In the early 2000s, content management systems housed on monolithic systems helped digital pioneers construct functional online stores. The layout and product pages were created from nested tables and required plenty of hand-coded HTML to achieve the desired look and functionality. Although time-consuming, this method of creating an online store worked while volumes were low. Now, most e-commerce sites recognize that monolithic architectures are slow, cumbersome to update and manage, and difficult to scale as business grows. But why are monoliths so difficult to maintain and scale?
Monolith platforms by definition work with tightly coupled front-end and back-end systems. When companies want customizations, updates to the system must take place in the underlying backend code and potentially in front-end systems too. This is very time-intensive, and it makes the system more and more complicated. Monolith platforms are also fragile. With such a tight coupling, if one piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit, it impacts the entire system. Considering these issues, it’s no wonder that enterprise brands began to look for new solutions to quickly respond to customers’ needs and market trends. What they’ve found in a microservices architecture is a flexible foundation that’s also easier to update and maintain.
Why Should E-commerce Consider Microservices?
Microservice architecture aids in the construction of IT systems through a modern approach. Compared to monoliths, microservices enable fast, frequent, and reliable construction of systems with a collection of loosely coupled services using lightweight protocols that provide a greater level of flexibility.
“Almost all the successful microservice stories have started with a monolith
that got too big and was broken up.” – Martin Fowler
A very good example of Martin Fowler’s quote is a large e-commerce system. Many major e-commerce brands work separately for different markets and have trouble with consistent product information systems, synchronized product introduction, global brand identity, etc. In such cases, microservices prove valuable. Adding a frontend service via API and connecting it to a few back-end systems allows companies to build strong brand identity across global markets. This can be extended to connect an e-commerce platform with services like product information management, content management systems, customer relationship management, enterprise resources planning, order management system, or even loyalty programs.
A microservices implementation approach varies from case to case and can be a time-consuming process. But it can pave a way to analyze and suitably design a modern e-commerce system. In fact, from an e-commerce perspective, microservices are the ideal way to build a platform that can address bottlenecks like traffic peaks and scalability without missing-out on business during testing and implementation.
Are Microservices a Panacea?
While microservices reduce complexity, overhead increases with every microservice added to the application landscape. Vast containerized hosting clusters are needed. Deploying new code needs advanced orchestration, and with this cluster of small applications, teams need to manage the purpose of each service. So no, microservices are not a panacea.
To lay the groundwork for a successful move toward microservices, an organization needs to be prepared to organize and manage this architecture. Microservices require a cross-functional structure with vertical teams that work independently, and they require companies to consider four additional aspects:
- Data Decentralization – As every microservice will have its own individual datastore, managing multiple databases and related transactions requires extra attention
- Deployment – Think about how services are rolled out and in what order; investment in deployment automation is necessary
- Monitoring – Each service must be monitored – remote bugging is not an option across dozens or hundreds of services
- Logging – The traditional way of logging will need to be revised, as each service will have its own logging mechanism resulting in lot of unstructured data
Role of APIs in Microservices
Each microservice is designed with high availability and its own denormalized database. A critical aspect of microservices lies with the APIs, which act as a bridge to connect the various services between the front and back end. The APIs provide a logical model for building interfaces between various components of microservices architecture. Data between each service is exchanged using a message broker (for example – Kafka, Rabbit MQ, etc.)
Interestingly enough, in the past few years, APIs have established themselves as bona fide business products, since it is integration that provides the personalized experiences that ultimately increase customer satisfaction and retention. In fact, APIs can now be monetized as products.
For many years, monolithic architectures were able to address the needs of digital commerce. But as technology and customer(s) continue to evolve, the pressure to innovate faster and deliver on requirements is increasing. Migrating from monolith to microservices is an efficient and incremental way to begin delivering improved digital experiences. For companies that need more speed and flexibility than currently available on their monolithic commerce platform, connect with us to discuss what it would take to migrate to a microservices architecture.