What are Microservices? Characteristics, Examples, and Pros & Cons of It

Microservices have been a revolutionary approach for developing web frontends. Let’s get to know what they are, their characteristics, examples, and pros and cons of it too.

4 min read
May 20, 2022

Microservices are currently in-demand technology that’s been used for solving many IT challenges such as increased speed, development efficiency, scalability, and others. The term was first used at an event for software developers in 2011. It was used to describe an architectural style that many were experimenting with.

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Netflix and Amazon were among the first pioneers and adopters of this new-age microservice technology. The philosophy behind this technology is it’s used for creating complex applications from small individual service components that are interlinked with each other via language-independent interfaces.

Microservices are seen as a better alternative for monolithic architecture where creators face the problem of scalability. Over time, it leads to difficulty in upgrading or maintenance becomes a complex process. That’s why microservices are used as an alternative. But what are microservices? Let’s find out:

What are Microservices?

Microservices or microservice architecture is an architectural design approach for creating cloud applications using containers. It’s a distinctive method of developing software products and focuses on building single-function modules with well-defined operations and interfaces.

Applications are built as a set of individual service components and each service component runs its own processes to communicate through APIs.

How do Microservices Work?

Each application comprises three basic layers

  • Interface i.e. client-side
  • Logical i.e. server-side
  • Database

In monolithic applications, these layers were built in a single intertwined stack location in a single data center. This practice had become industry standard across all the technology architectures. Even though the architecture type was efficient, it created many problems and application failures.

Cloud microservices were a breakdown of the codes present in each layer and became the collection of granular functional services. This collection then combines into large microservices, which provides an even better ability to update the code and single function in the overall service.

Microservices attempt to address a single concern at a time such as data search, logging, or web service function. This approach increases flexibility for updating single function code without having or refactoring or redeploying the rest of the architecture services.

Characteristics of Microservices

Most microservice systems share a few notable characteristics:

1. Multiple Components

Microservices software can be broken down into multiple component services. This is because each of these service components can be simultaneously tweaked, deployed, and redeployed independently without compromising the integrity of an app.

Thanks to this, you only need to change one or more distinct service components instead of redeploying the whole application. However, it does have its downsides that include expensive remote calls, coarser-grained remote APIs, and increased complexity between components.

2. Built for Business

This architecture type is usually prioritized around business capabilities. In a monolithic approach, teams have to focus on UIs, technology layers, databases, or server-side logic. Whereas microservices architecture uses cross-functional teams. Each team was responsible to make specific products based on single or more services that were communicated via message bus.

3. Simple Routing

Microservice architecture patterns act somewhat like a UNIX system where they receive requests, process them and generate responses. This is exactly the opposite of many other products such as ESBs. Thus, it’s safe to say that microservices have smart endpoints that process info.

4. Decentralized

The microservice community favors the decentralized governance model because the developers strive to create helpful tools and systems to solve problems. Also, microservices favor decentralized data management, and software built on it usually manages its own unique database.

5. Failure Resistance

Microservices are also designed to handle failure. There are several diverse services communicating with each other, and it’s possible that a service could fail for some or another reason. Here, clients should allow neighboring services to function. However, monitoring can help prevent these failures.

6. Evolutionary

This architecture is evolutionary and is ideal for developing evolutionary software systems. Due to unforeseen requirements, many monolithic applications are revamped to microservices that interact over an older monolithic architecture via API.

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Examples of Microservices

As mentioned earlier, Netflix and Amazon were the early adopters of this new age architecture type. Netflix receives more than a billion calls each day from over 800 different devices for streaming API. Each API call then prompts 5 more calls to the backend service.

Amazon gets countless calls from a variety of applications including web service API as well as website. Handling this huge amount of calls would have been next to impossible for their old, two-tiered architecture.

eBay is also another example that has gone through the same transition from monolithic to a microservice architecture where its application executes business logic for different function areas.

Pros and Cons of Microservices

Pros of Microservices

  • Gives developers the freedom to independently develop and deploy service components.
  • It can be developed by a fairly small team.
  • Codes can be written in different languages for different services.
  • Simple to integrate and automatic deployment.
  • Developers can use the latest technologies.
  • The code is organized for business capabilities.
  • No long-term commitment is required for the tech stack.
  • Easy to scale the apps and integrate with third-party services.

Cons of Microservices

  • Distributed deployment can create problems for testing and make the job a bit tedious.
  • An increased number of services can create an information barrier.
  • Another con of a distributed system is it can result in duplication of efforts.
  • With the increase in the number of services, managing the whole product becomes complicated.

Conclusion — The Future of Microservices

Whether or not microservices architecture is adopted by the developers in the future, it has the potential to offer extravagant benefits for designing and implementing enterprise applications. Many organizations have already started to switch to the microservice architecture pattern without labeling their practice.

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