Skip to main

Beyond the Hype: Pros and Cons of Microservices

Microservices have become the reigning trend in web software architecture, captivating numerous renowned experts and advocates. Prominent industry giants like Facebook, Uber, Groupon, Klarna, Amazon, Netflix, eBay, and Comcast have embraced the microservice architecture with great success.

However, it's essential to recognize that your team and circumstances might differ significantly from these industry leaders. Your team composition is likely distinct, and you might not encounter the exact challenges faced by these notable companies.

Unraveling the Mystique of Microservices Architecture:

Imagine a vast desert, where each grain of sand, seemingly insignificant on its own, comes together to create something truly magnificent. That's the essence of a microservices architecture — an intricate tapestry woven from small, focused components, each performing a narrow function while collectively forming a larger whole.

At its core, microservices possess distinctive qualities. They are designed to be compact, manipulating only the essential data they require and collaborating seamlessly across service layers. Reactivity is their virtue, and they embrace the art of decoupling data to achieve scalability. When executed masterfully, they exhibit fully automated provisioning, boast cloud-native capabilities, and maintain robust decoupling across multiple layers.

However, like any architectural choice, microservices come with their share of trade-offs. Mapping complex business flows becomes more challenging, collaboration among services requires extra effort, reconciling data states becomes a daunting task, and integration complexities soar to new heights. Automation, a vital aspect of microservices, demands increased investment, while the overall system complexity becomes harder to contain. Moreover, ensuring observability across the architecture poses a formidable challenge.

Mitigating these trade-offs demands an incremental approach — one that gradually embraces the art of downsizing while acknowledging the added complexity that comes with distribution. For most organizations, the unique characteristics of microservices may not be necessary until they surpass the threshold of generating annual revenues exceeding $2 billion.

So, while microservices may be a captivating architectural choice, it's crucial to weigh their benefits against the complexities they introduce. Only then can you make an informed decision on whether the sands of microservices are the right fit for your organization's software architecture.

Microservices Unveiled: Debunking the Straw Man

Microservices have been hailed as a panacea for various software development challenges. However, it's important to recognize that the benefits associated with microservices can often be achieved, to some extent, through a monolithic architecture.

When proponents of microservices highlight their advantages, they often imply that adopting a microservice model is the only way to address these issues effectively. In reality, microservices offer an additional layer of flexibility that you can choose to embrace, but it comes at a cost — both in terms of development and maintenance.

The key phrase here is "buy into." Microservices are not a free ride; they are notorious for their high expenses throughout the building and upkeep stages. If your project genuinely requires that extra degree of flexibility, then it's worth considering whether the benefits outweigh the associated costs. Microservices might indeed be a suitable fit for your needs, and a serious evaluation is warranted.

However, if you don't genuinely need that level of flexibility, you risk over-engineering your technology stack and hindering your team's ability to deliver value to customers efficiently.

Unleashing the Power of Scalability: A Microservices Dilemma

The allure of microservices lies in their ability to allocate resources independently to each function of your application, granting unparalleled control. You can precisely determine the number and type of resources allocated to each function.

But let's pause and consider: Do you really need such granular control? Do different functions within your application encounter varying levels of load or scale at different rates? Do they demand diverse CPU, memory, storage, or GPU requirements?

Here's a thought: Instead of fine-tuning your infrastructure to the nth degree, many teams find it more cost-effective to address these resource disparities by simply increasing the size or number of available "boxes" across the board. In other words, it might be wiser to avoid optimizing your infrastructure to the point of obsession.

Before diving headfirst into a microservices architecture, take a moment to explore the potential of fixing performance issues and bottlenecks within your monolithic system. Often, resolving these challenges in your existing architecture is easier and less disruptive than transitioning to an entirely new architectural pattern. Seek inspiration within your tech stack to discover ideas on how to tighten up your app and enhance performance.

If you have multiple servers, chances are you're already utilizing a load balancer to distribute incoming traffic. Here's a fascinating idea: Configure your load balancer to route traffic to independently scalable clusters of your application instances. This way, you can allocate resources dynamically based on the specific needs of each cluster.

Moreover, consider leveraging independently scalable queues for asynchronous tasks, seamlessly transitioning them into background jobs. Ensure that you have an adequate number of queues to exert precise control over the number of resources needed to keep your queues running smoothly while maintaining reasonable infrastructure costs.

