If only there were a way to scale out a seemingly unwieldy application.
Oh, wait, there is.
The idea of implementing microservices architecture may now take root in your cost-conscious mindset for a reason.
If Amazon did it, why wouldn’t it be a wise decision for your company?
Not so fast.
Microservices may not look set to bow out yet, but for some, their dizzying ascent is a chapter of the past. So, if you’ve already opted out of the good old monolithic architectures, you might have gotten ahead of yourself.
Microservices can benefit development processes in many ways, but they are not for everyone. As long as your product has few features, microservices are an excellent option. However, as your app gets bulkier, things may slide into chaos and turn what was supposed to make your life easier into another headache. To some extent, this resembles lambda implementation, meaning one service works perfectly fine with only one, not dozens of functions.
How do you know if saying yes to microservices instead of monoliths is a good idea?
That’s what we’re going to nail down. We’ll also look at the differences between the two architecture types, what you can expect from microservices, and how you can adopt them if doing so makes sense for you.
At Acropolium, we help companies conquer microservices all the time, whether they’re looking to refactor their existing monoliths or start with modules from the get-go.
We’ll be happy to walk you through, too.
Implementing microservices vs. monoliths
In non-techie terms, microservices architecture is like an orchestra. It comprises many components that integrate into one system, like an ensemble of violinists, percussionists, and other musicians making music together. Nobody goes solo to hog the limelight in an orchestra, and neither does any microservice in a project.
If we were to follow this analogy, a monolithic application would be comparable to a pre-recorded song. It has a rigid structure, and you can’t just take out an intro to replace it with a chorus without rewriting the whole piece.
Technically speaking, implementing microservices infrastructure means using one microservice for one set of functions. It must be isolated from other services and designed without dependencies for loose coupling. That means every microservice must have its own technology stack, irrespective of other app components.
Monolithic architecture is just the opposite.
Though different, all monolithic components are interconnected and share a single code base and tech stack. They exemplify tight coupling, leaving no room for deviation.
Microservice-based implementation cuts two ways. Here’s why some sing the praises of this architecture:
- Microservices can be load-balanced.
- They can be scaled on a case-by-case basis.
- Microservices stay unified with message brokers or REST APIs, even if they “speak” different programming languages.
- You can reuse some portions of microservices architecture for your other projects and plan for would-be service versions from the very beginning.
- Changes are easy to make within the module that needs to be improved rather than the whole app.
That’s why 54% of developers were happy with implementing microservices last year, according to a survey. But at the same time, adopting such a decentralized architecture does have its cons:
- You have to put in plenty of planning to get started with microservices.
- Modules may become a pain to manage when you have lots of them.
- Your teams have to work in disconnected environments and contend with information barriers.
- Multiple APIs and configuration management tools may spell trouble for a small company.
- Log analytics and performance testing require more resources than when using monoliths.
One way to avoid those headwinds is to keep going with a monolith. Here’s how it can benefit your projects:
- Bundled functions are a breeze to build, access, and maintain.
- Deployment time is reduced as you roll out one unit, not a mishmash of multiple services.
- QA processes are streamlined with monolithic apps.
- You can save money on API implementations.
- Onboarding new developers to join your team in the middle of a project is easier than getting them clued in on microservices.
Is this compelling enough to stay with or switch back to monoliths? Before you make that decision, consider their drawbacks too:
- Big monoliths can grow into a tangle of lines of code that’s impossible to straighten out.
- It isn’t uncommon to have trouble scaling a function that shares a code base with other functions.
- When some part of a monolith is down, you need to retest the entire code after tuning that small part up. It’s expensive and time-consuming to modify a tech stack when it’s set in a monolithic stone.
- Challenges are inevitable if you want to containerize a monolith, which may shut your project from service discovery and other features.
It isn’t only the choice between the flexibility of microservices and the simplicity of monoliths. It’s about what benefits are more important to your projects, given the downsides that pop up after adopting either architecture.
Read also: Advanced guide to SaaS application architecture.
Demystifying microservices vs. APIs
You can’t compare microservices to APIs because they are two different things. Yet, they always work together as a team when it comes to application development.
Let’s start with the basics. Microservices refer to the modules that an app consists of behind the user interface curtain. There may be five or 50 modules, each tasked with a specific function.
It may be easier to get a handle on such a modular system with examples of microservices architecture implementation.
Take a travel planning app.
If it were developed using microservices, it’d have different modules coded for tours, itineraries, accommodation, and flights. So, if users were about to explore weekend getaway options, they’d only interact with one part of the system, not the entire app.
And then there are APIs. These are tiny pieces of software hidden from the end user’s sight to make sure an app works properly at the data level. They connect different applications or different parts of the same application, governing data request and return processes.
In the microservices context, APIs are a way one module of an app interacts with another. They are internally embedded into an app infrastructure through a single gateway to oversee:
- If one service can request data from a different service
- What data types it can fetch
- The result that each service can return as a response to a request
When you go for microservices, you typically build them with the REST API framework. Besides requests and results, it adds an extra security layer to your modules. That’s because REST APIs set the rules for data exchange and authentication that all microservices must follow to not expose the information that isn’t supposed to be public.
In other words, REST APIs are to microservices what a conductor is to an orchestra. They ensure every app module does what it’s designed to do, just like a maestro controls the input of every musician while keeping an ensemble together throughout the performance.
Benefits of microservices architecture implementation for SaaS companies
Microservices are still an infrastructure of choice for many SaaS products. They are most popular with data analytics services, with 45% of apps relying on the loose coupling model.
But microservices can only bring value to your product if you stick to coherent processes. Well-defined methodologies, clear documentation, and accurately distributed responsibilities are at the core of building apps with fragmented systems.
