Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Microservices for Application Modernization
There is no better time than now, especially when it comes to embracing microservices architecture. More than 75% of different size organizations use it already, benefiting from further progress and new possibilities.
However, microservices are not a cure-all solution. Like anything in technology, they carry risks and disadvantages. It is crucial to know both perspectives.
To gain a better understanding of whether your business requires a new architecture, let’s explore what are microservices’ pros and cons. Additionally, we will delve into some use cases and offer tips on addressing the two main pitfalls of implementing a microservices architecture.
What Are Microservices and What Is Their Impact on Application Modernization
Microservices architecture is an approach to software development where engineers divide a complex monolithic application into a collection of small, independent services.
Each of these services is typically self-contained and dedicated to executing a specific business task. They are designed to function independently from other services, equipped with their own set of APIs and interfaces. However, they can still interact with one another using protocols such as HTTP.
Unlike a monolithic system that necessitates complete redeployment for every change, microservices architecture provides greater flexibility and autonomy.
In this case, more complexity = more flexibility.
When it comes to application modernization, microservices architecture offers the following benefits:
- it facilitates iterative updates of web or mobile applications, allowing for a focus on one service at a time
- it enables the selection of the most appropriate technology stack for each service, fostering innovation and the utilization of modern technologies
- it grants autonomy to development teams
- it enhances troubleshooting and debugging capabilities, simplifying the identification and resolution of application issues
However, there are additional advantages and disadvantages of microservices architecture that we will delve into in the following discussion.
Determining Whether You Need Microservices
For startups and small to medium businesses, a monolithic architecture provides an excellent advantage in the initial stages of product development. It is typically cost-effective and quicker to build. However, if you are a stakeholder in an enterprise, we highly recommend considering the adoption of microservices.
Enterprises opt for microservices architecture due to various reasons, including:
- The goal to scale their business
- The necessity to streamline the development process
- The adoption of rearchitecture as a strategy for application modernization
- The requirement to construct more robust and secure solutions
Based on the findings of IBM Market Development & Insights, in 2021, 78% of users expressed their intention to increase resources allocated to microservices. Furthermore, a year prior, 55% of respondents reported that their experience with microservices architecture was either completely or mostly successful.
To gain a better understanding of whether your own company would benefit from using microservices, let’s delve deeper into the pros and cons of microservices architecture.
The Pros of Microservices
The key advantages that microservices architecture can provide are increased business agility and technical architecture scalability for greater activity volumes, improved fault tolerance, continuous delivery, improved data security, and lower maintenance costs. Let’s explore each of the pros of microservices in detail below.
Increased Agility and Scalability
By utilizing separate services, scaling, and experimentation become more manageable. Each microservice can be developed, deployed, and updated independently, minimizing coordination and deployment complexities. This approach leads to fewer disruptions in the overall system, allowing teams to work simultaneously on different aspects of technology. Consequently, it enables shorter development cycles and faster time to market.
Improved Fault Tolerance
In contrast to monolithic architecture, if a particular microservice encounters a failure, it does not cause the entire application to go down. Services can handle failures and recover autonomously. This fault isolation significantly reduces the impact of errors, improves system reliability, and simplifies the process of troubleshooting and debugging.
Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)
Since each service is deployed independently, teams are not reliant on the pace or quality of work of others. This enables faster feedback loops, streamlined testing, and quicker rollbacks in case of issues, facilitating continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD). Consequently, users of your technology receive real-time updates consistently, leading to a 30% higher satisfaction level.
Improved Data Security
Since services communicate with each other via well-defined APIs, it becomes possible to implement secure communication protocols like HTTPS to encrypt data during transit, thereby enhancing its safety. Even in the event of a security vulnerability discovered in one service, the impact is confined to that particular service, rather than jeopardizing the entire application. This makes it easier to apply patches and updates, resulting in 29% improved data security for users.
By establishing distinct service boundaries and clearly defining data flows, microservices can effectively support compliance with data protection regulations, privacy laws, and other security standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, or CCPA.
Lower Costs and Increased Efficiency
The ability to work on each microservice independently not only saves time but also reduces development costs. You have the flexibility to allocate resources efficiently to each system component, minimizing investment in unnecessary features and optimizing overall expenses.
For instance, if utilizing a combination of Java and Python for different microservices proves to be more cost-effective and productive, engineers have the flexibility to do so as microservices are programming language agnostic. According to IBM, implementing such a microservices architecture can lead to a 26% increase in employee productivity.
However, costs can be considered both as benefits and drawbacks of microservices.
Cons of Microservices
Despite the numerous benefits it provides, microservices architecture is not without its flaws. Let’s explore some of its primary drawbacks, which include increased management complexity, additional testing challenges, the increased need for data management processes, upfront costs, and additional transaction management complexities. Let’s review each factor in more detail below.
Effectively managing a distributed system comprising multiple services necessitates a strong infrastructure, communication mechanisms, monitoring tools, and operational processes. As the number of services expands, the operational complexity can become more time-consuming and challenging to manage efficiently. This can give rise to difficulties in areas such as service discovery, inter-service communication, data consistency, and overall system governance.
Challenges in Global Testing and Debugging
Developing and testing microservices is inherently more complex compared to traditional monolithic applications. While a monolith can be tested as a whole, each microservice requires individual testing and deployment. Additionally, the entire system must undergo comprehensive testing. In larger architectures, accessing all the services can become more challenging.
Furthermore, due to the potential use of multiple technology stacks, software engineers may need to delve into more diverse and intricate details, thereby extending the overall application development time.