Scalability is undoubtedly a powerful concept, but it's crucial to evaluate whether microservices are the ideal fit for your particular requirements. By exploring alternative strategies within your monolithic architecture and leveraging intelligent traffic routing, you might discover a path to scalability that doesn't necessitate a complete architectural overhaul.

Unlocking Fault Isolation: Microservices' Shield

One of the significant advantages of a well-designed microservices architecture is its ability to contain faults within a single feature, preventing them from cascading and bringing down the entire system. Fault isolation, a captivating facet of microservices, can safeguard the stability and resilience of your application.

Consider routing traffic to isolated clusters as a proactive measure to protect against faults. To determine the optimal routing strategy, reflect on your historical fault patterns. Identifying the sources of previous issues can guide you in deciding how to route your traffic effectively.

However, prevention is always better than a cure. By fostering a robust test culture and prioritizing automated testing, you can minimize faults and mitigate their potential impact. Building confidence in the quality of your shipped code is crucial, ensuring it not only delivers the required functionality but also withstands the rigorous demands of production-level loads.

Microservices architecture also offers the advantage of being language and technology agnostic. While this limitation may seem like a constraint, it actually promotes simplicity and alignment within your tech stack. The absence of excessive language and technology choices helps avoid a fragmented and overly complex ecosystem.

In the realm of fault isolation and architectural choices, striking the right balance is paramount. Microservices offer fault containment, but the decision to adopt them should be based on your specific needs and trade-offs. Emphasize testing practices, cherish simplicity, and carefully evaluate the benefits of introducing new technologies. This approach will empower you to navigate the fault isolation landscape with confidence and finesse.

Unraveling the Myth of Independence: Monoliths vs. Microservices

Independently deploying services may seem like an enticing benefit, but let's take a closer look at its practical implications. While there are scenarios where independent deployments hold value, they can become a sticky bottleneck for your day-to-day changes. Orchestrating multiple deployments across separate services can complicate and hinder the rapid release of features.

But fear not! Even within a monolith, it is still possible to break down complex and risky changes into separate deployments. Think of making forward and backward-compatible migrations with their own pull requests and deployments. This approach introduces some of the advantages offered by microservices without mandating its adoption for every change.

Now, let's delve into the realm of dependency management. Microservices enable separate dependencies for each service, but ask yourself: Do you truly need them? Managing dependencies in a large monolith can be challenging enough. Fragmenting it into smaller lists simplifies the management of each individual list but can add complexity to the system as a whole. While microservices won't guarantee an escape from the clutches of "dependency hell," they can reduce the likelihood of conflicts.

In the real world, staying on top of dependency updates is desirable but often slips through the cracks. Being at the bleeding edge of available versions can exacerbate issues, as dependencies may progress at different paces. However, staying on top doesn't necessarily mean blindly adopting the latest version in every case. It's a delicate balancing act that requires thoughtful consideration.

Now, let's address the claim of simpler and easier-to-understand code. This benefit, at best, is disingenuous and, at worst, a blatant lie. While it is true that each microservice may appear simpler and more manageable, the overall system becomes far more complex and harder to comprehend. Rather than eliminating complexity, you've merely relocated it elsewhere.

But fear not, again! We don't need to introduce network boundaries and isolated processes to make our code easier for engineers to grasp. Modularizing your monolith by breaking it down into well-defined modules with limited concerns can render it just as easy, if not easier, to understand than a system composed of separate services.

So, let's debunk the misconceptions and consider the full picture. Monoliths and microservices each come with their own set of advantages and challenges. It's essential to evaluate the specific needs of your project and strike a balance between complexity, manageability, and ease of understanding. Embrace an architectural approach that aligns with your team's expertise and empowers efficient delivery of value to your customers.

Breaking Free from Monolith Misery: Debunking the Microservices Mirage

Are you plagued by problems with your monolith? Before pointing fingers at its monolithic nature, let's take a step back. It's possible that the root of the issue lies within the monolith itself, not in its architectural style.

Building software is a formidable challenge. Wrangling large, complex systems with countless moving parts that evolve over time is a Herculean task. If you find yourself wrestling with your monolith, it's likely due to its inherent flaws, not the mere fact that it's a monolith.

