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Microservices Architecture: A Beginner's Guide

5 September 2023

Microservices Architecture: A Beginner's Guide

Microservices architecture is rapidly changing the world of software development. By breaking large monolithic applications into smaller, composable services, companies can build systems that are more agile, scalable, and resilient. This beginner's guide will explain what microservices are, the benefits they provide, and key concepts for implementing them. Whether you're new to microservices or looking to go deeper, this article will equip you with a solid foundation. This guide is the perfect introduction or continuation to your Microservices Architecture Training get in contact to discover how one of our customised courses can benefit your team. 

Let's get started!

What Are Microservices?

Microservices, also known as the microservice architecture, are an architectural approach to software development where an application is composed of small independent services that communicate over well-defined APIs. These services are:

  • Loosely coupled - services are independent and interact through APIs
  • Owned by small teams - easier for teams to maintain their services
  • Written in different languages/tech - different services can use the right tool for the job
  • Independently deployable - services can be deployed and updated independently

This is in contrast to monolithic applications where all functionality is combined in a single executable. Monoliths can be difficult to maintain and scale over time.

Refactoring a Monolith into Microservices - NGINX

Figure 1: Monolithic vs. Microservices Architectures. Credit: NGINX

Some key benefits of microservices include:

  • Agility - smaller codebases enable faster iteration
  • Scalability - services can be scaled independently
  • Resilience - failures are isolated and don't bring the system down
  • Flexibility - mix of technologies/programming languages

Microservices power many large tech companies like Amazon, Netflix, Uber, and more. However, they also come with their own challenges and require organizational shifts to be successful.

Microservices Design Principles

Well-designed microservices architectures follow core principles and best practices:

Loose Coupling

Services should be as independent from each other as possible. This means minimizing service dependencies and interactions. Services communicate via well-defined APIs that should be relatively stable over time. Direct database or infrastructure dependencies should also be avoided between services.

Organized Around Business Capabilities

Each microservice should align with a specific business capability. For example, Order Service, Customer Service, Payment Service. Keeping the scope of a service focused makes the codebase easier to maintain.

Decentralized Data Management

Unlike monolithic apps which share a common database, each service manages its own database in a microservices architecture. This helps keep services decoupled.

Resiliency and Fault Tolerance

Services should handle errors gracefully and not fail catastrophically if other services are unavailable. Patterns like circuit breakers, retries, and graceful degradation help build reliability.

Business Domain-Driven

Domain-driven design is a development approach tailored to microservices. It calls for modeling software after the real business domains.

Inter-Service Communication

Inter-service communication is a critical part of distributed microservices. Here are common communication styles:

Async Messaging

Services communicate asynchronously via a message broker like Kafka or RabbitMQ. Messages are durably stored and retries can handle failure.

REST APIs

REST APIs are commonly used for synchronous request-reply style communication between services.

Service Discovery

Services find and call each other via service discovery (e.g. Consul, Eureka, Zookeeper). Load balancers route traffic.

Data Management Patterns

Since each service has its own database, data management becomes more complex with microservices. Common patterns include:

  • Database per Service - each service manages its own database. This helps decoupling.
  • Event Sourcing - state changes are logged as a sequence of events. Events can then rebuild current state.
  • Command Query Responsibility Segregation (CQRS) - separate read and write models.
  • Saga Pattern - manage transactions across services with compensation actions.

Developing Microservices

Let's explore key development principles:

  • Decompose Monolith - systematically split apart the monolith into services. Focus on breaking at clean boundaries.
  • Well-Defined Service Interfaces - services expose APIs/interfaces with limited scope that are stable over time. Avoid overly chatty interfaces with lots of back-and-forth calls.
  • Decentralized Governance - individual services can be developed and released independently. Each service has its own CI/CD pipeline.
  • Automated Testing - rigorous regression testing for each service deployment. Shift testing left.
  • Infrastructure Automation - automate environment management and deployment with DevOps practices.

Deploying Microservices

Modern platforms like containers and orchestrators enable reliable microservices deployment:

  • Containers - docker containers package services and dependencies into standardized units for deployment. This enables portability.
  • Container Orchestration - manage and schedule containers to optimize infrastructure usage. Kubernetes is the leading orchestrator.
  • Service Mesh - handles cross-cutting concerns like security, monitoring, and communication routing across services. Popular options include Istio and Linkerd.
  • Infrastructure Automation - automatically manage infrastructure with tools like Terraform and use CI/CD pipelines for deployment.
  • Monitoring and Observability - gain visibility into distributed services with APM, logs, and tracing.

Microservices Challenges

While microservices provide significant benefits, they also come with distinct challenges:

  • Increased Complexity - many interrelated moving parts makes debugging difficult. Careful system design helps mitigate complexity.
  • Distributed Tracing - track requests across service calls. Approaches include distributed request ID propagation.
  • Lack of Governance - decentralization makes standardization and governance harder. Implement organizational standards early.
  • More Moving Pieces - the distributed nature of microservices means more components to manage. Carefully monitor and observe the full system.

Getting Started with Microservices

Here are some tips to begin your microservices journey:

Microservices allow the rapid delivery of complex applications, but require organizational change and a sound technical approach. We hope this beginner’s guide provides a solid basis for your microservices architecture!

About the author: Daniel West
Tech Blogger & Researcher for JBI Training

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