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The Increasing Magnitude of Microservices

Ryan Douglas, Chief Information Officer at Digital River
Ryan Douglas, Chief Information Officer at Digital River

Ryan Douglas, Chief Information Officer at Digital River

Industries are coming to terms with the importance of having a customer-centric approach.  With the prevalence of handheld devices, shoppers now have a multitude of choices for almost any service or product on the market. As a result, consumers are demanding world-class products that brands should adapt to or risk being left behind. To keep up with this demand, the IT industry is in a state of constant and fast-moving evolution.

Many innovative businesses have turned to public cloud-based systems, infrastructure platforms that are changing the role of the IT department within organizations. The proliferation of cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) across businesses of all sizes and industries requires an ecosystem of agile and cooperative applications. This is also driving the rise of microservices, or microservice architecture. This application design paradigm enables the rapid, frequent and reliable delivery of large, complex applications. It also allows an organization to quickly evolve its technology stack, providing a new edge for companies to improve their offerings. With microservices, businesses can take a much faster, modular approach to technology by developing functionality that can be independently deployed and organized around fast-changing customer demands.

The benefit of this burgeoning approach includes immutability and predictability. In contrast to a traditional, monolithic approach, microservices break large platforms into smaller applications that can be deployed independently. Creating smaller, fixed building blocks enables more nimble, modular software development, and offers businesses a more maintainable and scalable application platform in addition to consistent application deployment across systems and cloud platforms.

Companies can also control risk by deploying applications in containers, which is a method for quickly building and releasing complex applications with identical operating systems and third-party software dependencies. In the event of any defects or vulnerabilities, software engineers can quickly identify, rebuild, reconfigure, and redeploy applications with minimal impact. This ability to make updates in tandem with development ensures a streamlined experience across all systems.

Another factor propelling the need for microservices is heightened security and compliance capabilities. Software patch deployment is easier to test when using microservices. It’s not just for home-grown code. IT engineers can test third-party software for vulnerabilities alongside their own software development. In the event a vulnerability is discovered, a fix can be deployed more quickly within microservices than with previous monolithic code structures.

 With microservices, businesses can take a much faster, modular approach to technology by developing functionality that can be independently deployed and organized around fast-changing customer demands 

Transition Troubles: The Importance of Establishing Strong Internal Structures

While microservices are gaining popularity and providing a new edge for companies to improve their offerings, the transition to support this methodology doesn’t come without challenges. Defining clear team roles and establishing new working relationships between software developers and IT engineers is crucial when adapting a microservices approach.

In the old world it was common for engineers to hold full responsibility for building the product while IT was tasked with building infrastructure and operating software in a production environment. With a microservices approach, those roles become muddied and more teamwork is required. With the shortened feedback loop between writing code, finding bugs, and determining fixes, engineers can look for and patch issues as they’re building. Alternatively, the role of IT is evolving to be more consultative, developing processes for deployments, building upon security expertise and helping the business understand impacts associated with updates. 

Teams that don’t work collaboratively to build and support applications in the cloud will find themselves on a rocky road when adopting microservices. Invariably, implementing a microservice development strategy will require some businesses to change their software development process.

Tools for a Smooth IT Integration

Moving to microservices is a big undertaking that requires understanding and buy-in throughout the organization. There are a series of best practices to consider helping ease the transition:

Embrace the twelve-factor app methodology: To address systemic problems, these 12 principles can help guide development of appropriate microservice architecture. The principles promote agility, supportability, and rapid deployment, enabling continuous improvement and reducing time and costs for new developers to join a project. This approach highlights the necessary cultural changes required to build microservices in earnest and it is a commonly adapted methodology for building successful microservice-based applications.

Regularly scan for known vulnerabilities: An important mantra for any IT team operating in our fast-paced digital world is identifying and fixing vulnerabilities of home-grown solutions as well as third-party software – it is essential for maintaining security. It’s critical to take a big-picture approach to the software ecosystem to understand how it works together and where potential problem areas reside.

Adopt the right monitoring tools: Scalable, modern telemetry tools are essential to successful management of microservices in production cloud environments. Implementing a flexible, API-based monitoring system which supports automated deployment will reduce the human capital needed to keep up with changes, allowing the collective software development and IT teams to stay focused on the important task of continually innovating to remain competitive.

By developing new processes and procedures necessary to deliver microservices, IT departments can help ensure that new application development may be agile and secure, allowing for better products to successfully position enterprises and their customers long into the future. Enabling microservice architecture with the customer at the forefront will result in innovative product creation and increased business growth.

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