There is something strange about the word ‘micro’. If you were to say that the T Rex had a micro brain you would actually be insulting the T Rex. That is, of course, if it was still alive and not extinct and it could understand human speech which can't because of its tiny brain. We can infer that ‘micro’ in this case means less powerful because it's small. Yet on the other hand, there is a lot about microservices these last couple of years and what that could mean to our business. Does that mean that we are going to take something that is strong and powerful like an ESB and exchange it for something that is weak?
The microcomputer was a small computer compared to the mainframe and minicomputers of the mid 80’s. Small yet powerful for its purpose. In the mid-1980s, Eric Drexler wrote the book Engines of Creation, a book about nanotechnology. Nano is even smaller than micro but in this case the small size is considered it’s strong suit. Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionize for instance manufacturing and medicine. So, we see that micro does not always mean that something is less powerful, it is more about size (and partly about power). And of course, about tit for purpose. Take for instance the microprojector, lightweight and therefor easier to take with you when on the road. Compare that to the big (and powerful) Epson 4K projector. Each of these has their own use case, one is suitable to take with you and the other one suited for your conference room. You can figure out which one is suited for which use case.
Micro and microservices
The move to microservices seems to grow every day. Look at the google trends overview of the term ‘microservices’. The term ‘microservices’ itself is also subject to discussion to what it entails. There is not an official definition according to Wikipedia but there is a consensus as to what is typical of microservices. Microservices is something, in my opinion, that organizations need to look into to see if it adds value to the IT infrastructure now, or in the future. IT is not that it will be just microservices for most organizations (it is never just this or just that).
WSO2 and microservices
What we see within the development efforts of WSO2 is the stronger focus on microservices we currently see. This is not something that started this year but more a focus on the topic that has been growing. The Microservices Framework For Java (MSF4) has been part of the WSO2 Enterprise Integrator as a separate product but included by default in the download. The Micro Integrator that was previously a separate profile in the Enterprise Integrator but is now a standalone product allowing existing ESB functionality as a form of microservice. Also, on the API Manager front we have a micro gateway based on the Ballerina language that allows export and migration from axis2 / synapse configuration to a Micro services gateway environment. New versions of the two flagship products (Enterprise Integrator and API Manager) will be out of the box able to support Ballerina / microservices. So, all signs are pointing to a future where microservices, could play a role or at least be something that you should look into. I am not saying should at this moment for two reasons, the most important one being that it all depends on your business and IT. Coming back to the example of the (micro)projectors. If you are a lot on the road giving presentations, portability is something that adds value to you. If you are looking for a projector that will be mounted in a meeting room, portability is not so much the issue.
What makes microservices so powerful?
We need to look at the characteristics we mentioned earlier. The fact that they can be lightweight, can be started and scaled independently and the organization around fine-grained business capabilities are in my opinion the strong aspects. Rather than managing an SOA environment you manage a microservice environment where scaling simply means spinning up another Docker container. All in all, microservices look to be here to stay and looking into the benefits within your business is in my opinion a very sensible move.
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