Learn about the benefits of microservices, the overall pros and cons of a microservices architecture, and when you should use one.
Microservices can help you design software quickly, and are an increasingly critical component of Agile development. Let’s learn what a microservice is, the largest benefits of microservices for modern development environments, and some potential disadvantages of a microservices architecture.
Table of contents
- What are microservices?
- What are the benefits of microservices?
- What are the disadvantages of microservices?
- Why use microservices? Top microservices use cases
- Managing the complexity: Microservices orchestration
- See the big picture with process orchestration and Camunda
What are microservices?
A microservices architecture helps break down software into smaller, loosely coupled components via an API (Application Programming Interface). Each microservice functions independently of the others.
Using a well-orchestrated microservice architecture allows you to develop software composed of smaller, independent pieces which work together to form a cohesive whole. A microservice architecture is often used in lieu of a more traditional monolithic architecture.
For a deeper dive into microservices, you can read more about the history of microservices, including examples.
What are the benefits of microservices?
There are many advantages to using microservices in your application. Some of the biggest benefits of a microservices architecture include:
As independently-running services, individual microservices can be scaled up or down as needed. This means that a particular service (such as one devoted to ticket sales) prone to experiencing ups and downs in use can have more resources allocated to it only as needed.
Each microservice can also be updated, added, or removed independently, without requiring downtime or disruption to the entire application.
Together, these scalability advantages make it easier to continually manage your application so the most important changes are made in the right place at the right time.
Fault isolation and resilience
When something goes wrong with your software, you need to identify the issue quickly and limit the damage. With a monolithic architecture, a single error can bring down the entire application, causing widespread disruption that can be costly to resolve. Microservices help provide fault isolation and resilience here because:
- Microservices run independently. When one crashes, it is far easier to isolate the problem.
- A failing microservice is less likely to crash the entire application, reducing overall downtime.
While these benefits can be significant, it is still important to build your microservices architecture with care to avoid cascading failures (such as by using fault-tolerant techniques, circuit breakers, etc.).
Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) and faster time-to-market
In a traditional waterfall development approach, development tasks move sequentially, and developers can’t make changes “out of turn” without risking the entire release cycle. Microservices help enable an agile approach that can result in faster iterations and quicker releases.
Developers can update independent microservices more frequently, without waiting on other teams to finish, worrying about code conflicts, or risking the stability of the entire application. This allows individual teams to embrace CI/CD and ship code faster, getting a product to market more quickly so real-world usage data can be collected for the next rapid iteration.
Microservices are also a key component of the increasingly popular DevOps methodology.
Developer-friendliness: language and technology agnostic
Microservices can be created using any programming language, and microservices created with multiple languages can all be smoothly connected together.
This flexibility means developers can use the best language needed to achieve their goals, and put their existing skills and knowledge to the best possible use in the process.
Similarly, legacy systems using a monolithic architecture can integrate with modern microservices, regardless of the language used to develop either one. This means you don’t have to refactor your entire architecture to start working with microservices, and you can get up and running delivering ROI quickly.
Other microservices advantages
There are many other advantages to a microservices architecture, including improved data security, reusability, support for smaller “two pizza” development teams (each of which can own an entire microservice), and more.
What are the disadvantages of microservices?
There are drawbacks to microservices as well. Before considering a microservices architecture, consider these challenges and be sure you can overcome them.
High network traffic
As independent and self-contained services, microservices are frequently interconnected and have a lot of communication overhead. This high level of network traffic can lead to latency issues or other problems if not carefully designed.
A microservices architecture can result in increased complexity, especially as the number of microservices grows. When you have dozens or hundreds of microservices operating independently, it can become easy to lose sight of the bigger picture without sufficient orchestration.
To get up and running with microservices, an organization will need to invest in secure and reliable hosting, and have a development team capable of managing these services.
Other microservices disadvantages
There are a few other common disadvantages to using microservices, such as a more challenging testing/debugging environment (as each microservice must be tested independently). Earlier advantages relating to the flexibility of microservices can also become a disadvantage if not done carefully, as microservices can proliferate in a variety of languages and architectures. This sometimes makes microservices a better fit for large organizations with greater capacity for standardization and orchestration.
Why use microservices? Top microservices use cases
When is it best to use a microservice architecture, and when shouldn’t you? Many well-known companies have embraced microservices, famously including Amazon and Netflix, for a variety of use cases.
Some of the most common uses for a microservices architecture include:
- Refactoring legacy applications
- Data analysis, especially with “big data” (such as AL/ML)
- Utilizing cloud computing
- Real time data processing/streaming
- Alignment with a DevOps model
Managing the complexity: Microservices orchestration
A microservice architecture can deliver value in many situations, but often the highest value comes from using microservices to facilitate larger and more complex processes. The benefits of microservices can be strongest in those cases. However, as noted above, a proliferation of microservices can become overwhelming if developers and architects don’t plan carefully.
Two common models for planning a microservice architecture are choreography and orchestration. It’s worth considering both models, and depending on your needs it is possible a mix of the two will be best. However, orchestration can sometimes be a superior choice for complex or long-running processes that you would like to understand end-to-end.
Learn more about how Camunda can help you overcome complexity with easy-to-use, developer-friendly microservice orchestration.
See the big picture with process orchestration and Camunda
Microservice orchestration is a critical component of understanding how your processes work, but most processes consist of more than just microservices. Complex processes frequently operate across a wide variety of endpoints, spanning people, systems, and devices. They also tend to require a more complex logic than a simple series of steps.
Process orchestration means bringing the value of microservices orchestration across an entire process, no matter where your process takes you, so you can understand it from end-to-end and make it more effective.
Read more about how process orchestration works and how Camunda Platform 8 can help you take advantage of process orchestration for end-to-end automation.
Want to learn more about the advantages of microservices, how you can get started using them and an example of a real-world application? Read on to dig deeper:
- What are Microservices? [guide]
- Decoding Microservices: Best Practices Handbook for Developers [free eBook]
- 7 Best Programming Languages for Microservices [blog]
- Boosting your microservice architecture with message broker Connectors [blog]
- Microservices orchestration with Camunda [learn more]
- Orchestration and Communication Patterns between Microservices [free class]
- Microservice orchestration with Camunda in action [Video, 3:14]