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Axon Conference Panel: Why Should We Use Microservices?

MMS Founder

Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

In the panel discussion at the recent Event-Driven Microservices Conference in Amsterdam, Frans van Buul from AxonIQ, the conference organizer, started by noting that if you look at a popularity graph, the adoption of microservices really took off at June 2014, and since then it has increased substantially. Since microservices are quite mainstream today, he asked the panel to look back at what we have learned, but to also think about where we will be heading in the next couple of years.

The panel consisted of Michael Kazarian, Promontech, Prem Chandrasekaran, Barclays, Bert Jan Schrijver, Open Value, Allard Buijze, AxonIQ and David Caron, Pivotal. Van Buul’s first question was why we should use microservices.

  • For Schrijver, it’s all about scalability. In terms of teams it’s the ability to work with multiple teams on one product. In terms of operations it’s the ability to independently scale different parts of a system. He thinks that if you build a microservices system the right way you can have almost unlimited horizontal scalability.
  • Buijze pointed out that technically it doesn’t matter whether we work with monoliths or microservices; in theory you can scale out a monolith just as well as microservices. What microservices gives us is a strong and explicit boundary to every service. Although the architects draw limits for communication between components, we as developers are good at ignoring them. If it’s technically possible to directly communicate with another component we will do that, ignoring any rules the architects have set up. Keeping those boundaries intact is much easier when they are explicit and even more so if a component is managed by another team.
  • Kazarian and his company started with microservices about three years ago. Their goal was to start by focusing on building business capabilities in their core domain. He believes microservices help him define where a feature should be implemented and help the teams to keep the boundaries.
  • Chandrasekaran agreed that the boundaries are more explicit, which makes it much harder to abuse what doesn’t belong to you. He pointed out that the hardware advances have made microservices possible and that the infrastructure provided by all the cloud providers has simplified a lot. All of this together is for him a compelling story, but he points out that there still are problems to be solved.
  • For Caron, a key factor for success is if you are going in strategically as a company or not. If you set up some form of innovation lab to let some of your best developers try microservices, you will not benefit. Also, if you are not willing to invest in the culture change needed and focus on delivery of value, then you will have a hard time achieving the benefits available.

A question van Buul sometimes struggles with, is why we were doing SOA with small service for 10 years, but suddenly found out that it was really bad, and that now we should be doing microservices. Why is that?

  • Allard claimed that SOA and microservices are essentially the same idea. What went wrong with SOA was in marketing and adoption, when the big vendors started to sell big SOA suites with the aim of making money. He also believed that the Netflix architecture in some respect influenced the move to microservices with their new technologies. Another important difference is that the infrastructure we have today is much more up to par to help us deliver small components in a simpler way.
  • Chandrasekaran was cautiously optimistic, but noted that microservices are still work in progress. We mostly hear the successful stories, but he is sure people have experienced tons of problems. He doesn’t think we yet have enough proof to say that microservices makes us move faster.

Van Buul then asked about the prerequisites for doing microservices: what kind of skills and organization do you need?

  • For Chandrasekaran it’s about automation; how fast can you deliver a business idea to production, gather feedback, enhance it and deploy again? The only way to do this repeatedly and reliably is through high levels of automation in the whole continuous delivery process. He also noted that development takes very little time, both for monoliths and microservices, it’s the things after, like security, that take time.
  • Kazarian comes from a big bank and they don’t have all the automation skills. For him a challenge is how to help his developers write the right code in the right area with the benefits that come with that, like isolation and testability. What microservices give him is a path that allows him to start splitting his monolithic deployment into numerous independent deployments. He also claims that microservices are not a one-size-fits all; the right size differs between companies.

In his last question, van Buul looked into the future. What is missing, what will we be talking about next year?

  • Shrivjer believed we need services that can help in creating new services, without having to worry about infrastructure. As a developer he wants to deploy a service, nothing else.
  • Chandrasekaran believed interservice testing without the entire eco system present will get a lot more support. He notes that it’s probably fashionable to say we are going to deploy functions, but he thinks there are still problems to be solved, like latency.
  • Kazarian was looking for operational efficiency that gets the code that aligns with what the business is asking for done quicker and with higher quality. For him it’s about simplifying the complexity around infrastructure. His engineers should be DDD specialists in the domain, but instead they are struggling with infrastructure.

Finallz, Buijze noted that AxonIQ is focused on simplifying at the application level to allow developers to focus on business capabilities. The most difficult part is the people; how you actually build the right thing, making software development more of a people thing since the technology will be there.

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