This article on Cloud-Native microservices is dedicated to providing a deep understanding of what Cloud Native microservices are and also gives out information about how we can leverage the benefits of the new architecture.
Most of the organizations are shifting their focus to a cloud-native approach where they are combining microservices architecture and container technologies so that they can build applications that are scalable, flexible, and more importantly, completely utilize the technology benefits.
So, before going much further into the benefits and also their core functionalities, we need to understand clearly cloud-native microservices. Let’s do that!
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What is Cloud-Native Microservices?
Microservices is an architecture process where it is used to develop an application by collecting small services. Each and every service is associated with business capabilities where they are equipped with their own process. All of the communication happens through HTTP API or messaging features.
Every individual microservice can be restarted, upgraded, and also scaled without disturbing the other services within the same application. With this kind of process, the development team can push the latest changes to the production environment or the live environment without affecting or impacting the end-users or customers.
Now that we have understood what Microservices are, let’s focus on understanding what it takes the business or an organization to move from their traditional architecture to a cloud-native microservice architecture:
Most of the organizations are following a standard process where they have only one deployment unit which has all the application features. This type of architecture is called Monolithic architecture.
If you are building a Healthcare information system, the application includes modules like patient admission, pharmacy, Invoices, and other respective modules. All of these modules are clubbed together and deployed as a single unit. This type of architecture has a lot of dependencies and also adverse effects.
A few of the risks involved with Monolithic architecture are as follows:
As all the modules are built together, the code base will be huge, and any bug fixes carried out by the development team might impact other modules of the code. So, interdependency is always the case.
The huge code base is not easy to maintain and it can be fairly difficult for the developers to handle.
If the deployment size is huge then it will definitely overload the server and results in abrupt crashes.
The scalability of individual components is difficult.
Considerable downtime is necessary for production deployments and it affects the business operations.
So, considering the above points, it definitely makes sense to change the process from Monolithic architecture to Microservice architecture.
So, what it takes for the businesses or the organizations to change from Monolithic architecture to Microservice architecture?
Most of the limitations that we have listed above with Monolithic architecture can be accommodated, and can be rectified by going through microservice architecture.
When it comes to Microservices architecture it is completely about designing the software in such a way that they are different components associated with a single application.
As per the example that we have considered above, i.e., HealthCare application, the modules like admissions, invoices, pharmacy all will be independent components and are deployed as a single unit.
Let’s say that there is a surge in the utilization of the admissions module, then the developers have an option to scale the admissions-related component only and not affecting the rest of the application behavior. On the contrary, this is a bigger issue in the Monolithic environment.
So the scalability factor is definitely possible here and also we can determine whether the scalability is defined by manual intervention or it can be automated. This can be decided by the operations team.
The automatic scalability is like a cool feature where it can be flexible based on the demand. If there is a surge in terms of the application usage for that particular module, it can auto-scale to a level where the demand is fulfilled and later it can auto-scale it to a low level.
Business and Process Decisions for a Microservices TransitionIn order to change the process from Monolithic architecture to Microservice architecture, the businesses have to understand and evaluate their current situation and take the step towards betterment.
In general, they are two approaches:
- It is advised to start a completely new application using microservice architecture right from the scratch.
- First of all, develop the application in Monolithic architecture and then, as and when it increases, slowly segregate it into microservice level architecture.
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These are the two approaches that most of businesses have to follow when they are trying to transition from Monolithic architecture to Microservice architecture.
Within the two approaches, they are a few challenges that the businesses have to go through.
- To create a base infrastructure of microservices from scratch is definitely a time-consuming process.
- With the help of use cases, it is pretty easy to build applications using monolithic architecture.
- Once the application has grown to the desired stage, it makes sense to slowly start implementing the microservice architecture.
- Also, a well designed monolithic architecture application can be converted into a microservices architecture base with minimum efforts involved.
So, considering both the approaches, it definitely makes sense to go through the current situation within the implementation and take appropriate steps.
Is Microservices the Best Fit?
- Compared to the standard monolithic architecture, there are a lot of benefits that a microservice architecture has to offer:
- First and foremost, the application is completely flexible and it is scalable.
- The system upgrades or code upgrades won’t disturb the entire application usage.
- Microservices architecture is flexible and the agile development process actually promotes shorter development cycles and results in quicker time for deployment.
