What Are Microservices? (Plus Characteristics and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 27, 2021

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.

Creating an application requires the development of several components, each with its own function. Building these components requires a thorough understanding not only of what the final product should look like but also what functions each component serves. Microservices can be an important part of the development process, helping you structure individual components and combine them into a functional application. In this article, we explore the concept of microservices, including their main characteristics, benefits and best practices for using microservices in development.

What are microservices?

Microservices are an architectural style in application development that structures an application or software program as a collection of individual components or services. Sometimes called microservice architecture, developers often use it to make the final product more testable and functional and identify development issues quickly. By developing each part of the project individually, the project can become more cohesive and easier to maintain.

Related: Necessary Interview Questions for Microservices Developers

Characteristics of microservices

Microservices have several important characteristics that differentiate them from other development practices. These include:

Products instead of projects

A distinct characteristic of microservices is its intention of creating a viable product owned by the development team. This method ensures that developers have complete control over the software or application's development process and continue to provide support to its users after the team finalizes their design. In typical developmental models, a project manager forms a development team, designs a project and disbands the team after completion. This method allows the team to retain some control over their products and assigns a permanent name to the product.

Related: What Is a Web Developer?

Decentralized governance

Microservices benefit from decentralizing their governance, which allows for greater freedom and autonomy during the design process. Decentralization also helps prevent standardization during development, which can cause teams to slow down by being forced to use standardized practices or technology. By decentralizing governance of the project, microservices allow each part of the project to act as a part of the whole, with each component joining to create one cohesive application or software.

Decentralized data management

Microservices also help decentralize the data management of development projects. Instead of depending on a single, monolithic database of project data, microservices help partition data into separate components based on the project's parts. Decentralizing data helps ensure that each component of the project is responsible for its data creation, storage and security. This can help create a more secure data partition as well, because if one component experiences a data breach, the invasion is contained and doesn't automatically expose the other components' information.

Automated infrastructure

Another important characteristic of microservices is its automated infrastructure. Each project exists within a pipeline, which contains several key points at which the project stops during development. These points perform automated tests that find errors more quickly and help move the product through the pipeline more quickly. The automation also helps save the development team time and money and can create better deliverables.

Benefits of microservices

Developers use the microservice architecture for many reasons. The benefits of this system are:

Easier scalability

Projects built from individual components can be easier to scale. Each component serves a specific purpose, so when the application needs to be scaled to serve a higher function, developers can concentrate on the microservices as a place to start. Scalability helps applications and software adapt to changes in functionality or the needs of the customer using the software.

Related: What Is an Application Developer?

Independent deployability

Each microservice in an application is independently deployable. This means that the development team can selectively deploy and test individual services for troubleshooting instead of needing to test the entire application. This can keep testing, troubleshooting and updating costs low and helps create a more flexible application.

Smaller teams

Because of the division and structuring of microservices, development teams can work in smaller groups. These groups can improve communication and the quality of deliverables, creating more effective applications and encouraging a company culture of collaboration. Smaller teams can assign more specific roles and focus on individual services and troubleshooting instead of the entire application all at once.

Programming options

Microservices also allow teams to choose more specific technology tools and methods than a standard approach. Standard approaches can be missing the specific functionality or tools that some development processes require. Microservices allow the team to be more specific with programming languages, databases and other tools and help create a more competitive, functional product.

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Increased resiliency

Because microservices deploy separately from one another, the application becomes more resilient to changes or challenges. The development team oversees each microservice individually, ensuring that each service remains functional without affecting the other components. This helps save time and money by reducing the need to update the entire application when one service scales up or needs modification.

Faster development

Using microservices can also help increase the speed of the development process. Each team develops a microservice that becomes part of a whole, but the teams can release components of the application throughout the development process. More agile development can mean a higher return on investment and customer satisfaction with the finished product.

Best practices for microservices

Understanding the best practices for the use of microservices can help your application get the most benefit from their use. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Use a circuit breaker for fast fault tolerance. When microservices depend on other services' responses to move forward, it can affect response times. Use a circuit breaker to create a call timeout to avoid slow-downs and improve the fault tolerance of the application.

  • Use an API gateway. The API gateway can help prevent unwanted traffic or requests. It can also increase the overall speed and responsiveness of the system or application.

  • Use a separate database for your microservices. The purpose of the microservice is to prevent or reduce centralization. Using a separate database to store microservices ensures those services remain separate and send requests through separate API gateways.

  • Reduce the number of updates. Each microservice updates to a new version eventually, but minimizing the number of versions helps reduce coding problems for the developers. You can also remove old versions or reroute traffic to the new versions.

  • Focus on decentralization. Decentralization helps the team partition projects into several components for better data management and security. This also helps create more autonomy in the design process and moves projects through the design pipeline more efficiently.

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