What Are Cloud-Native Microservices

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Written by Mario Rios Muñoz.September 1, 2022

In this blog, we'll explore what microservices are and how they work, as well as the benefits and challenges of using them in cloud-native architectures. The microservices approach is especially popular in large technology companies since they are more cost-effective to develop and maintain than traditional monolithic applications. At Researchable, we decided to invest in building our own microservice ecosystem so we can build new projects from zero to MPV much faster.

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What Are Microservices?

Microservices are a modular software architecture that aims to improve scalability and team collaboration, especially for applications that are rapidly growing. Microservices are a form of distributed application architecture that breaks down an application into small, independent units. The idea is that these self-contained services can be deployed and updated independently of one another. This can help deliver new features as soon as they are ready, with no downtime. This is why some of the most popular, fast-growing tech companies, like Netflix, Uber or Spotify have adopted this architecture.

The Problem With Traditional Monolithic Applications

The “monolithic” approach of developing software applications combines all the different parts of an application into a single package. If a specific feature of a monolithic application faces a peak in traffic, the entire system architecture must be scaled up.

Another issue of monolith applications is developer collaboration and the introduction of change. Large monoliths tend to grow into complex inter-connected mazes of code. Changing an internal aspect of the application for the needs of feature A can inadvertently break feature B. This is known as monolithic hell.

Microservices and Cloud-Native

Microservices solve the "monolithic" problem by splitting an application into different services that can run on multiple servers and communicate with one another through APIs. This way different parts of the application can scale independently according to usage patterns. Also, as long as the interface between the different components remains the same, developers can simultaneously work on different parts of the application and have a lower risk of introducing a breaking change that affects the entire platform.

Similarly to how frontend applications are nowadays designed to be mobile-first, to better accommodate today’s usage patterns, microservice architectures are being designed for the cloud. Cloud-native microservices are built to fully leverage the capabilities that cloud providers offer. Think about dynamic scaling, load balancing, and redundancy in order to achieve more reliability.

Advantages of Microservices

  • Improved reliability - If a specific service goes down then it doesn't impact the entire system. For example, if one part of the app stops working then you only lose that functionality and not the whole app.
  • Scalability - Smaller units of code can be scaled out more easily without needing to modify the overall service as a whole, making better use of the underlying hardware resources.
  • The right tool, for the right job - Microservices allow to easily integrate different technologies and stacks. When building monolithic applications, teams have to commit to one programming language and one framework.
  • Dedicated database - Each microservice owns its own state. This makes applications more robust to change.
  • Independent deployability - Each service can be deployed independently and can be updated without affecting any other services in the system. New features and bug fixes can be delivered quickly.

Disadvantages of Microservices

  • Development overhead - For small teams starting from nothing, microservices mean more work.
  • Harder to ship - Microservices thrive in PaaS applications. When the client wants to self-host and self-manage the application, microservices are not ideal. Clients must have the know-how to manage all the different components.
  • Lack of domain awareness - Microservices are all about establishing boundaries around the domain model. When teams are starting on a new project, they typically lack the context to make the right subdivisions. This can lead to an overall poor architecture, with a negative impact on performance and reliability.
  • Latency - Microservices work by communicating with each other. This introduces latency to every query. This effect can be exacerbated when the wrong domain model abstractions have been implemented.

How We Use Cloud-Native Microservices Architecture at Researchable

As a software and data agency, Researchable builds and maintains multiple projects simultaneously for our clients. Projects vary from AI-driven products to data platforms and data management platforms. While each client is unique, there is usually a common ground between projects: every client needs authentication and communication via email. Many clients need to interact with external APIs. This is why we have invested our time and resources in our own microservice ecosystem, to implement some of these common features.

As we’ve seen in this post, microservices are not always the right choice, and for each new project, we make a careful evaluation on what architecture would fit the project best. But for the projects that suit a microservice architecture, we can get quickly up and running, and reach the market faster.

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