The concept of microservice architecture was first introduced in 2011, and since then, it has seen its adoption rate rise. The use of microservices is accelerating because they break down large applications into small, logical components, with clear segregation of responsibilities for serving specific features of an application. One can build, test, and deploy components independently without affecting other parts of the application. This helps microservice architecture open the door to simplicity, scalability, business agility, improved security and more. For these reasons, it is a necessity for large organizations, many of which have already adopted the technology and are forecasted to continue doing so. But as organizations add more microservices, they must address six key challenges to effectively manage these multiple, independent but integrated services.
Challenges of Managing Microservices
Microservices help companies quickly expand functionality and scale, but once companies have many microservices in place, they must adopt a standard method to manage them. Having multiple microservices requires keeping track of all the details: responsibilities, lifecycle, usage, dependencies, and more. In addition, resource turnover results in loss of tribal knowledge, making the responsibility of service ownership another big challenge. As service ownership passes between teams, it becomes demanding to keep track of the complete set of systems and responsibilities for each team. Another typical issue with microservices is too many different technologies being used. Different teams use different technologies according to need, which makes the microservice network even more complex.
Microservices monitoring is difficult at best with multiple owners at a central level, as different teams have different KPIs and potentially different reporting tools. With the rapid growth of microservice architecture, it is also important to design the architecture to address fault tolerance. Failure of one microservice should not bring down the entire system. In complex microservice architectures, it is important to have visibility of microservice environments and complex dependency chains to avoid any kind of failure. In addition, security vulnerabilities need to be fixed quickly. Complex microservice architecture can slow down the process of finding the team responsible for each service, and that slows down repairs to vulnerabilities in the service.
A Better Way to Keep Track of Microservices
Companies have been trying to manage their microservices through spreadsheets or internal wiki pages. Easy quick fixes are not flexible enough to fulfill all challenges when there are a large number of microservices running. Big technology firms need to create and maintain an internal software catalog to keep track of all microservices and applications. The software catalog is a centralized tool that keeps track of ownership and metadata for all the software built by an organization. The software catalog may include information on various aspects such as ownership, technology stack, relationship with other software or services, exposed components from the software, external dependencies, or link to a production code repository.
A Recommended Catalog Solution
There are a variety of open-source and commercial solutions to catalog and manage microservices. Recently, Wipro implemented the open-source Backstage Software Catalog for a large telecommunications company to easily track software ownership and metadata. Backstage supports the major features of a common software catalog, along with features like defining software templates and TechDocs (documentation). The templates help onboard new services faster and ensure adherence to coding guidelines across multiple services, while the TechDocs feature helps create documentation in real time through markdown files stored alongside code. Working with Wipro and this approach, the telecommunications company could easily and efficiently manage all of the software in its ecosystem, including all microservices.
The use of microservices architecture is growing fast because it provides companies the ability to scale and quickly respond to market demands. Like any new technology, it comes with a few inherent challenges. As companies add more microservices to their application landscape, it is vital to find a solution to manage and catalog these mini applications.