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What Are Microservices Architecture and Containerization? 

They almost sound like something you’d need to worry about when you’re dealing with a hoarder, not an important tech trend, but microservices architecture and containerization are having a major effect on software development. The result? More resilient, scalable and collaborative applications. Here’s why.

What is microservices architecture?

Traditional software architecture creates a single codebase that handles all functionality for the app. Microservices architecture, on the other hand, builds an application not as one giant unit of code but as a collection of smaller services. Each of these microservices is geared specifically toward achieving a specific end-user function and is responsible for its own functionalities. They communicate to one another with lightweight APIs, like HTTP, RabbitMQ or Apache Kafka. 

This modularity of the overall app’s components is the point of microservices, as it allows for faster development and deployment and, when the time comes, makes it easier to scale up. The fact that they’re each a discrete entity means developers can work on each microservice independently without having to pore over the entirety of the code for every little adjustment.

What is containerization?

Containerization is often mentioned in the same breath as microservices architecture, and the two concepts are intertwined but not interchangeable.

Whereas microservices architecture is about breaking an application down into modular services, containerization is the concept of putting applications and all their dependencies — application code, environment variables, runtime configurations, libraries, etc. — into a “container” that can be ported and run consistently in a variety of environments, including both physical and virtual machines, the cloud, or edge devices. 

Microservices can be containerized, meaning that each can be built, tested and deployed on its own without waiting for or depending on other components of the overall application. If there’s a problem with the containerized microservice in question, developers can simply “pull” the affected container out, fix it and put it back in, all without affecting the functions of any other microservices. Each containerized microservice can also run on its own tech stack, so that teams can use whichever tech is best in each individual case, instead of imposing the same tech stack on every component of the app. This simplified deployment process via containerization can also be automated.

Why are microservices architecture and containerization growing in popularity?

Companies have increasingly grown to appreciate how microservices architecture and containerization allow teams to speed up the development cycle and get new tech to market without sacrificing reliability. They can get more version updates to customers, and can pivot quickly when the market demands something new. Plus, the scalability has proven essential to many, forgoing the waste and dip in performance that sometimes accompanies companies growing the size and reach of their tech. And, thanks to the modularity of both methods, when something does fail, it’s much easier and faster to make a fix — the developers can yank out the problem component, patch or update the code as needed, and then slide it back in, all without having to worry about the other microservices being affected.

These concepts better enable small, flexible teams that can work on their own without having to wait on or interfere with other teams working on other components. By being able to work autonomously, these dev teams can get a lot more done quickly, a decentralized approach that, perhaps ironically, promotes better collaboration by letting programmers work side-by-side on separated but related projects instead of linearly, like in an assembly line.

As critical aspects of the DevOps methodology and cloud-native projects, both microservices architecture and containerization have grown in importance along with them, letting organizations use the most cutting-edge methods to meet the demands of the modern software industry.


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