Software design: the importance of microservices and agility

By Andrew Webber on 15. May 2019

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When a company wants to develop software, the choice of the right architecture is just as decisive for the project’s success as the definition of concrete requirements. In a similar way to a blueprint for a building, the software architecture determines the key components and how they are going to work together. The result is a definition of the overall software framework. It’s rare that there’s only one architecture capable of achieving the goal or purpose of a software product. Depending on their software requirements, companies can choose from a variety of architecture types as a basis for their development process.

Agile, powerful and secure

Monolithic architectures used to prevail, but today microservice architectures have become the norm. The various software components no longer form a complete package based on a database – instead, each component is focused on a single function and underpinned by a separate database. Using the building block principle, this design only produces a finished software product when the various microservices are interconnected with each other using the appropriate APIs. To take the example of online banking, this could mean that viewing your account, making a transfer and analysing your spending are all individual functions that were developed separately from each other.

The advantages of this approach compared to the traditional 1- to 3-tier architecture are obvious. Each microservice has its own programming language, database and platform can be changed or replaced with no impact on the other services. As well as increasing the availability of the whole software product, microservices make it easier to install updates with no need to test the entire product every time.

Another benefit of this approach is its elastic scalability. With their clear structure, microservices make better use of server resources without slowing down other services running on the same server. This architecture even lets you run the software across several servers.

In addition, the fact that microservices are independent of each other means that developers can include the best possible security functionality right at the start of the development phase. Once these functions are combined, the software architecture is absolutely secure as well as being more flexible – and that enables you to respond quickly to customer needs at any time. The use of open source tools makes it easy to monitor individual microservices to check for errors or security flaws. This also ensures quick reactions and corrective measures in case of any errors.

Independent software modules enable independent developer teams

Many companies initially only decide on a microservices architecture for technical reasons. However, they end up rethinking the structure of their developer teams too, once the project is actually implemented – if not earlier.  As a result, certain habits may need to change, such as processes that people have carried out in a certain way for years as well as fixed responsibilities and release cycles.

With the microservice approach, the developers are organised in smaller independent teams corresponding to each independent software module. Instead of being responsible for a specific subset of a huge software construct, they will now be responsible for the entire lifecycle of a microservice – from development and testing through to productive operation.

The result is what’s known as agile software development. Although the teams have a broader scope of responsibility than before, they can make their own decisions in a flexible and independent way. That’s the only way to enable the parallel development of multiple components and a fast reaction to new requirements and circumstances. And this is one of the reasons Brainloop uses the microservice principle for the ongoing development of its secure dataroom solutions.

Transformation of software architecture: your benefits

Efficiency isn’t only important when you’re selecting a certain software design – it’s also essential to ensuring customer benefits. After all, once you’ve won some customers for your software, they want it to work in an efficient and convenient way with no outages. And that’s exactly what microservices can deliver, as their independent structure provides higher overall availability and performance as well as faster implementation for new requirements.

Brainloop, Information Security

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