Microservices and Containers: An App Architecture Revolution

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely seen microservices and containers dominating the headlines over the past few months. However, even though these terms have become the latest industry buzzwords, few organizations actually understand what they really mean for their organization.

Cloud-native applications, such as containers and microservices, represent a new application architecture and methodology that decomposes the large monolithic applications of the past into a set of small, discrete processes that facilitate both independent development and scale-out for each independent function. The key to this architecture is making sure that each microservice handles one and only one function with a well-defined API. To achieve success, microservices can’t have any dependencies on each other, except for their APIs. This specifically means no implicit dependencies via shared memory structures or via persistent data. Persistent state should be dedicated to a specific microservice and only accessible to others via the API.

Previously, it would take multiple engineers months, or even years, to build and maintain large, monolithic software programs. The problem? Whenever the code that implemented a common function needed to be changed either to fix a bug or add a feature, it had to be updated in multiple places owned by different teams. That’s where microservices’s design methodology becomes the hero, making it easier to develop systems with reusable component parts that can be utilized by multiple applications and services throughout the organization.

To effectively implement this architecture, organizations need to ensure that microservices have a well-formed, backward- and forward-compatible API and communicate with its peers only through their API. Container technology is well-suited to microservices, as  they provide an operating system-independent, portable envelope for application code. Each microservice executing in a container is self-contained, rapidly provisioned or cloned and usually stateless.

While microservices can make it easier to efficiently build, deploy and scale today’s large-scale applications, their complexity when viewed as a whole system can be daunting for application lifecycle management and resource efficiency if not properly managed. Automation and orchestration coupled with DevOps methodology is the key to reducing this complexity and enabling the seamless delivery of complex, global scale services delivered with less and less custom code. It’s the holy grail in providing the dynamic management needed to deliver microservices and container solutions cost effectively and at scale.

The new app architecture revolution surrounding microservices and containers fundamentally enables faster development and deployment of highly scalable applications in the cloud, allowing for shorter time-to-production and improved efficiencies. The architecture has the potential to seriously disrupt the way enterprise IT develops applications, but only if an organization truly understands how to correctly design and deploy the applications.

When looking at your organization’s cloud-native applications, it’s important to remember that a microservices architecture is not something an organization can enter lightheartedly—fully embracing this new application architecture means DevOps with continuous automated QA and performance testing. However, as long as organizations take the time to do their homework, the flexibility and extensibility of microservices can provide them with shorter time to production, ability for faster innovation and improved efficiencies.

Jesse Stockall

Jesse Stockall is a proven leader with over 20 years of industry experience. He has spent the past 12 years leading the development of Embotics' award-winning cloud management platform, vCommander. Jesse’s passion for modern software development includes active participation in local Agile and DevOps communities. Prior to joining Embotics, Jesse designed autonomic computing capabilities and management tooling for embedded applications at Symbium.

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