What Are Containers and Microservices?


As an architectural pattern, microservices have been getting a lot of attention in the last several years, reaching a level of adoption and evangelism that would be hard for most practitioners to ignore. But while microservices architectures have received wide praise as changing the application development and production process on the whole, there are many that dismiss microservices as nothing new, or to some, a different name for service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Containers and microservices are rapidly becoming the norm for enterprise organizations & it’s easy to understand their rising popularity. They enable agility, speed and resource efficiencies for many tasks that developers work on daily.

Developers use containers and microservices in many tasks, from app delivery to the migration of legacy systems to cloud servers. But what exactly are they?

      ♦  Containers : They are an isolated workload environments in a virtualized operating system. A container consists of an application and all the figures and files needed to run it are packaged together. As they are independent environments, they aren’t tied to software on physical machines, providing a solution for application-portability. Containers also speed up workload processes and application delivery because they can be spun up quickly.

      ♦  Microservices : Microservices are a type of software architectures, applications are broken down into a series of functions, and each singular function is performed by small, self-contained units working together. As they are independent of each other they aren’t reliant on a standardized programming language or data storage, promoting upmost portability. This architecture is also significantly faster and more agile. As the microservices are responsible for completing smaller, lighter tasks they can complete their tasks much faster, which then allows for more frequent reassessment and adaptation.

So, while containers and microservices exist independently and serve different purposes, they’re often used together. Containers are an enabling technology for microservices, which is why microservices are often delivered in one or more containers. Since containers are isolated environments, they can be used to deploy microservices quickly, regardless of the code language used to create each microservice.

∇ The Importance of Monitoring

For containers and microservices to be most effective and impactful as they are adopted, technology leaders must prepare a plan on how to monitor and code within them. They also must understand how developers will use them.

Foundationally, all pieces and parts of an enterprise technology stack should be planned, monitored, and measured. Containers and microservices are no exception. Businesses should monitor them to manage their use according to a planned strategy, so that best practice standards (i.e., security protocols, sharing permissions, when to use and not use, etc.) can be identified, documented, and shared. Containers and microservices also must be monitored to ensure both the quality and security of digital products and assets.

To do all of this, an organization needs robust application monitoring capabilities that provide full visibility into the containers and microservices; as well as insight into how they are being used and their influence on goals, such as better productivity or faster time-to-market.

∇ Benefits

The choice of changing the architecture by adopting microservices and containers has been driven to exploit their major benefits:

  • Thanks to containerization, each microservice is totally independent of other ones in terms of resources.
  • The small dimension of microservices makes it simple to understand in how it works and the logic behind it.
  • The developers are more productive and also the tasks can be parallelized.
  • The application starts faster and speeds up deployments.
  • Each service can be deployed independently of other services – easier to deploy new versions of services frequently saving time.
  • To implement microservices, it is possible to use the more suitable technology and this can be done without taking care of the technology used for the other ones.
  • Easier to scale development. It enables you to organize the development effort around multiple teams. Each team is responsible for one or more single service. Each team can develop, deploy and scale their services independently of all of the other teams.
  • Eliminates any long-term commitment to a technology stack. When developing a new service, you can pick a new technology stack. Similarly, when making major changes to an existing service you can rewrite it using a new technology stack.

∇ Drawbacks

As every approach, an architecture based on Microservices and containers has a number of drawbacks to consider:

  • Developers must deal with the additional complexity of creating a distributed system.
  • Testing is more difficult.
  • Developers must implement the inter-service communication mechanism.
  • Implementing use cases that span multiple services without using distributed transactions is difficult.
  • Implementing use cases that span multiple services requires careful coordination between the teams.

To sum up, the microservices and containers architecture represents the current frontier of the way to implement applications. The adoption of this architecture increases the initial effort to define the patterns but simplifies the maintenance and the natural life-cycle evolution of every complex application.