For a long time, software applications ran on a monolithic architecture, and everyone was happy about it. But then, microservices emerged and quickly became a beloved way of designing the app’s architecture so it provides maximal performance, flexibility, and scalability.
But, due to its complex nature, the microservice architecture calls for a thorough approach and optimization. To help you navigate through its complexities, we’ve assembled a detailed guide on microservices best practices.
What is the microservice architecture?
Before diving in, let’s talk a bit about what exactly microservices are and why they are loved so much by software engineers. In order to fully understand the concept, let’s roll back a bit and discuss monolithic apps first.
A monolithic architecture implies that all its components are tightly coupled and interconnected. There are normally three components to a monolithic app: a database, a server-side application, and the user interface. Due to their interdependent nature, a change applied to one component affects the other two as well. While such an approach provides relatively fast development and fewer cross-cutting concerns, it isn’t really suitable for complex apps with many connected modules.
This is where microservices step in. A microservice architecture implies there are several independent, loosely coupled components (services). Each component is responsible for a certain function of the application, and in this way, it’s much easier to perform debugging and change implementation without affecting the performance of the whole app. The components in a microservice architecture communicate with each other via APIs, message brokers, or event streaming.
If you need an example, think of an ecommerce app where separate modules will be responsible for different features such as order service, customer service, cart service, etc. That means a single service only handles the order service operations – but we’ll talk more about it below.
Now, you might be wondering: in what exact use cases do I need a microservice architecture? Consider the following:
- For complex applications that will 100% evolve and grow in the future;
- For apps with consistently high traffic;
- For apps with multiple modules and user journeys;
- For apps that require data partitioning with various database technologies;
- For projects with big teams.
The main pros and cons of microservices
While microservices are an effective approach to complex and scalable applications, they are not perfect for every case. Let’s look at their main pros and cons to better understand this architecture type and how it can impact your app’s overall performance.
- Independent deployment: all services are independently deployable, which means you can easily change a line of code or implement a new feature in the needed service without interrupting the operation of others.
- Agility: the microservice architecture often means an organization has several cross-functional teams working precisely on an assigned service. In this way, the work becomes faster and more effective, and the time-to-market shortens, too.
- Variety of technologies: with microservices, each service often has its own tech stack that suits its functions the best. That means you get to decide what works best for your app and are not caught in a technology lock-in.
- Easy updating: due to the small size of services and their isolated nature, it’s easier and faster to implement updates to specific services that need updates ASAP. This, in turn, also contributes to greater security.
- Individual scaling: microservices can be independently deployed – and they also can be independently scaled! This brings us to the fact that microservice architecture requires less infrastructure than monolithic architecture since you can precisely scale only the needed components.
- Good reliability: because of their isolated nature, microservices provide high reliability of the app. If one unit malfunctions or fails, others will still be working, and the app overall will remain functioning.
- System complexity: you can’t have great scalability and flexibility without extra complexity. There can be hundreds of services in your app, and all of them need to be managed properly. On top of that, don’t forget that you also have to set up and manage communication between these services.
- Data logging: due to the number of microservices, the amount of collected and processed data grows, and, as a result, data logging grows in volume, too. This may also lead to data inconsistency, so you need to implement proper monitoring solutions.
- Testing: because each service covers a specific app function, you need to test each service individually. This leads to longer and more complicated testing and an increased amount of needed resources.
- Communication bottlenecks: if not configured properly, communication between microservices may cause bottlenecks and result in high latency or even app failures.
Best practices for microservices
By now, it’s clear that, despite certain challenges, microservices remain a great solution for complex apps that call for scalability. But, as with any other software solution, the deployment of the microservice architecture requires the use of certain best practices for microservices to ensure the maximal performance and security of the application.
Follow the Single Responsibility Principle (SRP)
One of the first things that you need to do with your microservices is ensure that they follow the Single Responsibility Principle, also known as SRP. Introduced way back in 1972, this principle implies that a single object in the OOP (object–oriented programming) should perform only one specific function.
How does this relate to microservices? Remember our example with an ecommerce app, where each module is responsible for a specific function. In this way, different modules are not integrated with each other, and their functions do not overlap.
This is beneficial for a number of reasons. First, this approach adds to the simplicity of the architecture and its management. Second, it reduces dependencies and eliminates overhead on any service. Lastly, it also decreases the response time, as one service does not have to wait for another in order to execute the request.
Maintain asynchronous communication
There are two types of communication happening between microservices:
- Synchronous: when services form sort of a chain of requests and “wait” for each other in order to fully complete a request;
- Asynchronous: services take as much time as needed to complete their specific task without waiting for other services.
It is recommended to maintain asynchronous communication as much as possible since it reduces the coupling between the services and increases the overall efficiency and app’s performance.
