Application development initiatives are becoming more distributed by the day. Security is being incorporated early in the pipeline. Automation (thanks to AI and ML) is finding its feet in the DevOps practice. In some way or the other, all of this is being made possible because businesses are inclining towards the use of microservices architecture and containers. In most cases, the combination of the two, i.e., containerized microservices, is driving development for good.
This article serves as an early guide to microservices and containers and how they contribute to successful application development, especially in the age of cloud apps.
The What(s) and Why(s) of Microservices
The microservices architecture involves breaking up the application into small, independently functioning units or services. Usually, these services represent a specific business functionality or feature. Take the example of an eCommerce mobile application. It will have a dedicated service for each of these functions – inventory, product, checkout, cost, etc.
Why microservices? Essentially, microservices are self-contained, independent modules of an application. They communicate via API calls, message brokers, or a service mesh. These services can be scaled and deployed separately, meaning you don’t have to worry about the performance and availability of other parts of the application when one microservice is having issues. Likewise, you don’t have to deploy the entire application in one go; you can deploy a service with all its applications and dependencies separately. Similarly, when you need to make changes, you can do so for one service at a time without worrying about having to bring down the entire edifice. This capability is also called loose coupling and serves as one of the main advantages of using microservices.
The What(s) and Why(s) of Containers
Containers are essentially packages that hold all the dependencies required to run an application. They work at the operating system level and include all the underlying settings, tools, libraries, etc., needed for the application to run in the desired state. This means, if you want to deploy a specific application to an environment, you don’t have to worry about the underlying infrastructure. The container would help in the deployment of applications regardless of the environment – be it a corporate data center, a personal computer, or a public cloud.
Why containers? Containers allow developers to make use of resources only as needed. Also, they have a smaller memory footprint compared to, say, virtual machines. Consider the case for Docker container images. These images are lightweight, executable packages that become containers during runtime. The images don’t occupy much space at rest and can be accommodated easily.
Can Microservices and Containers Work Together?
The answer is a resounding yes. The whole point of using microservices and containers together is to make application development more streamlined. In general, microservices can be executed in different environments – for example, via Virtual Machines (VMs) and even physical servers. The latter, of course, isn’t always preferable in the wake of the heavy workloads of today’s cloud applications. VMs, too, aren’t usually favored because using an individual VM for each microservice would result in an expensive, inefficient deployment.
Containers, therefore, become the default choice here. Because they are lightweight and can be supported by even a single OS instance, containers prove to be a perfect solution for microservices. They enable an environment where applications can be easily deployed, configured, run, and scaled. In simple words, containers help realize the full potential of microservices in terms of executing them in an isolated environment, thus, avoiding security issues to spread and allowing developers to tend to each service separately as needed.
How Microservices and Containers Drive Application Development?
The 2022 State of Application Development report by Docker revealed that 60% of the back-end developers employ containers. While both containers and microservices have been on the rise for some time now, the recent surge in popularity is predominantly because of benefits they deliver for application development. Here’s a rundown of the same:
Separation of Concerns (and Independent Scaling)
Applications today are getting increasingly sophisticated owing to an increasing user base and technological integrations. Imagine how sophisticated an application like Netflix or Amazon would be – they’d have numerous microservices, each working in tandem to provide a seamless experience for their customers. But even if the application isn’t comprehensive, it’s necessary to be able to modify, evolve, and scale it according to needs – precisely where containerized microservices prove immensely viable.
They allow developers to change or add features without affecting the rest of the application. This is especially useful when the application is undergoing development and testing. Additionally, microservices enable independent scaling of services, thus allowing businesses to modify scale requirements as needed.
Language & Framework Flexibility
As mentioned above, development is highly distributed today. This means that different development teams are working on different business units. With microservices and containers, the teams can use their preferred languages and frameworks for the microservice under their control. This helps reduce the overall time to market and enables more focus on each microservice.
Iterative & Agile Development
Containerized microservices allow developers to define, design, and test a service independently. Containers, in particular, ward off the concerns pertaining to the environment and dependencies. This makes it easier for developers to iterate on their services and work in isolation. More profoundly, this:
- Complements modern-day development methodologies like DevOps and DevSecOps
- Automatic deployment of microservices to the respective environment once they have been tested
Both containers and microservices inherently complement the cloud-native development practice. Containerized microservices can be scaled independently (as mentioned above); they construct an additional security layer between the application and the environment and don’t get bogged down when one of the services is down. All these features, together with the inherent operational efficiencies of deploying microservices via containers, make a compelling case for developing cloud-native applications using containerized microservices.
So, there you have it! The burgeoning synergy between containers and microservices and its benefits for application development are hard to ignore. While both technologies have been on the rise for quite some time now, they couldn’t be more relevant today. Contact us to learn more about containerized microservices and how they can help you develop and modernize enterprise apps.