Navigating the Microservices Journey: Crucial Aspects to Consider for Successful Organizational Adoption
Microservices architecture is a clear choice for companies looking to scale up their products agilely. It’s also an architectural approach that has been gaining popularity for the last 10+ years and has become a “trend” or, as some others would say, a “standard.” Without going deeply into that discussion, any architectural pattern requires careful consideration before an organization adopts it. This article will explore three critical non-technical aspects an organization must consider before adopting a microservices architecture.
Successful implementation of microservices architecture relies on people that take ownership and have the autonomy to perform end-to-end tasks. Organizations must promote cross-functional collaboration, innovation, and adaptability as their core cultural values to allow people to make this happen.
At the same time, the people in the organization must have a solid knowledge of multiple technologies, experience in different parts of the SDLC, be fast learners, and be capable of communicating efficiently with different types of people (the last one is a challenge for most companies).
Agile companies often have a culture that embraces these principles. In contrast, more traditional organizations that still rely on a pyramidal structure must put extra effort into cultivating a culture that supports cross-functional teams, encourages knowledge sharing, and fosters continuous learning and improvement.
As we said in the previous paragraphs, organizations looking to adopt microservices must build interdisciplinary cross-functional teams. But this does not mean we need to put a bunch of people as representatives of each department in the same team so each department can know what each team is doing. That’s a terrible idea I have seen implemented in companies failing in microservices adoption.
Teams must have the necessary skills and experience to develop, implement and operate their services independently to become self-sufficient. Teams that reunite the previous characteristics and are accompanied by an organizational culture like the one described before are prone to propose and push for innovative changes and new ideas or detect and mitigate risks earlier. But, all of this is possible ONLY when excellent communication exists inside the team and with other existing teams and the organization’s departments.
Their structure and composition and how they organize vary depending on the organization’s size and the number of microservices they have.
In small companies such as startups, there are few cross-functional teams, resulting in team members needing to work across multiple microservices in a coordinated way to ensure the seamless addition or removal of features to prevent errors and code instability. On the other hand, when companies are large, they usually organize around specific services or business domains, and communication between business domains is for integration or testing complex features when needed.
Microservices architecture introduces a paradigm shift in development, deployment, and operations processes. This shift allows organizations to add value to their products using different strategies focused on learning from their users and reacting to market changes by developing and deploying product modifications rapidly and molecularly without depending on other application parts. Each service is independent of the others, meaning they can be deployed anytime. It also means that organizations can apply strategies of traffic redirection to a set of microservices to show a new product prototype to a set of users for research or testing purposes.
All these possibilities are impressive, but of course, it also carries a good amount of complexity with them, so to be able to maintain a microservices architecture, an organization must build a DevOps team, which are developers specialized in managing infrastructure and CI/CD for your cross-functional teams to streamline their processes, and monitor that everything is working correctly on production and other lower environments.
Building a team for managing operations implies a cost in HR & People, new code bases to maintain, and a new dependency for the developer that works on the product.
Releasing the potential of this architectural form will also add a considerable billing cost in cloud services such as AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.
For startups, the monetary aspect of maintaining a distributed infrastructure is a problem while trying to keep lean on their costs. It’s also a big deal for startups to have multiple code bases to maintain, which can end up causing delays in development and compromise the time to market.
On the other hand, for larger companies, the infrastructure cost may impact or not their prices, depending on their infrastructure scaling strategies and many other factors. Still, the flexibility of their processes for managing the SDLC could be a problem, and providing suitable and stable local environments for the organization’s workforce is an ongoing challenge that larger companies need to address since there is a limitation on the number of microservices that a Personal Computer can run at the same time, and as we already said a huge dependency between developers and the DevOps team.
As we can see, there are other aspects we need to consider that affect organizations beyond the technical challenges when choosing this architectural pattern.
Yes, it provides organizations with many benefits and tools that make them flexible, adaptable, and resilient to market changes. Still, it also requires a considerable effort to implement and keep everything working in sync to avoid falling into the microservices disaster.
So, when considering adopting microservices architecture, we must ask ourselves the following questions to assess the state of our organization and if we are in a good position to implement this pattern:
- Is our organization’s culture aligned with autonomy, collaboration, cross-functional collaboration, innovation, and adaptability principles?
- Do our teams have the necessary skills to work in interdisciplinary teams, take ownership, and communicate fluently between team members and with other teams?
- Are our processes agile and flexible enough?
- Is our organization mature enough to handle the complexities that microservices carry and manage the operational aspects of it?
To summarize, there is no best scenario for adopting this form of architecture. There will always be challenges that will vary depending on the maturity of your organization and the direction that it wants to take but knowing that this architectural form will model how your company structures and grows is essential.
I hope this was helpful, and I wish you success in your distributed services journey!