Watch the security of microservices
In such a complex environment as microservices, it’s easy to let a small bug slip and impact the security of the whole application. This is why it is critical to establish robust security protocols beforehand and follow them consistently.
The most common security tips for the microservice environment are:
- Enable SSL/TLS encryptions;
- Enable in-transit and at-rest data encryption;
- Do not hardcode login credentials;
- Enable multifactor authentication;
- Perform regular vulnerability scanning and pen testing;
- Regularly scan for dependencies to ensure there are no vulnerabilities;
- Use HTTPS.
And the list obviously goes on. When talking about security, it is critical to implement it on all levels, maintain regular checks, and follow established and recognized security protocols. In case of any doubt, do not hesitate to reach out to a knowledgeable vendor who can perform a security audit and consult you on possible improvements.
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Containerization is a very frequent practice in the microservice environment. It implies “packing” the core set of configurations, libraries, and binaries together so it’s portable across various environments and is lightweight enough.
The use of containers brings multiple benefits:
- Reduced need for resources since containers share one OS and one kernel;
- Reduced memory footprint;
- Faster iterations and cost optimization;
- Faster testing of the application;
- Reduced overhead costs;
- Quick rollouts (and rollbacks).
Use specialized orchestration tools
This point relates to the one above. If you deploy containers, you instantly increase the efficiency and agility of your application. But at the same time, you will face certain challenges related to the management of containers or their orchestration. To keep all your containers in place, well-managed, and configured, you will have to use a specialized orchestration tool designed specifically for work in a microservice environment. The most well-known example is Kubernetes (known as K8s), though you can also pay attention to Openshift, Rancher, or Hasicorp Nomad.
Note that the tools listed above are orchestration tools and are used for managing containers. You will also need a containerization platform like Docker to properly manage and host your containers.
Use a distributed database
In a monolithic architecture, there is usually a single database, and this approach works well enough. But in microservices, it is recommended to have a separate data store for every service – here is why.
When there are many loosely coupled services and just one database, this database can quickly become overloaded with simultaneous data queries. This, in turn, will result in latency issues and poor user experience. To deal with these problems, it is recommended to deploy a distributed database so each service has a separate data store. In this way, the data retrieval process becomes more efficient and faster. Also note that with separate data stores, there is no single point of failure, and hence, the app becomes more resilient and secure.
Use a powerful monitoring system
We’ve already mentioned that there can be hundreds, if not thousands, of services in a microservice architecture. Every service has to be precisely configured and managed, and it also requires close monitoring so you can immediately identify issues and take corrective action. As well, a good monitoring system helps you effectively track any changes and better understand the availability of resources and workload of each service.
We recommend using a centralized logging and monitoring system that will automate certain processes and will help you better handle occurring issues. Examples of such systems are:
- AWS CloudWatch: an effective platform that collects and visualizes real-time logs and provides actionable insights based on the collected data;
- Datagod: an observability and analytics tool;
- Jaeger: a powerful tool for monitoring and troubleshooting issues in a microservice environment.
There is a variety of monitoring tools to choose from, depending on your goals and the nature of your application. Hence, we recommend consulting with a knowledgeable vendor to help you align your goals with the most appropriate solution.
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We’ve already written numerous articles on DevOps, so let’s quickly recap the main points. DevOps stands for development and operations and bridges the gap between the IT operations and the development teams. The DevOps methodology eliminates the silos between the two departments, improves communication, and, most importantly, speeds up the delivery process via automation and CI/CD integration.
Getting back to microservices architecture best practices – microservices require a great level of flexibility and extra attention to security. By implementing DevOps, you not only facilitate the development process but also improve the security since DevOps implies continuous testing and a security-first approach.
Maintain backward compatibility
Backward compatibility implies that the system is able to work with older versions (past iterations) and that the new versions are compatible with older ones. In such a complex environment as microservices, backward compatibility is crucial, and there are several ways to properly maintain it.
First, you should effectively manage the microservices versioning by using a specialized version control system. It will allow you to reduce and eliminate the complexity of managing microservices across multiple software versions without harming the performance of the application. Other options include:
- Follow path level compatibility guarantees
- Use the API gateway request transformation plugin
- Use the robustness principle to ensure compatibility of the service endpoints
- Ignore new fields in massage bodies so they don’t affect APIs.
Final thoughts on microservices best practices
The use of the microservice architecture can become a level-up for your application in terms of its speed, efficiency, and responsiveness. On the other hand, the incorrect management of microservices can do more harm than good, so you need to prepare in advance and ensure that you have all the resources and tools needed for the smooth functioning of the system. In case of any questions regarding microservices best practices, do not hesitate to contact us – we at SoftTeco have rich experience in implementing and fine-tuning microservices for clients across various industries.