- With the continuous integration and continuous deployment process, the time taken for deployment is less compared to the standard process.
- Problem isolation is easy. As the code base is modular, the bugs or defects will not have an impact on other areas of the application.
- The reusability concept is also high in this structure compared to the standard monolithic architecture.
Considering all these benefits, it will definitely be the best fit. As per the organization demands and the application needs, microservices architecture can be implemented.
To the flip side of the coin, there are a few disadvantages which can be painful for most of the organizations if they are not dealt with or addressed during the initial stages of the implementation. They are as follows.
- The core concept relies on deployment, so if the deployments are not managed appropriately, then it will be a bigger problem to manage the codebase.
- Complexity: if the microservices are not managed or accounted for appropriately, it will be a problem.
- Communication plays an important role.
- A lot of initial planning is required, i.e., at the architecture level.
The above aspects need to be monitored carefully so that the best of microservices architecture is available.
[Related Article: Microservices security and How do you secure them?]
Deploying a microservices architecture is an integral part of the entire implementation and the following points need to be addressed.
- It should be flexible to deploy and also un-deploy the microservice independently.
- It should be designed in such a way that a single microservice component is scalable without any restrictions.
- Fault in one of the microservices should not affect the rest of the microservices.
- It should be quick in terms of building and deploying microservices quickly.
The above points are critical so that the microservices are effectively deployed.
With the use of open-source tools like Docker and Kubernetes, microservices architecture can be deployed.
Docker is one of the open-source platforms which can be utilized by developers and system administrators to deploy the application containers in a Linux environment.
This is one of the best ways to deploy a microservice architecture application. The following steps are necessary to make the entire implementation perfect:
- Every microservice should be packaged as a Docker container image
- Every service instance is a container
- By increasing the container instances, the microservice can be scaled.
- As we are using Docker containers, building and deploying microservices is faster compared to the traditional VM
Kubernetes is another platform where we can leverage and add more value to the deployments when it is used with Docker.
Using Kubernetes, it is easy to manage a bunch of Linux containers as a single system where the docker containers are available on multiple hosts. This deployment structure will be helpful while dealing with large-scale microservices.
Migration Strategies for Microservices:
When it comes to migration strategies for microservices, there are few approaches that are available. The usage of an approach varies based on the conditions and the team within the organization will have the ultimatum to take the appropriate decision.
A high level of the migration strategies that organizations tend to use are stated below:
- Parallel redesign
- Standard microservices
- Self-contained systems
As the name suggests - do not disturb the existing monolithic structured application. It is better to build a parallel application considering microservices architecture. In other words, the same business functionality is implemented but using a microservices architecture.
The benefits with this type of approach are:
- The existing application, i.e., on the monolithic application, is not at all disturbed.
- The new application can be designed according to the need.
The disadvantage with this type of approach is:
- The entire implementation has to follow a waterfall model. Using this process, the implementation outcome is an unknown factor.
In this approach, the standalone modules are identified first and they are redesigned and developed according to the microservices structure. Within this process, the entire application’s UI and backend are redesigned so that it suits microservice architecture.
The benefits associated with this type of approach are:
- With this approach, the customers can see iterative builds and continuous enhancements of the systems.
- As this is a continuous development process, there is a scope for rectifying mistakes.
The disadvantages with this approach are:
- The UI code will be monolithic only.
- A lot of changes are expected during this implementation.
With this approach, the team has to identify modules which can be executed independently. Once this activity is done, the entire backend will be reworked and the individual module UI will be rebuilt according to the microservices architecture. Once the development is completed, the existing monolithic services and the UI will be replaced.
The benefits associated with this approach are given below.
- This process is also an iterative and incremental one. So, the clients/customers will get to see some improvements in every cycle.
- The development and migration efforts are less compared to other architectures.
The disadvantages associated with this process are as follows.
- As the number of modules increases, the complexity of communicating within the modules will also increase.
- Maybe, we get to see a clash in terms of the UI frameworks.
The best practices for migration :
Well, the best practices actually vary from one another. So, in general, the best practices that can be implemented are as follows.
- First of all, identify the important module and initiate the migration for that module.
- Never allow the microservices module code to be executed under monolithic architecture.
- Start utilizing a framework where the developers will only be focusing on business functionality.
