What Are Microservices? (Definition, Benefits, and Elements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 6, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing a new application or software program requires various components working together to create a functional system. An option for program development is to use smaller microservices, independent applications that come together to create a more extensive program. Learning about microservices can help you identify if this style of programming architecture can work for your application system.

In this article, we discuss the definition of microservices, review the difference between a monolithic and microservice system, identify the primary characteristics and benefits of this architecture, and highlight several best practices.

What are microservices?

If you're interested in pursuing a career that involves application development, you may have wondered, "What are microservices?" A microservice, also known as microservice architecture, is a style of application or software development that uses a collection of programs that work together as a whole. Each microservice team develops their application and implements the program when it's ready. Then, each component works with the other microservices to create a fully operating system. A monolithic architecture makes one extensive program and programmers typically launch the front-end and back-end of the system together.

Monolithic vs. microservice systems

Microservices are independent applications or programs that work together as a more extensive system to provide a service to a customer or organization. For example, suppose you have an online retail store to sell various clothing items to customers. Customers can visit your e-commerce site and create a customer account, purchase clothing, or contact customer service with questions. You can have a monolithic system or a microservice system as a business owner. A monolithic system comprises one extensive software system that houses all the information about your customers, your inventory, payment information, and shipping features.

There are several disadvantages to this type of system, including that if the system goes down, the entire company is offline until someone repairs the program. Another downside is that if a hacker or malware compromises the database, it compromises all the company records. Using microservices has separate and independent applications for each business function. For example, there can be a microservice for customer information, another for shipping, and one for inventory management. If a cyber-attack affects the inventory management system, the other two databases can remain secure and safe from corruption.

Primary characteristics of microservices

There are several primary characteristics of microservices that distinguish them from other development applications, including:

Independent implementation and governance

Microservices use independent implementation and governance, which provide greater flexibility and autonomy during the development process. Instead of working as a portion of a larger project, microservices allow for managing the individual product separate from the final collection of programs. As a result, microservice teams can produce faster results by eliminating the standardization of standard practices for an entire project.

Products instead of projects

Microservice architecture focuses on products instead of projects. This means that each product microservice has its own product development team. As a result, the product team has complete control over the development process, including implementation and support. While many projects disband a development team after they deliver the program or application, microservice teams keep some control over the product and continue to provide support services.

Decentralized data management

Microservices decentralize the data management of application and program projects. Each microservice manages its database structure and content instead of having one single database for an entire project. As a result, each microservice team is responsible for creating its database, storing the information, and ensuring the security of the data. The data partition this creates in the more extensive system provides enhanced security. If a breach in security compromises one microservice, the remaining microservices remain safe from the threat.

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Testing automation

Microservices benefit from testing automation processes throughout the development timeline. There are several critical points throughout a development project at which the work ceases and testing happens. During these points, automated testing looks for errors in the application and provides valuable feedback to the developers. Because of the automation process, a microservice can move through the project phases more quickly. As a result, the development team saves time and money while creating better programs.

Benefits of microservices

There are several benefits that microservices provide when developing an application or system, including:

Ability to be managed by a small team

A primary characteristic of a microservice is the ability of a small team to manage the application. Unlike large monolithic architecture projects that require a large development team because all parts of the program work together at once, a microservice is an independent application. As a result, a small development and management team is adequate. In addition, smaller groups can improve communication and collaboration between team members, adding to the quality of the deliverable. A small development team also has the added benefits of specificity for roles, tasks, and responsibilities instead of being diluted within a large project group.

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Improved scalability

Because microservices work independently, program developers can scale them more easily and quickly than monolithic projects. Each microservice is a component of the larger system and serves a particular purpose. When one microservice requires updates or improved functionality, developers can concentrate on the individual piece. In addition, if a system requires additional functions, developers can add new microservices instead of having to make adaptations to an entire program.

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Individual implementation

A development team can implement each microservice independently of others in progress. As a result, a microservice is fully functional, and developers can test, analyze, and deploy individual services for testing instead of evaluating the entire application. As a result, the benefits include lower testing and troubleshooting costs, lower product management expenses, and increased application flexibility. A microservice implement team is agile and able to meet the application's needs quickly without affecting the more extensive system.

Wider programming options

Application developers have a wider choice of programming options when creating microservices than a monolithic system. Because each microservice operates independently, developers can use specific technologies or coding languages that meet their requirements for the application. For example, a software developer can organize a microservice database to the customer's needs, providing a more functional product than a generic database can offer. By having more comprehensive programming options, microservice creators can improve the quality of their applications.

Related: Understanding The Difference Between Coding vs. Programming

Improved product resiliency

Developers deploy and implement microservices independently, allowing the product to be more resilient to changes, updates, or bugs. A development team can deploy an application and test it for errors without compromising the other systems. In addition, the team can make changes or updates to a microservice with minimal service interruption to the other components. Similarly, microservices have enhanced security protocols, as a larger system's data partition protects each application. If a cyberattack occurs on a microservice, developers can contain the corruption to the particular application and prevent infection of the entire system.

Improved development time

Microservices often can have a faster development time than a monolithic system. Each development team creates a microservice that becomes part of the larger system, but they can release the microservices throughout the project's lifespan. Each microservice has a dedicated development team. As the group creates and tests the individual applications, they can deploy them into the system. The result is a higher customer satisfaction rate with the finished product and a better return on investment.

Microservice best practices

There are several best practices to consider when using microservices, such as:

  • Using an API gateway: An API gateway, or an application programming interface, offers a single endpoint for users, such as a specific URL, and then it internally maps the request to the individual microservices. As a result, this can improve the speed and responsiveness of the system.

  • Using a separate database for microservices: Microservices allow for the decentralization of information, including data storage. To take advantage of this, use a different database to store the company's microservices, so they remain separate from other business operations and information.

  • Reducing the number of updates: While it's normal for programs to require updates, minimizing the amount can help reduce coding issues for software developers. It's also a good practice to remove old versions from the system once updated.

  • Implementing a centralized monitoring system: Using a centralized error logging and monitoring system helps ensure it houses all microservice logs in a single location. This can improve error response times and increase reaction time to system security threats.

  • Using a circuit breaker for faster fault tolerance: Because microservices potentially depend on other applications to respond before performing a function, it can affect overall response time. Using a circuit breaker to create a call timeout can improve the speed and fault tolerance of the application.

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