'Pros and Cons of Microservices: When You Need Them and When Don’t' post illustration

Pros and Cons of Microservices: When You Need Them and When Don’t

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Tech giants like Netflix, Amazon, and Uber have embraced microservices architecture to scale their applications, improve agility, and handle complex business requirements. Their success stories have inspired others to adopt similar approaches, leading to wider adoption of microservices across industries. However, many companies have started encountering problems with such an approach to software architecture. Why is it so?

How do you know whether you need to implement microservice architecture on your project or whether it's better to go monolithic? Let’s find out.

Pros and cons of microservices

First, let’s recall the essence of microservices. Instead of one large, monolithic application, you can break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces – microservices. Each microservice focuses on one specific task or functionality within the application.

The core idea behind microservices is to simplify the development, deployment, and maintenance of complex software systems. If done correctly, this architectural model brings the promised benefits, yet it requires robust and thoughtful architecture to succeed, and there’s a risk of getting increased operational complexity and expenses.

Let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of microservice architecture and find out whether you need it on your project.

Advantages of microservices

Improved fault isolation

In a monolithic architecture, a failure in one part of the application can bring down the entire system. However, in a microservices architecture, each service runs independently, so a failure in one service typically doesn't impact the others. This isolation reduces the blast radius of failures and improves the overall resilience of the system.

For the same reasons, microservices architecture allows for more robust failure recovery mechanisms. If a microservice becomes unresponsive or encounters errors, it can be automatically restarted or replaced without affecting the rest of the system.

For example, if a service responsible for processing payments experiences issues, users can still browse the goods and add them to the cart. This proactive approach to failure recovery minimizes downtime and improves the application's overall reliability.

Higher team productivity

Each microservice can be owned and developed by a separate team, allowing teams to focus on specific areas of expertise. Different teams can work on different microservices simultaneously without being blocked by dependencies on other teams.

The team scaling also becomes more straightforward, as every new member has to get to know only the microservice they work with without the risk of affecting the rest of the software. This makes the onboarding process faster and more efficient.

Furthermore, each team can choose the most appropriate technology stack for each microservice. This flexibility enables teams to leverage their preferred tools and frameworks, leading to increased productivity and satisfaction among developers who can work with technologies they are comfortable with and proficient in.

Faster release time

In a microservices architecture, each service is usually deployed independently of others. This means that when you change a specific microservice, you only need to deploy that microservice rather than the entire application. With smaller codebases and independent deployment pipelines for each microservice, developers can release new features, bug fixes, and improvements more rapidly.

These facts make microservices architectures well-suited for continuous deployment practices, where changes are deployed to production as soon as they pass automated tests, reducing the time it takes to get new code into production.

Enhanced scalability

Microservices architectures are inherently elastic, meaning they can dynamically scale up or down in response to changing workload demands. If one instance fails or becomes overloaded, traffic can be automatically routed to healthy instances, ensuring that your application remains available and responsive even in the face of failures. This elasticity enables your application to handle sudden spikes in traffic or increased user activity without experiencing performance degradation or downtime.

Moreover, with microservices, your team can add more instances of a specific service to distribute the workload across multiple servers or containers according to their resource consumption. Such distribution helps ensure that, for example, extra-heavy tasks don’t influence the performance and user experience of the rest of the application.

Boosted cost-efficiency and monitoring

Microservices allow you to specify the requirements and performance metrics for separate services instead of finding the average for all the tasks and scale individual components of your application independently.

Some projects might combine tasks like processing media files or generating heavy reports, which require more time and resources to process, with performance-sensitive tasks that don’t require much capacity yet need to be processed as fast as possible to ensure a smooth user experience. Dividing such tasks into separate microservices allows you to maintain steady performance, making it easier to track the efficiency of your solution as well.

Based on the improved monitoring approach, you can make more informed and relevant decisions about scaling particular services, allocating resources according to each service's specific needs, and avoiding over-provisioning.

Disadvantages of microservices

Increased maintenance cost

Managing a distributed system composed of many microservices introduces complexity, which can lead to higher development and operational costs. It requires a shift in mindset and development practices, including designing services with clear boundaries. This development overhead can increase the time and effort required to build and maintain microservices-based systems.

To deploy, monitor, and manage a microservices-based architecture effectively, you'll need specialized skills, tools, and infrastructure. Moreover, the team plays a crucial role here, as expertise and experience are the defining factors of whether your app will be profitable and efficient or whether you spend much effort on developing a complicated solution with extra expenses.

Technological complexity

Deploying and managing microservices requires robust infrastructure, including container orchestration platforms and service mesh technologies. Setting up and maintaining this infrastructure can be complex and resource-intensive.

While microservices offer agility, they also require defining communication protocols, implementing fault tolerance mechanisms, and handling cross-cutting concerns such as authentication, authorization, and logging. It takes careful design and coordination to ensure seamless interaction between services. This can lead to increased development overhead, particularly regarding API design, versioning, and compatibility management.

Data Inconsistency

Microservice architectures often lead to a proliferation of data stores, with each microservice having its own database or data storage mechanism optimized for its specific requirements. Managing data consistency, synchronization, and ensuring data integrity across distributed data stores can be complex and challenging.

Complicated service communication

Microservices architectures introduce the complexity of managing a distributed system composed of many interconnected services. Communication between microservices typically occurs over a network, which adds latency, potential points of failure, and complexities related to network security, service discovery, and load balancing.

Microservices communicate with each other via APIs. Managing these APIs, including versioning, documentation, backward compatibility, and ensuring consistent API contracts across services, can become challenging as the number of microservices grows.

More challenging deployments

Microservices deployments are complex mainly because of their distributed nature. This distributed architecture introduces challenges such as managing dependencies between services, orchestrating deployments across different environments, coordinating configuration settings, and ensuring the reliability and consistency of deployments.

Additionally, the need for automation, monitoring, and rollback procedures further adds to the complexity, as these tasks become essential for managing deployments effectively in a dynamic and rapidly changing microservices environment.

How to know if you should use microservices

Despite the number of challenges, microservices architectures can be suitable for many types of projects, bringing valuable boost. Yet, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution.

It's essential to carefully consider the specific requirements, constraints, and capabilities of your project and organization before deciding whether to adopt a microservices architecture. Ensure you really need it and the benefits for your particular project are higher than the potential risks.

Moreover, make sure your team has the necessary expertise level to ensure proper design and implementation so that you avoid the risk of overcomplicating the application and overinvesting in its development, leveraging all the expected benefits.

To sum up

Microservices offer many benefits in terms of scalability, flexibility, and resilience, yet they also come with challenges related to complexity, distributed systems, operational overhead, initial development effort, and testing complexity. Although they are very popular in some large well-known companies, you should be careful to ensure you select the most efficient approach for your project.

At SysGears, we always start with a deep analysis of your business needs and goals, considering both short-term and long-term perspectives to identify what approach will be the most beneficial for your project, finding the balance between resources, effort, and time-to-market.

Don’t know whether microservices are the right choice for your project?
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