Major corporations like Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix have popularized microservices as more adaptable, durable, and scalable than their monolithic predecessors. That’s great, but countless business leaders have been left wondering what exactly “microservices” means.

When it comes to software development, a microservices architecture treats applications as a loose collection of services. By splitting apps into independently deployable services that work together to accomplish an overarching goal, organizations can achieve consistent improvement by developing and maintaining constituent components.

Compared to traditional monolithic models — building the entire application as one piece — a microservices architecture empowers engineering and product innovation while reducing the time necessary to bring a product to market. When developers divide an application into smaller parts that work in tandem, the end result is software that’s easier to build and maintain. By mastering this new model, business leaders can reap numerous benefits.

Looking Beyond the Microservices Buzz

While the developer world is fired up about microservices, the transition from a monolithic approach to microservices isn’t always a painless process. Merely introducing a trendy technology such as Spring Boot or Kubernetes into a monolithic application doesn’t magically transform it into a microservices app.

To reap the full benefits, companies must follow architectural best practices to split a traditional monolith into services organized around their business capabilities. They must also develop and deploy those services independently, relying on well-defined interfaces to maintain their loose coupling of services.

Note that microservices is not a silver bullet, though. There are upfront and ongoing technical challenges that accompany operating a distributed system, including data consistency, deployment orchestration, distributed testing, and interservice communication. While these challenges often require organizational culture shifts, any growing pains are negligible when compared to the innovation and efficiency a microservices architecture creates.

Beyond these more obvious benefits, there are several other tangible perks of a microservices architecture:

  1. Independent deployment: Instead of an army of developers working on one massive project, a microservices architecture empowers companies to form smaller, more agile, and loosely coupled teams. Each team works on a modular slice of business functionality, resulting in maximum productivity and reduced time to market for new features.After starting out with a monolithic application, Amazon implemented changes to its architecture and its organization. The company split its product development team into smaller groups called “two-pizza teams” — small enough that each team could be fed with two pizzas. After giving each team full control over a few microservices, Amazon managed to improve its development process to the point that it produces 50 million deployments annually.
  2. Fine-grained scalability: No matter what development architecture a company uses, applications will end up with bottlenecks that hinder performance. With a microservices architecture, companies can individually tune each service for performance. This makes bottlenecks easier to identify and less disruptive to address, ensuring high availability for end users.Companies like Spotify, which aim to serve hundreds of millions of customers, require components that can scale independently. Development teams at Spotify are autonomous, and each team has its own specific mission. That’s probably a good thing, considering the company has 90 teams and 600 developers spread through five different offices on two continents.
  3. Fault tolerance: One of the best aspects of a microservices architecture is that it allows applications to degrade gracefully. If a single service goes down, other services can continue to function and provide value to end users.For this very reason, most users don’t notice when a company like Spotify has a service outage. Thanks to the company’s microservices architecture, it can actually have a large number of services down at the same time without any significant change to the user experience.
  4. Mixing and matching: A microservices architecture is able to seamlessly combine technology stacks and programming languages. This means system architects have the flexibility to use the best tool for the job in each business domain.SoundCloud, Twitter, and other growth-oriented companies embraced microservices in part because of its versatility. Uber opted to go the same route when it was time to break up its own monolithic codebase, allowing the company to keep pace as the service rapidly spread to new cities.

The microservices community is growing exponentially, with open-source innovation from industry leaders reducing the barrier to entry. The ongoing establishment of best practices will make the path easier for future organizations to follow, pushing microservices further ahead as a result.

A microservices architecture isn’t without its own challenges, but innovation rarely is. Instead, it represents a way for businesses to continue development and withstand service outages without resulting in poor user experiences. For most companies, a monolithic approach to development will soon be a thing of the past.

Interested in learning more about what the evolving microservices landscape could mean for your company? Sign up to attend our free microservices webinar to accelerate your learning curve.