A Brief Over­view of Mi­croser­vices

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The mi­croser­vices ar­chi­tec­ture is a de­sign style for soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions, which de­picts them as a suite of in­de­pen­dent de­ploy­able ser­vices. Mi­croser­vices is about de­com­pos­ing a com­plex sys­tem into more man­age­able, smaller units of work that can be de­vel­oped and de­ployed in­de­pen­dently. While mi­croser­vices is not a panacea for all soft­ware prob­lems, it can be lever­aged to pro­duce bet­ter ap­pli­ca­tions.

Mi­croser­vices is the new buzz word but it is of­ten mis­un­der­stood. Be­fore talk­ing about mi­croser­vices, we need to look into the past and see how it evolved over a pe­riod of time. I started out as a main­frame COBOL pro­gram­mer. Back in those days, we used to write the driver or the main COBOL pro­gram, which in turn, would call pro­grams that would call yet more pro­grams. The called pro­grams were ei­ther stat­i­cally or dy­nam­i­cally called in the call­ing pro­gram. The en­tire set of pro­grams used to be com­piled through the main­frame com­piler and then edit jobs were linked. If the pro­grams were stat­i­cally called, any change would mean re­com­pi­la­tion, and link edit­ing of the en­tire set of pro­grams and re­de­ploy­ment.

A sim­i­lar ap­proach ex­isted in the Java world as well, where the en­tire ap­pli­ca­tion used to be de­ployed as an EAR file or a WAR file. These sin­gle bi­nary de­ploy­ments were de­com­posed into data ac­cess, busi­ness process and pre­sen­ta­tion lay­ers which we called N-tier ar­chi­tec­ture. The lay­ers al­lowed the sep­a­ra­tion of con­cerns, but the ap­pli­ca­tion still used to be de­ployed as a sin­gle mono­lith. For any new change or en­hance­ment, it would take days to do the im­pact anal­y­sis, the test­ing and fi­nally, the de­ploy­ment into pro­duc­tion. The cou­pling of code in mono­liths used to make it dif­fi­cult to do an im­pact anal­y­sis, and changes were not lo­calised but spread across the ap­pli­ca­tions.

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