Breaking Down the Enterprise Software Monoliths

Big is not always beautiful, at least in the realm of enterprise software. Enterprises are increasingly finding the enterprise software behemoths they have painstakingly built up over the years a big liability in today’s business environment, which values nimbleness and flexibility.

The conventional top-down approach to developing enterprise software lumps together all functionality into a single process, and replicate it on multiple servers. More often than not such systems become bloated and unwieldy with every update. Apart from the bloat, even a small change to the system requires updating and re-deploying the server-side application, causing disruption that can wreak havoc in today’s fast-paced digital world.

Amazon took the lead to break down its large monolith system and deconstruct it into microservices. Netflix followed suit soon, rolling out an agile model that deconstructed its behemoth software stack, to keep up with two million daily API requests in a highly efficient manner. Soon the trickle became a deluge, with companies such as eBay, Google, Uber, and thousands of smaller companies adopting microservices in a big way.

 

What exactly is a Microservice?

Microservice is breaking down application development into compartments of small services. Each service comes with its own process, and use lightweight mechanisms such as an HTTP resource API for communication. The services are deployable, independently or tied together in a modular architecture. Each application comes with its own domain logic. It receives a request, and apply logic as appropriate, to generate a response. The process is usually choreographed using simple RESTish protocols.

Unlike libraries, which are components linked into a program and called using in-memory function calls, services are out-of-process components, which communicate with a mechanism such as a web service request, or remote procedure call. The use of services as components, instead of libraries, enables independent deployment.

Microservices are loosely coupled yet form a cohesive whole, creating a more robust and reliable system. The loose coupling improves cohesion as the more interdependent or coupled the system’s parts, the difficult it is to use, test, and maintain.

Monolith Vs. Microservices

The atomic nature of micro services make it ideally suited to deploy to perform a single operation on a back-end system, such as retrieving a transaction history pertaining to a customer, verifying a person’s credit score, and more. Microservices may also coexist with the traditional monolith architecture. A good illustration is the Guardian website, originally designed as a monolith and now gradually evolving in a micro service direction. While the core of the website is still monolith, the addition of new features is by building micro services, using the API. Such an approach best suits temporary and fast changing requirements, such as sporting events, In such situations, rapid development languages may be deployed to put together a web page or component, on the fly.

Unlike earlier avatars of service based models such as Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), microservices are more granular, keeping protocols lightweight for fast and easy communication.

 

How do Microservers Make a Difference?

Microservices bring in nimbleness. Instead of single complex, unwieldy, and bloated behemoth system trying to do too many things at once, an array of small services seamlessly integrates multiple systems in a nimble and resilient manner. Such an approach perfectly gels into the world where immediacy and perfect functionality are considered basic requirements.

Since microservices breaks down functionality to a near atomic level and abstracts it, development teams can focus on maintaining or updating only the relevant services, doing away with the painful and time-consuming process of integration associated with monolithic applications. Since each service operates independently from all others, a failure of any service does not break the entire system. The problematic unit simply blows out while everything else functions as usual. The development process, which hitherto took weeks, can now be completed in just a few weeks. Also, businesses may add new features and functionality easily, without causing downtime to the system.

Microservices also allow retaining the focus on business processes. When building large processes, the focus generally tends to veer towards the technical layer, and in the process, the optimal business process takes a backseat. The flexibility of micro services also makes it very easy to make changes to the process, as required.

Yet another advantage of microservices is the incredible flexibility on offer. Microservices are free agents, not tied to any specific language or platform. Developers may choose whatever framework that catches their fancy, rather than stick to one-size-fits-all standards such as XML or SOAP. The developer has an option, for instance, to use Node.js to generate a simple reports page, and shift to C++ for a particularly gnarly near-real-time component.

Microservices are easy to build and deploy as well. It relies primarily on the popular JSON/REST interface, and offer straightforward authentication using HTTP, OAuth or other easy-to-use API keys. The optimal use of microservices results in highly efficient use of code, and reduction of the quantum of infrastructure required to run the application by as much as 50%.

The extreme nimbleness of micro services makes it the default model for building enterprise applications. However, enterprises still need to develop an efficient system out, and partnering with an established and experienced provider makes all the difference. We have at our disposal both a highly efficient and experienced team and the latest cutting edge tools to deliver highly nimble, flexible, and powerful enterprise software that provides your enterprise with the dynamism it deserves.

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Ashmitha Chatterjee

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