The steam locomotive evolved into the electric car. Nokia 3310 evolved into the iPhone. And I believe it’s safe to say mail men will evolve into microservices. They’re the perfect example of a disruptive technology that’s being adopted long before it passes the hype peak. Developers all around the world use it to exchange data faster, safer and in a more efficient way (and developers usually don’t like change). But what do we really know about the microservices architecture, and what can it do for your business? I’ll tell you in this blog.
When you ask ten people to give you a definition of microservices or microservices architecture, you’ll probably get ten different answers. This is not surprising, as microservices are relatively new. Add to this the fact that every IT specialist deals with specific business requirements, resulting in many different architectures with many different features. There’s some sort of consensus on what microservices are and what they are not, though. In short, it’s a method of building software applications. But where normally you would create a chain of services that depend on each other, a microservices architecture consists of tiny, modular services that you can deploy independently. Each microservice serves a business goal without “telling” the other services about it, making them lightweight, flexible and harmless to the system as a whole.
Microservices architecture versus monolithic architectures
This independence comes with a ton of benefits, solving pretty much every problem you have when working with their opposite: monolithic architectures. The latter are inflexible systems that heavily depend on each other. So, if anything goes wrong in system A, system B, C and D will get infected with the same problem. Microservices, on the other hand, work independently from each other, meaning they cannot influence other services. This brings me to a second advantage: safety. Let’s say you’re a bank that deals with millions of financial transactions a day. When working with monolithic architectures, you’re forced to put a lot of time, money and energy in protecting every single dollar (or pound, or euro) that’s being exchanged. In a microservices architecture, you simply send one tiny mailman on his way, that vanishes as soon as the message is delivered. A bit cruel for the mailman, maybe, but very hackers proof.
Linking microservices to the ESB
We often get questions of the future role of the Enterprise Service Bus. Especially now that microservices are predicted to take over the world of data exchange, many people believe the time of the ESB will soon be over. I personally think microservices and the ESB make a great team, especially when you have big plans for your company. If you expand your client base, products and services, the number of systems and messages will grow too. This requires an IT backbone that’s flexible and scalable, but also reliable. As microservices work independently from each other, they don’t hold you back when you add additional services and need more capacity (for technical details, read this blog). So, if the future is unpredictable (which it obviously is), microservices help you anticipate it. At the same time, these tiny mailmen are just messengers that don’t know how to coordinate, monitor and integrate. This is where the ESB comes in. In this story, it functions as a general, or a post office, to stick with the mail metaphor. In this blog, I explain the link between ESB and microservices and what the future ESB will look like.
Famous microservices users
Let’s forget about the mailman metaphor and move on to some real-life examples. Netflix is one of my favorite ones. The American entertainment company receives around one billion messages every day, from more than 800 (!) types of devices that all want to gain access to their video APIs. These APIs, in turn, communicate with the backend service, creating billions of messages per day. Netflix therefore replaced its monolithic systems by microservices, that now take care of all of the data exchange. Other famous examples are eBay (which runs on open source software), Twitter, PayPal, Amazon, and oh yeah: the entire UK government. These companies all have one important thing in common: the need to process millions or even billions of messages per day in a safe, fast and autonomous way. Other organizations that will certainly benefit from a microservices architecture are those that work with IoT devices, wearables and different applications in the cloud.
Convinced of the power of microservices? I dare you to look into their fit with your business. When so many great names have built their IT around a microservices architecture, it’s worth your Friday afternoon, I reckon.
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