The pushback against the monolithic framework

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I am pleased to think that others are as ready as I am to abandon the concept of the monolithic framework:

Monolithic applications can be successful, but increasingly people are feeling frustrations with them – especially as more applications are being deployed to the cloud . Change cycles are tied together – a change made to a small part of the application, requires the entire monolith to be rebuilt and deployed. Over time it’s often hard to keep a good modular structure, making it harder to keep changes that ought to only affect one module within that module. Scaling requires scaling of the entire application rather than parts of it that require greater resource.

These frustrations have led to the microservice architectural style: building applications as suites of services. As well as the fact that services are independently deployable and scalable, each service also provides a firm module boundary, even allowing for different services to be written in different programming languages. They can also be managed by different teams .

We do not claim that the microservice style is novel or innovative, its roots go back at least to the design principles of Unix. But we do think that not enough people consider a microservice architecture and that many software developments would be better off if they used it.

…Microservice architectures will use libraries, but their primary way of componentizing their own software is by breaking down into services. We define libraries as components that are linked into a program and called using in-memory function calls, while services are out-of-process components who communicate with a mechanism such as a web service request, or remote procedure call. (This is a different concept to that of a service object in many OO programs [3].)

One main reason for using services as components (rather than libraries) is that services are independently deployable. If you have an application [4] that consists of a multiple libraries in a single process, a change to any single component results in having to redeploy the entire application. But if that application is decomposed into multiple services, you can expect many single service changes to only require that service to be redeployed. That’s not an absolute, some changes will change service interfaces resulting in some coordination, but the aim of a good microservice architecture is to minimize these through cohesive service boundaries and evolution mechanisms in the service contracts.

….One company organised in this way is www.comparethemarket.com. Cross functional teams are responsible for building and operating each product and each product is split out into a number of individual services communicating via a message bus.

Large monolithic applications can always be modularized around business capabilities too, although that’s not the common case. Certainly we would urge a large team building a monolithic application to divide itself along business lines. The main issue we have seen here, is that they tend to be organised around too many contexts. If the monolith spans many of these modular boundaries it can be difficult for individual members of a team to fit them into their short-term memory. Additionally we see that the modular lines require a great deal of discipline to enforce, the necessarily, more explicit separation required by service components makes it easier to keep the team boundaries clear.

…Smart endpoints and dumb pipes

When building communication structures between different processes, we’ve seen many products and approaches that stress putting significant smarts into the communication mechanism itself. A good example of this is the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), where ESB products often include sophisticated facilities for message routing, choreography, transformation, and applying business rules.

The microservice community favours an alternative approach: smart endpoints and dumb pipes. Applications built from microservices aim to be as decoupled and as cohesive as possible – they own their own domain logic and act more as filters in the classical Unix sense – receiving a request, applying logic as appropriate and producing a response. These are choreographed using simple RESTish protocols rather than complex protocols such as WS-Choreography or BPEL or orchestration by a central tool.

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