Microservices Architecture: Benefits and Challenges

Many companies are increasingly moving away from monolithic systems, choosing more modular and scalable architectures, such as microservices. This change comes with various benefits and challenges, however, as technology evolves, the benefits may outweigh the complexities.

What is microservices architecture?

Microservices architecture continues to reshape how software is designed and deployed, allowing businesses to break down applications into small, independent services to promote scalability, flexibility, and maintenance.

In a monolithic architecture, the entire application is a single (and sometimes vast) integrated system. Microservices break down the application into small, manageable, independent services which are each responsible for a specific function.

Microservices communicate through well-defined APIs, often using lightweight protocols like HTTP or messaging systems, which means that they can integrate easily and quickly.

Each service handles a specific business capability. For example, in a travel booking platform you may use microservices to retrieve property information and features, check availability, calculate a price, and complete a booking. Each component can scale independently providing greater reliability.

What are the benefits of microservices architecture?

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1. Improved scalability

One of the issues with monolithic applications, is that if there are (for example) increases in user traffic, this would affect all aspects of the application, and could cause the entire application to crash.

As each service in a microservices architecture can be scaled independently, resources are allocated more efficiently based on the needs of each component, offering higher scalability compared to monolithic architectures.

In the instance of increased user traffic, a company can automatically apply more resources to that particular service.

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2. Improved flexibility and agility

As each service can be iterated independently without affecting the entire application, this increases flexibility and agility in the development process, allowing for faster development cycles.

Developers can deploy new features and updates to a specific service and don’t have to worry about coding conflicts and re-deploying an entire system.

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3. Fault isolation

As mentioned briefly above, as each service in microservices architecture is independent, one failure in a service doesn’t cascade throughout the entire system, making it easier to identify and rectify issues, and, therefore, making the system more stable.

Developers can prevent cascading failures with Circuit Breakers, which means t­hat you can essentially take a service offline. This allows the system to prevent server resources from depleting for a service that is failing.

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4. Diverse technology

A monolithic application is built using a single technology stack, which can be restricting.

As each service in a microservices architecture is independent, they can be implemented using different languages and frameworks, allowing developers to choose the most suitable tools for each service.

This improves flexibility and productivity, as developers can use the tools that they are most familiar with.

Furthermore, as microservices can be written in any programming language, it may be easier to integrate with legacy systems to make use of existing business-critical processes and functionality.

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5. Better data security

As each service in a microservices architecture is independent, it’s easier to implement security measures at a service level, rather than needing to store all data in one single database, like in monolithic applications. Development teams will use secure APIs to connect each microservice, which will protect data.

What are the challenges of microservices architecture?

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1. Distributed service complexity

Although there are various benefits to microservices architecture, including increased flexibility and scalability, distributed systems are highly complex.

Each service is contained with its codebase, database, and dependencies, which can be difficult to manage, especially if you have a large number of them.

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2. Service discovery and communication

As the number of services increases, coordinating communication between microservices and managing service discovery can become more difficult.

You may need to use communication protocols and caching or messaging to improve performance by reducing API calls, optimising data access, and enabling asynchronous communication.

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3. Deployments

Deploying microservices is harder than deploying a monolith. Although you’ll be deploying a smaller part of the system, and you may not need to take down the entire system as a whole, you may be deploying services which have vast dependency trees.

For example, when you need to amend a payments service, which changes what data needs to be provided (via a public API), you need to additionally deploy changes to any consumers (maybe a shopping basket or checkout service). This then may lead to more deployments as it may have its own dependencies.

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4. Data management

Each individual service will have its own database, so maintaining data consistency and integrity across services becomes a significant challenge.

You should have strategies in place to manage these issues, like guaranteed message delivery or implementing data versioning.

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5. Monitoring and debugging

As there will be numerous microservices that are running independently, you’ll need to effectively monitor and debug them separately.

You should consider monitoring solutions so that you can gain insights into the health and performance of the entire system, as well as the individual services.

Microservices architecture continues to be an effective way to design and build software systems, increasing scalability, flexibility, and agility. However, you must consider the challenges and suitability to the organisation before you adopt this approach.

If you’re looking for a software company to help you support and enhance a legacy system, or develop you a bespoke application, head to our software development page or contact us.

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Rebecca Lawton

Rebecca Lawton

Our Head of Partnerships and Marketing, Rebecca, is responsible for the generation and management of digital marketing content. She is an accomplished copywriter and has experience in SEO. Rebecca also leads our community engagement programmes, and works closely with our key partners.