- If required, the microservices can be further broken down into smaller microservices.
Hybrid Cloud is a Stepping Stone to Microservices
Hybrid cloud is nothing but a cloud computing setup or environment which primarily uses a mixture of private clouds and on-premises clouds in conjunction with public cloud services.
It takes time and money to transfer content from a private cloud to a public cloud and consumes a lot of computing efforts, which results in unnecessary resource utilization and increases the operations’ cost. Furthermore, to control these aspects, one can definitely use hybrid cloud services which offer much more flexibility and have a lot of data deployment options to choose from.
Now, let’s understand how hybrid cloud environment setup is helping Microservices implementations:
As per the microservices architecture, all the functionalities are divided into small components where they interact with each other and form an application. Also, with this structure, the functional components can either scale up or down based on the need.
The same concept works for the hybrid cloud computing environment as well - based on the demand the cloud instance can be either scaled up or down. So, in general, hybrid cloud environments and microservices architectures go hand in hand.
One of the best examples is the containers. The concept of containers is widely used in a microservices architecture. Whenever there is a need, the containers can be either created or destroyed automatically without affecting the application performance.
If a considerable load has been observed, then the required containers are created automatically where the load balancer will start distributing the load to multiple services.
Alternatively, if there is a decreasing demand for the load on the application, then the related containers are destroyed so that the effective utilization of resources is always maintained.
Infrastructure considerations: A stateless Mindset
When it comes to infrastructure considerations, the organizations have to look out for different components like maintenance, scalability, performance monitoring, and eventually hosting.
So, the below aspects should be considered so that the team can properly design a microservices architecture based application.
- The first and foremost aspect to check is whether the service can be deployed independently or not.
- Make sure that there is a concrete logging mechanism in place.
- All the uptimes and downtimes of the infrastructure should be monitored, and if there is any considerable change of behavior, then appropriate action needs to be taken.
Especially if the organizations are opting for microservices-based applications, then the application should be designed in such a way that its flexibility and scalability concepts are not at all compromised.
Mapping Layers to Cloud-Native Workloads
As per the standards, a cloud-native application is built on different logical layers based on the functionality and the deployment. Every layer has designated microservices which will eventually accomplish their own tasks.
Though the layers are clubbed together, every layer acts independently. When compared to the three-tier traditional architecture, the stack is in the form of a hierarchy. But in cloud-native applications, the structure is a flat one where the service is exposed via an API.
The different available layers and their usages are listed below:
- The scalable layer:
- The durable layer
- The parallelizable layer
- Event-driven layer
- The legacy layer
This layer is completely flexible and can grow and reduce according to runtime usage. In order to carry out the scale-in and scale-out operations, an autoscale policy needs to be implemented.
Within this layer, each and every service selects an ideal database where the structured data is stored. These types of services are called stateful services where high-level APIs are exposed.
All the scheduled jobs, parallel jobs, and batch jobs are notified as a parallelizable layer.
Within the event-driven layer, the code is not packaged in the form of containers. So, rather than using containers, the functions are written in programming languages like Python and Node.Js. Once these functions are written in the above-mentioned programming languages, they are deployed directly.
All the functions that are triggered within this layer are nothing but event-driven based.
Most of the monolith applications are legacy layer-based. For example, all customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM), and human resources (HR) applications.
So to use the existing systems, microservices architecture can still support and the transactions can be interoperated in the legacy layer.
Microservices Maturity model:
With the help of microservices maturity model, the customers can compare themselves and see whether they stand and also know what it takes for them to reach to a point where they can classify as a microservice related enterprise.
Also, it acts as a standard set of rules and policies so that all the teams within an organization can abide. It plays an important role in terms of maintaining the standards and process controls to an industry standard.
The Assessment stage: According to the maturity model, this is the stage where an organization evaluates its current standards to the maturity model standards. According to this assessment, the organizations can understand the main areas where they need to emphasize on.
With this type of study and assessment, organizations can understand the latest trends and will be able to improve their performances which in return will showcase more profits.
In this article, we have gone through several concepts of microservices architecture components where they are transforming the way the traditional applications are developed and deployed. Based on the application stability and the ad-hoc requirements, the team can take a constructive decision of moving from monolithic to microservices architecture. Using the migration strategies, one can decide the best approach and work towards completion.