Now, the buzz around microservices may have you believing that they hold the magical solution to all your monolithic woes. But beware! Adopting microservices without addressing the underlying issues can lead you straight into a world of pain.

The choice between a monolith and microservices is often presented as a black-and-white dichotomy—old school versus new school, right versus wrong, an either-or proposition. But the reality is far more nuanced. Both approaches have their merits and trade-offs, and the correct choice depends heavily on your specific context and considerations.

In fact, this choice itself is a false dichotomy. In certain circumstances, it may be more prudent to evaluate each feature on a case-by-case basis rather than imposing a single approach on your entire engineering team.

So, should you consider microservices? As with many things, it depends. There are undoubtedly situations where microservices can deliver substantial benefits and justify their existence. However, if you find yourself part of a small or medium-sized team, or if you're embarking on an early-stage project, the answer is clear: No, microservices are likely unnecessary for you.

Don't fall for the microservices mirage without carefully assessing your needs, resources, and the potential pitfalls. Instead, focus on improving your monolith, untangling its complexities, and delivering value to your users. Remember, liberation from monolith misery comes not from blindly chasing the latest trends, but from thoughtful engineering practices tailored to your unique circumstances.

Unlocking Business Growth through Aligned Architecture

In the dynamic landscape of the software industry, it's crucial to recognize the intricate web that connects people, processes, organization, culture, and technology. The interdependence of these domains necessitates a synchronized alignment, propelling the business forward with minimal effort.

To illustrate the importance of alignment, let's explore some cautionary examples:

Imagine a microservices architecture deployed by a team of merely three software engineers. Or picture a sprawling team with 500 developers, lacking a shared animation. Perhaps you encounter multiple software teams, each shouldering 50% of run tasks without collaborative support. The list goes on, but the underlying message remains clear: alignment is paramount.

Through an in-depth study of over 50 companies, a macro-model has emerged:

  • For businesses with $0-2 million in revenue and up to 10 full-time equivalents (FTEs), a monolith architecture is typically sufficient.
  • As revenue climbs to the $2-20 million range with up to 50 FTEs, a modular monolith architecture proves effective.
  • Scaling further to $20-200 million in revenue with up to 500 FTEs, a service-based architecture becomes favorable.
  • From $200 million to $2 billion in revenue, the transition from macro to miniservices architecture accommodates up to 5,000 FTEs.
  • Finally, for organizations surpassing $2 billion in revenue and boasting more than 5,000 FTEs, the leap to mini to microservices architecture becomes feasible.

Interestingly, the analysis revealed that many companies claiming to implement microservices were, in fact, implementing service-based or macroservices architecture. Take, for instance, a "Basket" service in a digital eCommerce context. While it may be modular with explicit interfaces to other applications, it still performs multiple business functions within a defined functional and technical boundary—a macroservice rather than microservices.

The key technological differences lie in the granularity of services, which tends to be higher in microservices, and the sharing of data between services rather than external decoupling.

Finding the Perfect Socio-Technological Fit for Business Evolution

In the ever-changing landscape of business, different architectures emerge as a company evolves. It's important to recognize that each stage requires a unique socio-technological ecosystem to thrive.

Here's the secret: it's not just about the technology itself. It's about finding the minimal alignment that enables the business to adapt and grow with agility.

While fancy buzzwords may captivate attention, it's the efficiency and timely delivery of software that truly sets businesses apart.

So, before diving headfirst into the latest architectural trend, take a moment to make the right choice for your business. Embrace the notion that "modular monolith" and "minimal architecture" are regaining popularity for a reason. These approaches offer practicality, efficiency, and a renewed focus on quality engineering.

In a world driven by results, it's the right architecture combined with a well-aligned socio-technological ecosystem that will empower your business to thrive. Embrace the wave of change and unleash the true potential of your organization.

At Mygento eCommerce Solutions, we hold the view that, for new, small, and medium-sized engineering teams, the monolith should remain the default choice. Microservices can still be considered, but only if you have compelling, context-specific reasons that justify their adoption.

For medium to large teams, the microservices route should be approached with great apprehension. Yes, it may hold potential, but a deep understanding of the trade-offs is paramount.

So, take heed of the wisdom gleaned from those who have ventured into the microservices realm. Learn from their triumphs and tribulations as you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of software architecture.

Subscribe to the exclusive