Heard of microservices and wondered why there is so much hype surrounding them and containers? Then this is the article for you!
It Began with Servers
Servers are the base upon which everything (just parking mainframe to one side for a second) has been built for 20-30 years. With servers you could only really build a monolithic application. I.E. the entire app as a single entity. As IT infiltrated more aspects of business and every day life, applications became more and more complex, requiring much bigger and multiple dev teams to develop. However, the bigger the app, the longer the release cycle because it’s one code base that all teams write their part into and is released in one go (sometimes called a big bang).
When the code is compiled there is a huge risk that one teams code breaks another teams part of the app. So testing was extensive and long. This is primarily why large firms like Microsoft historically feared major releases and why they were infrequent by todays standards (years instead of months, weeks, days, or hours).
But what if we could break down an app into small parts, almost mini apps in themselves, resolving those issues and becoming more manageable? That’s where microservice architecture comes into play.
In a nutshell, microservice architecture is an approach to software development that involves breaking down a large application into smaller, independent services. Each service is responsible for a specific task and communicates with other services through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). This approach allows for greater flexibility, scalability, and easier maintenance of the application.
Wahoo for microservices, but how do containers fit in this picture?
Containers are a way of packaging and deploying applications that allow them to run consistently across different environments. A container includes everything an application needs to run, such as code, libraries, and dependencies. This makes it easy to move the application from one environment to another, without worrying about compatibility issues or differences in the underlying infrastructure.
Containers are particularly well-suited for microservice architecture, because they allow each service to be deployed independently and can be scaled up or down as needed. This means that developers can focus on developing and testing individual services, without worrying about the overall application, or the infrastructure.
One of the most popular container technologies is Docker, which provides a platform for creating, deploying, and managing containers. With Docker, developers can easily package their application and all its dependencies into a single container image, which can be run on any system that supports Docker.
By only containing the elements and code necessary for that microservice, containers are tiny, meaning they are highly scalable with a much smaller attack surface compared to a server.
However, managing a large number of containers can quickly become overwhelming, which is where Kubernetes comes in. Kubernetes is a powerful open-source platform for managing containerised applications. It automates the deployment, scaling, and management of containers across multiple hosts, making it easy to run and manage large-scale microservices applications.
If you’re looking to deploy microservices applications on the cloud, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is a great option. AKS is a fully managed Kubernetes service provided by Microsoft Azure, which makes it easy to deploy and manage containerised applications at scale, removing some of the complexities introduced by native Kubernetes.
Now, you might be wondering when you would choose to use containers, and when you wouldn’t. Containers are ideal when you need to run multiple instances of an application, or when you need to quickly deploy and scale applications across different environments. They’re also useful when you want to make sure that your application runs consistently, regardless of the underlying infrastructure.
On the other hand, if you’re developing a small, simple application that doesn’t require a lot of scalability or flexibility, containers might be overkill. In that case, a traditional monolithic application might be a better fit.
Real-world examples of containerization in action include Spotify, which uses Docker to run its backend infrastructure, and Airbnb, which uses Kubernetes to manage its microservices architecture. These companies have seen significant benefits from containerization, including faster deployment times, improved scalability, and easier management of their applications.
In conclusion, microservice architecture and containerization are powerful tools for modern software development. They allow developers to build and deploy complex applications with greater flexibility, scalability, and ease of management. By leveraging technologies like Docker, Kubernetes, and Azure Kubernetes Service, developers can take advantage of the benefits of containerization and build better, more resilient applications.