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What Are Microservices?

Microservices have become one of the hottest frameworks for deploying digital technology in the past several years. 63% of businesses were using microservices architecture as of 2018. As such, business owners report microservices being an important part of their digital transformation strategy.

Microservices aren't exactly a flash-in-the-pan tech trend, either. In 2020, 61% of businesses had been using microservices for over a year. Microservice adoption is clearly helping, as well. Nearly 1/3 of businesses have been using microservices to migrate over half of their digital assets.

But what are microservices, though? How can answering “What is microservices architecture?” empower your business to make you and your employees more productive?

Let's dig into this powerful new technology!


What are Microservices? A Definition

Microservices are at risk for concept creep as any other service. Maybe even more so as they're rather technical and their application is a bit obscure as well.

Like any good math problem, we need to begin by defining our variables. To put it succinctly, Microservices.io define microservices as "an architectural style that structures an application as a collection of services."

They go on to list some of the characteristics those services need to include. For something to qualify as a microservice it must:

  • Loosely coupled
  • Independently deployable
  • Testable and maintainable
  • Organized by business capability
  • Run by a small team

These specifications help limit the scope and make it more specifically clear what is or is not a microservice. Simply having an app with a number of different components wouldn't be a microservice, for instance, even though it would be set up very similarly. It could even be identical but it still wouldn't qualify as a microservice.

This refined definition gives an idea why defining a microservice is so famously fuzzy. That's because it's not necessarily a product that you could put in a shopping cart and purchase. Like a number of other recent tech trends, such as AGILE or REST, microservices are a framework. They're more of a philosophy than a physical product.

This microservices example should also help you visualize the entire development ecosystem. You can take a look at this GitHub repository for a real-world example of microservices in action.

Further Characteristics of Microservices

Let's delve a bit further into some of the specifics of what makes something a microservice. Our previous list is a good starting point but it's a bit basic as it's only an overview.

Microservices Must Be Self-Contained

For a component to qualify as a microservice, it needs to be fully functional completely on its own. A microservice must be self-contained and able to run of its own volition. Communication via other apps, services, microservices, and databases is accomplished via an application programming interface (API). The APIs which the components use to communicate over the network need to be lightweight for it to count as a microservice, as well. The API must dictate the microservice's functionality, also. This is the feature that allows developers to link microservices together into a larger modular environment.

Independently Maintained

One of the main reasons for microservices' popularity is their independence. For an application to qualify as a microservice it needs to be able to be updated independently without having to change the rest of the network or application.

To make sure this independence is able to be maintained, a microservice needs to be tested and monitored regularly to make sure it continues to function as it's intended.

Reasons For Microservice Adoption

As we've said, microservices have been around for a while. Why has this software architecture format been so prevalent in recent years, then?

One of the main reasons for microservices' surge in popularity is similar to the rise in AGILE we've talked about. These days, it’s fashionable for teams to be able to work as independently as possible. Efficiency is the name of the game, which means that teams need to be able to be small, work fast, and be eminently adaptable.

Microservices also make sense from a pragmatic business standpoint. While specificity may have been the be-all, end-all of the Industrial Revolution, things have changed during Industry 4.0. Now, things need to be reusable, adaptable, and scalable.

Benefits of Microservices

Microservices are one of the core components of cloud-based products and services. The ability to run software and services in containerized environments is the heart of the cloud-based infrastructure. This means that the principal benefit of using microservice architecture is it enables all of the benefits of a decentralized workplace.

There have been encyclopedias worth of information written about the benefits of adopting cloud-based technology, at this point. We'll paraphrase to mention that microservices enable and empower your remote workforce. Your employees are no longer tethered to the physical office to use powerful business software or have up-to-date and accurate data.

The accuracy is one of the main answers to the question "Why microservices?” Inaccurate data can derail your sales and marketing departments, undermining your employees' authority and casting doubt on your organization at crucial moments during the buyer's cycle.

Scalability is one of the other main reasons to integrate microservices into your workflow if you haven't already. Never before has the business world been so unpredictable. The last year alone has been ample evidence of that.

If a business hopes to not only survive but thrive in the 21st Century, it needs to be ready for anything, at any time. Stateless resources and scalability makes that possible.

Microservices make it so that you can bump up your resources in case of an unexpected rush or surge in business. This means you don't have to pay for services that you're not using before you need them. It also means you can scale back once they're no longer necessary so you can keep your operating costs as low as possible.

This makes microservices a blessing and powerful resource for startups and entrepreneurs. We don't all have the resources to pay for terabytes worth of cloud-based servers when we're first starting out in business. Especially if we're not going to need them for a number of years.

Microservices Best Practices

Anytime a term starts to trend in the worlds of tech or business, you'll see a gold rush as people try and cash in on the trend. This muddies the water when everything and everybody are creating products and writing blogs talking about microservices.

Not all of that advice is going to be accurate, unfortunately, let alone actionable. Here are some things you should keep in mind in order to use microservices efficiently in your organization.

Choose The Right Development Environment

There are a ton of cloud servers and cloud-based services at this point. While what constitutes the best cloud server is largely going to boil down to taste, you should still take the time to do some research before settling on what environment will best serve your needs. It's much easier to set up a server for your microservices correctly the first time than to migrate to a different service later on.

Choosing the right environment to run your microservices sets you up for success. Popular microservice servers have a ton of powerful resources available from a microservice aggregator that are premade and ready to go. You just need to plug them into your microservices development projects and they're ready to go!

Automate Everything

Another one of the main reasons for microservices' popularity in recent years is the push to automate as many business processes as possible. Automation is good for everything from improving company productivity to increasing employee morale.

Microservices make all of that possible. It also means there are a ton of powerful tools for automation like Java microservices, for example.

Microservices are an essential part of automated testing tools. Microservices make it so that you can continually monitor the security of your network, for instance, so you'll be instantly made aware of any compromises to your security. It also makes it so that your microservice system can monitor itself, as well, so that doesn't become just one more task on your daily ToDo list.

If you hope to be successful in today's business world, you need to be ready for anything. If we've learned anything from COVID-19 it's that absolutely every element of our working world is subject to disruption. Making sure your software, services, and productivity tools are just as available remotely makes sure that you, your customers, and your employees have everything they need to succeed is integral to future prosperity.

Are You Ready For Microservices?

Having reliable cloud-based tools is essential if you want to thrive in today's data centric business world. They're the key of unlocking you and your team's potential wherever you may be. They're also an essential component of delivering a world-class UX.

If you're ready to set yourself up for success, contact us today and let us know how we can help meet your tech needs.