Traditionally, software developers relied on the concept of using monolithic applications. A single monolith would contain all the code for all the business activities and as the application requirements grew, the monolith also grew to. Multiple independent development teams would be working on a monolith at the same time. This model gave rise to numerous issues such as developmental delays, less-reliable application, poor application performance, and crashes that ended up costing the organization customer and money. 

But what if you can rebuild your applications to scale with your business needs while combating these issues? This is where microservices architecture comes in. 

What is a microservice architecture?

Microservice architecture, or simply microservices, is a distinctive method of developing a software system that focuses on building single-function modules with well-defined interfaces and operations. This trend has gained popularity in recent years as enterprises look to become more agile and move towards DevOps and continuous testing. Microservices can help create scalable, testable software that can be delivered on a weekly basis. 

Thus, Microservice architecture is a modern approach to the classic monolithic architecture. While the monolithic architecture involves complex tooling and more coordination efforts, the microservices architecture uses single-function modules with clearly defined interfaces and operations that reduce the developer friction.

Characteristics of microservice architecture

Microservices have many benefits in terms of usage and execution. They are simpler to understand and deploy and can be reused across businesses. They help in singling out the defect and there is a minimum risk of any changes. Just as there is no formal definition of the term microservices, there’s no standard model that is present in every system based on this architectural style. Still, you can expect most microservice systems to share a few notable characteristics like, they can be broken down into multiple components:

They are specially built to facilitate business needs

One of the key characteristics of microservice architecture is that it is specially built to facilitate business needs. Microservices are focused around splitting up business logic into multiple services organized around business capability. Also, it allows developers to change and re-deploy specific parts of the application instead of changing the entire code. Thus, they allow the broad-stack implementation of software for specific business needs including User Interface (UI), database, and external collaborations.

The routing process is fairly simple.

The routing process in microservices is similar to the classic UNIX system. Applications built from microservices aim to be as decoupled and cohesive as possible. The services receive requests, process them with their own logic, and output a response. A good example of this is the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), where systems are installed for sophisticated message routing, transformation, choreography, and applying business rules.

Decentralized data management.

Microservices are characterized by a decentralized data management system where each microservice manages its own database. Rendering centralized systems for microservices is not an optimal solution, since they often involve a wide variety of platforms and technologies. So, microservices limit the need for central contract management by decreasing the temporal coupling between services. The microservice architecture encourages developers to develop solutions to common problems, those which can be utilized by other teams.   

Resistant to failure.

Since services are used as components in a microservice architecture, the applications need to be designed in such a way that they can tolerate the failure of services. This is another characteristic of microservice architecture. Applications designed with microservice architecture are capable of managing failure. Microservices employ a concept called continuous monitoring to be resistant to failure. Even when one service fails, the architecture allows other services to continue performing without any complications. 

Ideal for evolutionary systems.

Whenever you are required to split or break the application into different components, you are faced with the decision of how to divide up the pieces. Microservices present a solution to this problem with an evolutionary design background. Microservice architecture sees service decomposition as a further tool to enable application developers to control changes in their software systems without slowing down change. 

However, Microservices are not a silver bullet, and by implementing them you will expose communication, teamwork, and other problems that may have been previously implicit but are now forced out into the open. Like every system, microservices to have their own share of pros and cons.

Key benefits of using microservice architecture

  • Microservice architecture gives developers the freedom to independently develop and deploy services.
  • It can be developed by a fairly small team.
  • Codes for different services can be written in different languages.
  • Easy integration and automatic deployment (using open-source continuous integration tools such as Jenkins, Hudson, etc.)
  • Easy to understand and modify for developers, thus can help a new team member become productive quickly.
  • The developers can make use of the latest technologies.
  • The code is organized around business capabilities.