to implement.

One of the most important pieces to implementing microservices is how you will handle traffic. To do this many teams use something called a service registry which provides all the different pieces with information like endpoint URLs, versions, and protocols for communicating with each other.

The final piece to implementing microservices is how you will handle deployment. One option is to have a single piece of software managing deployment called a service mesh which handles all the infrastructure and networking required for your microservices. The downside to this option is that it requires a lot of effort and expertise to implement such as Linkerd, Istio (a mix between the two), or Consul Connect. There are also other solutions but they are much less popular such as Kong, Akka HTTP, and Apache Thrift.

This article has covered what are microservices , what kind of features and benefits they provide , where did they come from , who is using them, and some of the common misconceptions surrounding them . It has also covered how to use microservices , how you will handle traffic, and how you will handle deployment.

Thank you for reading this article, I hope it has helped deepen your understanding of what are microservices.


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