The Dynamic Duo: Microservices and Containers
Digital service outages are a major headache for businesses and customers alike. These events are the equivalent of a brick-and-mortar business closing due to a power failure or a water leak. Unexpectedly closing shop is a guaranteed way to annoy customers and drive them to a competing business. Unlike brick-and-mortar businesses, who can’t possibly avoid these unfortunate events, digital service applications can be constructed in a way to eliminate downtime for their business. Many companies are utilizing the new dynamic duo, microservices and containers, to avoid outages, increase traffic, and provide optimal digital customer experience.
What are microservices and why should you use them?
Microservices is a development architecture where large applications are built in multiple modules that are packaged in such a way that they can be deployed, scaled, and terminated independently. Each module runs independently, performs a specific function, and connects and communicates with other modules through simple APIs. Microservice architecture has been embraced by all of the big digital service players over the last few years, and has allowed companies to expand digital offerings and increase traffic, while maintaining optimal, continuous experiences for customers. While still modular, traditional architecture tends to have slower response rates, be difficult to scale (resource heavy and time consuming), and harder to manage. Microservices came along and broke up these slow, sluggish giants and reinvented them into sleek, agile powerhouses.
Switching to a microservice architecture has many advantages:
Because each microservice module is independent and lightweight, the function can execute at a fast speed.
Flexible and scalable
Modules can be developed in any language that suits the specific function allowing for more efficient development. Also, each component can easily be scaled to improve customer service and functionality, and updates and repairs can be quick and efficient.
Improved customer experience
If one module is offline, it doesn’t affect the functionality of the other modules. Problems are contained to small parts of the larger application and can be dealt with and updated quickly. In most cases, customers won’t notice any problems, as most of the services remain intact.
Containers: Microservices’ Perfect Companion
Microservices run fine on Virtual Machines (VMs), but a more compact and efficient solution has come along recently that allows microservices to continue to increase in speed – containers. Containers are multiple, separate execution environments existing on a single OS. The concept of containers became a reality recently by the emergence of Cgroup functionality (thank you, Google!), which ensures that the contents of one container can’t interfere with the contents of another. Like microservices, containers are modular in design, so it makes sense that they would work well together.
The advantages of containers include:
Like microservices, containers allow for quick execution. The OS is always running reducing the need to prompt the OS to start up.
Efficient use of resources
The compact size of containers makes them perfect for running lightweight modules like microservices. That means that there is more processing power from each piece of hardware, and businesses are not paying for space they are not using.
With the emergence of a range of platforms and devices (e.g., web, mobile, IoT, and wearables), the combination of microservice apps with containers, applications are situated to deal with the influx of data including the speed and efficiency needed to provide the best customer experience. Both are modular and independent in design and both provide agile environments that are suited for efficient improvements.
Microservices and Containers
So, what is the best way to set up an environment where microservices and containers can work best together?
Define your processes
Containers and especially microservices require proper operational process definition and setup. These can be complex systems requiring a defined roadmap of each piece and how they work together. How are the functions split up, who is responsible for each and how do the modules work together? This type of modular functionality works best in a DevOps-type of environment where collaboration is prioritized. Take into consideration that each microservice module will have its own database and design and development needs.
Consider your tools
Container management systems may be needed to define which modules work best in certain containers and avoid placing redundant microservice functions on a single server. It’s important to assemble the microservices and containers in a way to ensure efficient execution, and a container management system is the most effective way to do this.
Test these new modular solutions with new, smaller projects rather than trying to convert existing mammoth applications immediately. Starting with small projects will provide the information needed to set up processes and resources appropriately and prepare for the needs of larger applications.
Even though preparation time for constructing modular microservices in container environments may be longer and more resource heavy, the rewards will be quickly realized after launch with increased speed and efficiency. These combined solutions will allow for improved performance and bringing new features to market rapidly. They also allow for businesses to stay innovative and respond quickly to customer needs (which leads to happy customers).
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