Microservices: The new Holy Grail?
Do you think this architectural pattern is new? Sorry to break your heart but as many things that seem to be new these days, it’s not.
There have been many efforts throughout history to be able to reach the degree of standardization and versatility that we have today with REST and microservices, but we are not going to delve into that today, we will simply summarize the history and start by saying that Dr. Peter Rodgers used the term “Micro-Web-Services” in 2005 during a presentation on cloud computing, promoting the following premise: “Any service, at any granularity, can be exposed.”
And later, In 2011 the term “microservice” was used for the first time in an Architecture Workshop near Venice.
The hype: Microservices the new meta
Netflix, Spotify, and eBay were the first companies to adopt this form of architecture to resolve their scalability issues.
The hype started a few years ago (~2015–2017) when these companies and many others, presented at different events and tech talks about how they were using microservices architectures to resolve problems that companies with a massive amount of users had at that time.
They showed the world that they were a clear successful case study of how microservices allowed them to scale as worldwide SaaS companies.
Since then, this architectural approach has gained a large following and many companies have followed in the footsteps of industry greats.
Suddenly, Amazon Prime is back to Monolith
Everything was fun, till Amazon dropped a bomb. In March 2023, the internet got shocked by the following article from Amazon Prime, which talks about how they managed to reduce costs by 90% by moving from serverless to monoliths.
This article revolutionized the internet and it was a matter of hours to start seeing a lot of articles and videos talking about moving to monolithic architecture again and showing monoliths as the new meta.
This heated the discussion even more and made a lot of companies and developers challenge themselves into rethinking their loved architectural pattern.
By reading the Amazon article we can realize that Amazon Prime is not fully moving to a monolith but only moving part of their services from Serverless Lambda functions to a monolithic architecture hosted in EC2 instance with Auto Scaling configurations, this is because Lambda functions charge per request and it’s a good choice when you need to create an API fast, but it starts to become expensive when the load grows, and EC2 is cheaper than Lambda when managing huge loads of traffic.
So, what’s the new meta?
There is no holy grail when talking about software architecture, there isn’t any magical architectural pattern that will resolve all your issues at all. They are patterns and all of them have pros and cons.
Based on my observations, I have witnessed numerous companies and developers unquestioningly embrace and advocate for the microservices approach, often without conducting a thorough analysis or fully grasping the profound organizational shifts it entails.
I can say that following the steps of other companies most of the time is not a good idea, especially if you are following a big company’s footsteps when you are a startup or a mid-sized company.
In my opinion, as a Software Architect, things are more about the context than actual software. I mean, software solutions for a context, instead of adapting the context to the software solution.
That’s why when making decisions “The Meta” needs to be defined by your company’s needs, size, strategy, culture, team structure, processes, and budget.
To conclude, I am writing this article to emphasize the importance of our role as modelers of the industry and the future.
Don’t be biased easily! Don’t follow trends if they don’t apply to your case study! Stay relevant by doing proper research and analysis of the context, the technology, and the patterns to be able to make solid decisions that will help your company to scale. At the end of the day, it’s our role to decide the best way of solving big and small problems while leading the evolution of this beautiful industry.