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Microservices generally maintain their own databases or data stores, which can result in data duplication and inconsistency. This poses challenges when it comes to maintaining data integrity, ensuring proper data synchronization, and facilitating data sharing across services.
Analyzing data becomes more challenging as well. Unlike a monolith where the IT team can submit a single request to gather all the data from a single database, in the case of microservices, dedicated resources are required to create Data Warehouses and establish processes connected to them in order to consolidate and analyze data from multiple services.
Higher Up-Front Costs
Microservices architecture offers long-term cost and time savings, but the initial development phase can be expensive. It requires a well-established infrastructure and a highly skilled IT team to support its ongoing maintenance.
Distributed Transaction Management
Ensuring transactional consistency across multiple services in a microservices architecture can be challenging. To effectively coordinate distributed transactions and maintain data integrity, design and implement the solutions carefully.
Now that we have examined some of the microservices architecture pros and cons, let’s explore its use cases.
Use Cases of Microservices
Microservices architecture brings benefits to businesses in various scenarios. Here are some notable cases:
Rearchitecture is one of the approaches to dealing with legacy software systems and technical debt. It enables engineers to not only modernize existing technology but also introduce new functionality, providing opportunities for innovation and enhancing business resilience.
If you are facing challenges with application modernization, consider strategies to modernize legacy applications and boost your business resilience.
By breaking down a monolithic application into smaller, more business-focused microservices, operational activities can be significantly improved. For example, engineers can allocate separate components of the architecture for product catalogs, shopping carts, payment processing, and order fulfillment. This approach simplifies their interaction, leading to enhanced efficiency and productivity.
Microservices architecture can be particularly advantageous for Internet of Things (IoT) applications due to their distinct requirements. It allows for effective management of devices, efficient processing of data, and scalable analytics capabilities. This approach ensures that IoT applications can handle the complexities associated with large-scale operations.
Big data applications, particularly those involving artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), greatly benefit from the adoption of microservices architecture. By breaking down the architecture into smaller services, it becomes easier to handle data access and analysis at each stage of the process, such as data collection and data delivery.
Combining cloud-native principles with microservices architecture enables the creation of scalable and resilient systems. By utilizing managed services, infrastructure as code, and various cloud platform capabilities, such as messaging queues, databases, and caching services, organizations can build highly available applications.
According to IBM, the industries that use microservices the most are data analytics, database applications, customer relationship management, finance, and HR applications.
Two Common Mistakes in Implementing Microservices and How to Avoid Them
Implementing microservices comes with various risks and challenges. In this section, we highlight two mistakes that require caution: incorrect separation and implementation, and poorly planned support infrastructure.
Incorrect Separation and Implementation
Insufficient planning can lead to situations where developers must rework the architecture post-launch. This can result from incorrect division based on business logic or improper sizing of microservices.
Incorrect implementation can be expensive, making it crucial to allocate sufficient time and resources to planning. When it comes to application modernization, this entails creating a comprehensive roadmap and conducting a thorough analysis during the inception stage.
Poorly Planned Infrastructure
There are numerous engineering challenges to consider. Failing to anticipate potential mistakes or neglecting to explore more cost-effective engineering solutions can quickly lead to budgetary issues and derail your project.
For instance, if the system of interaction between services is poorly designed and implemented, it could lead to malfunctions in the payment service, causing users to be charged twice for the same product. Needless to say, this significantly impacts the overall customer experience.
Ultimately, it boils down to the issue of the initial architecture plan. The solution, once again, lies in carefully planning a solid infrastructure that is convenient and easy to work with. To achieve this, analyze the aforementioned advantages and disadvantages of microservices and conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis to determine the most suitable strategy.
Microservices architecture offers enterprises the opportunity to enhance agility and scalability, bolster data security and fault tolerance, and achieve continuous integration and delivery. However, it’s important to acknowledge that this approach also comes with drawbacks, including increased complexity, data management challenges, and difficulties in global testing and delivery, as well as higher up-front costs. Whether or not to adopt microservice architecture for your business should be a decision informed by thorough research and analysis of the microservices advantages and disadvantages.
There are various challenges that businesses may encounter along their journey. At Maven Solutions, we specialize in assisting companies with conducting thorough analyses of their technology landscape, identifying the most cost-effective and advantageous frameworks, and crafting durable and top-notch solutions. With over 13 years of experience, we possess the expertise to guide clients towards successful transformations. Contact us today to discuss your business needs.
What Are the Main Benefits of Microservices?
Microservices offer many benefits. They encompass enhanced agility and scalability, improved fault tolerance, streamlined continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD), heightened data security, reduced costs, increased efficiency, and the ability to conduct experiments and innovation.
What Is the Biggest Problem With Microservices?
One of the biggest problems with microservices is the increased complexity of managing a distributed system. This includes challenges with high network traffic, increased development time, higher up-front costs, difficulties in global testing and debugging, etc.
What Is the Difference Between Microservice and SOA?
The main difference between microservices and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) lies in their scope and implementation. SOA is designed to be scalable and applicable across an entire enterprise, while microservice architecture can be seen as a specific implementation approach within the broader concept of SOA.
Which Is Better: Monolithic or Microservices Architecture?
The decision between monolithic and microservices architecture depends on various factors. Monolithic architecture is often favored for its simplicity in development, as it avoids complexities associated with distributed systems and inter-service communication. It can provide better performance and easier debugging and troubleshooting.
On the other hand, microservices architecture offers advantages such as scalability, agility, team autonomy, fault isolation, resilience, and increased innovation opportunities.
Ultimately, the choice should be based on your specific goals and preferences.