If you can do it incrementally, here’s how microservices architecture implementation can transform your development and business chores.
Scale at any time
Scalability is microservices’ claim to fame. If you were to pump more resources into just one of your app’s features, microservices architecture would make it a snap. You wouldn’t be compelled to bother scaling up — as you would with a monolith — but fine-tune any of your product’s components horizontally. Microservices allow for unparalleled granularity, which is great for upping the ante for a service that does well.
Stop overusing resources
Load balancers work like a charm for microservices. And setting one up behind your project can save you money. By balancing workloads, you can prevent your app’s components from tapping into more compute resources than they actually need and reduce the costs of keeping them up and running. This also helps maintain your backend infrastructure and integrations.
Deploy and debug with ease
Although monoliths are usually faster to deploy, microservices boast piecemeal rollouts. That means you can get one module live (whether other modules are already rolled out or not), which is impossible with a monolithic app. This flexibility is then passed on to change management. If some part of your software flops, you can troubleshoot it without getting your hands dirty retesting other components. Besides debugging, microservices also simplify updates and improvements.
The modular approach can ensure the highest availability of your product, especially when implementing microservices architecture using AWS, Google Cloud, or other cloud platforms. The reason for this is that microservices help prevent the spread of a security problem. With zero-trust technology between your modules, you can be sure an affected service on AWS or elsewhere absorbs and contains the impact. That’s why other services can still be available while you’re addressing the problem within just one faulty part of your product.
Future-proof your architecture
Software architecture shouldn’t be walled in. When developing a product, you never know when new tools may come out, packed with more value for your app than your existing tech stack. And it won’t matter when you use microservices. They don’t require you to stick to specific programming languages and technologies but allow you to update your tech stack whenever there’s a valuable addition to it.
Double your efforts, not duplicate them
When there’s a monolith behind your app, you’re building functionality into it and leaving it there forever. But when you go for microservices, you can take some code out of your modules and put it to good use for other products with similar logic. You don’t have to lay the foundation again. This is a great way to leverage what you’ve already created and develop new products on top of it.
Read also: Single-tenant vs multi-tenant architecture.
How to implement microservices architecture?
Now, if you’ve already decided to keep your monolithic story going, skip this part without a pang of guilt.
But if you’re deeply curious about vetted practices making up the best microservices architecture implementation strategies, stay tuned.
Often, the planning stage determines whether you’ll win or lose with microservices. That’s where you should brace for a marathon and:
- Define logical divisions for each microservice (i.e., how many modules your monolith can be chopped up into, where they start, and where they end).
- Determine what each microservice will be used for and put this down on paper. This will help you avoid unnecessary code changes and logic-related issues later on.
- Take a step back to look at what parts of your monolith can be touched up before splitting it into microservices.
- Think of how many more developers you need to effectively distribute responsibilities so that one team can focus on one service.
Take your time here as you don’t want to regret your decision due to a lack of planning.
Design and development
With loose coupling in mind, you need to select an architecture design pattern that fits your application. It must be based on a clear understanding of how your services should interact, including what data they can request from each other. You can then pick a synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid communication pattern.
Another great tactic is to develop an auxiliary framework for your would-be microservices to ensure:
- Infrastructure state management
- Consistent data processing
- Exception management and monitoring
- Version control
- Pertinent database queries
This framework can serve as a consistency layer beneath all your microservices. Why is it important? It can help you optimize the amount of code and infrastructure maintenance as your product takes shape.
You’re going decentralized with microservices. There’s no point in encapsulating them back at the database level.
That’s why it won’t hurt to:
- Implement separate databases and schemas for all microservices
- Optimize storage for every database so that it’s focused on one service
- Determine how and what data each module can access
- Embrace polyglot persistence
You can opt for relational or NoSQL databases, depending on what makes a better fit for the data your app needs to store.
Whether you’re implementing serverless microservices architecture or making your way with containers, you want to:
- Ensure you have the right tools at hand (Terraform, Helm Charts, Docker Compose, etc.)
- Think one at a time while deploying each microservice independently
- Automate the process with specialized deployment scripts
- Eliminate dependencies and availability issues by setting up multiple instances
When deploying microservices, get your teams to work in tandem. This is where you should also start watching out for inefficiencies and keep your testing radars on.
Testing and upkeep
Once your microservices are deployed, these practices are to be followed since day one:
- Get started on decentralized monitoring and automated testing across your builds.
- Aggregate log data to see the whole picture and bet on auditing changes.
- Constantly monitor program execution processes.
- Establish a maintenance plan covering service access control, improvements, and updates.
Never cut corners with testing and maintenance. Because they are distributed, microservices create a larger environment for things to happen than in a monolithic system, which widens the room for potential issues.
Read also: How to scale a multi-tenant SaaS.
Implementing microservices with Acropolium
Microservices are like a mosaic. They can become a thing of beauty, but it’s impossible to keep tiles together if you haven’t applied adhesive yet.
When it comes to software architecture, standardized processes and aligned teams are your adhesive. And this is what Acropolium is known for. Read also about legacy software modernization.
Remember, things are never lightning-fast with microservices. Tradeoffs and backfires are unavoidable unless you invest enough time in planning, documentation, test automation, and deployment standards. But we won’t let distributed systems cast a haze over your products just because you’re taking the sub-optimal approach.
At Acropolium’s SaaS department, we know how to implement microservices infrastructure with multiple programming languages and can help you migrate from your monolith. We’ve mastered code refactoring skills while decomposing huge single-tenant monolithic apps into the smallest functional multi-tenant modules. That’s why there’s no unmanageable monolith for us.
Are you ready to show yours and see how scalable your software can be with microservices? Say no more and contact us.