Microservices: Past, present and future
Change, at first, is usually met with resistance. However, in the age of the digital customer and the fourth industrial revolution, the pace of change is incredibly fast. Especially in an industry like IT, where innovation has become the norm. Sophisticated technology is ensuring unparalleled levels of software quality and delivery, but this also means that they are moving away from traditional, legacy systems. Modern infrastructure is the need of the hour all across the IT industry, and when we talk of modern infrastructure, of course microservices (MSA) has to feature!
The last few years have seen massive development in this space, and for good reason. We’re all well aware about the umpteen business benefits that this promises. Flexibility, agility and easily deployable independent services are only the tip of the iceberg. And since monoliths and agility do not align with each other, MSA, with its customer centricity has changed the software development process altogether. It is tech agnostic, ensures better management of backend processes, runs rapid release cycles and is optimal for cloud native ecosystems. In fact, the developer’s perspective about MSA has improved significantly over the last year, as it focuses on using the right tools at the right time, while ensuring shorter learning curves for teams. This also means faster iteration rates, more testing time less time for knowledge transfer in case teams change.
Deploying a microservices architecture successfully, though, is difficult. In the absence of well defined boundaries between traditional ways of functioning and promises of new age delivery, confusion will ensue. The biggest pain point that teams face while deploying MSA is lack of technical expertise. They also often fail to realize that this is more than just another technological implementation; it’s a service delivery model that impacts business operations directly.
The other thing that teams need to take care of is simultaneous rollouts and developments. Sure, microservices comes with a promise of agility and shorter sprint times for development, but this often leads to teams setting high expectations that don’t match delivery timelines. Preparedness for failure needs to be built from day one, and cross-skilling, collaboration & cultural changes need to be factored in, for MSA to work properly. A well functioning microservices architecture also has to have services that communicate with each other easily. New networking systems, thus, are now needed more than ever.
You may find yourself wondering why, then, microservices are so popular within the developer community, with challenges like these. Like I said before, the long term business benefits overpower the short term executional hassles. MSA ensures enterprises use an API driven approach, and a paradigm shift towards a desired state of functioning rather than just working with executional commands. It also ensures an integration of disparate software solutions, while leveling the app development process. Developers, thus, get more time to build resilient solutions as standardization and consistency across APIs is maintained. Mock API endpoints can also be created with simplified versioning. Huge industry players like Netflix, Amazon and Uber have not been advocating MSA frameworks without reason!
For all of this to tie in seamlessly, though, a lot of work goes into the backend implementation. Enterprises need to keep track of the trends that are driving such transformations. For one, when you choose to use MSA, container native security needs to be taken care of. Robust security measures ensure monitoring protocols vett all activities within the app environment, and the chances of an app failing without such measures are extremely high. Service mesh integration is another. The real challenges of building effective MSA is ensuring that individual services communicate with each other. Service meshes also enable language agnostic fault tolerance, load balancing and a clear focus towards business logic.
While the above mentioned features talk about microservices in the present, enterprises with a well defined strategy for the future are the ones who will surpass competition. Going ahead, serverless computing is sure to overtake the systems of today, and container based, cloud accessible apps backed by microservices are going to be prevalent pretty soon. The shift from hybrid cloud environments to multi-cloud setups is also worth taking note of. On the technicalities front, while REST is more popular for inter-service communication and exposing APIs, GraphQL is gaining prominence in the industry, and is all set to take over. It simplifies workflow requests between clients and servers, and better for full stack developers. All of this combined will definitely lead to some interesting shifts in the way technology has been perceived this far. We’ll just have to wait and see what that brings!
-Mayur Yambal is a team lead at iauro Systems