Reducing Technical Debt: Goodbye Monolithic System, Hello Quick & Effective Specialization with Microservices

 In Automation

The path to agility starts with reducing your technical debt—the time and money you spend every month, every week, or every day catching up on development. This can include updating to new solutions, finding ways to keep old systems running, or missing out on new opportunities that more efficient solutions provide. There are numerous ways to reduce your business’s technical debt burden, which we’ll cover in this series of articles on Stratascale.com. In our last article on this subject we covered containers, here we’re talking about microservices.

Here’s a familiar scenario: Your contract is up with a third-party vendor to perform fraud checks for online orders and payments. But within your three-tier, monolithic architecture, fraud checks are inextricable from other processes like orders, invoices, and shipping. Accessing or altering your fraud vendor’s info could potentially slow down the entire interface or bring it crashing down.

There is an alternative—breaking down your functions into separate “microservices”.  Microservices—or application programming interfaces (APIs)—are a software design architecture that breaks apart traditionally monolithic systems, allowing you to access or update single applications without affecting the general flow.

Quick Specialization

A monolithic approach is like having one supersized bookcase that contains every book in your possession. While simple to set up at first, it eventually leads to technical debt as your business grows to incorporate more data, more functions, and more users.

As you scale, locating specific books and adding more to an already full shelf requires effort and ingenuity. Over time, the short-term goal to get to market quickly sacrifices long-term compatibility, quality, and security as legacy monolithic applications become slower and riskier to change. Likewise, a bug in a monolith can have large repercussions while one in a specific process only affects that area.

With microservices, tasks are allocated to specific functions, like “customers” and “orders.” By keeping processes narrow, microservices make it easier to change certain parts of the application (e.g., adding a customer) without breaking other parts of the process (e.g., affecting orders). And if there is a bug, only that specific area is impacted.

This reduces technical debt for enterprise organizations and delivers a number of other benefits:

  • Cheaper and more effective cloud migration. In general, cloud infrastructure encourages decoupled processes rather than monolithic applications. Microservices also give you better value in the cloud—using virtual machines to run programs and deploy apps is very expensive, but you can optimize costs by breaking them apart into AMIs before migrating them into the cloud.
  • More reliable processes. Delivery pipelines allow for automated building and a range of testing and deployments. Testing new applications is simplified, since the testing environment is contained and won’t impact other critical functions.
  • Faster time to market. Decoupling also facilitates better data exchange across the organization by integrating applications, allowing multiple features to be built at the same time. Different teams can work on modules simultaneously, increasing productivity, flexibility, agility and time to market.
  • Improved scalability. Microservices allow you to modernize legacy applications instead of relying only on upgrades. They also provide flexibility to scale certain areas up or down based on capacity (for example, “orders” on Cyber Monday). With a monolithic app, you would have to scale up the whole application, which is more complicated.
  • Greater security. Within a monolithic application, a breach threatens all of the enterprise’s data. By separating functions, microservices can add authentication, authorization, data sanitization, and even rate limiting to control entry points around sensitive data—including Personally Identifiable Information (PII). If one process fails, the blast radius is contained, and the rest of the platform can continue running.

Choosing Microservices with Stratascale

With Stratascale, you’ll get advisory services from the start that will help minimize technical debt with microservices. As a product-agnostic company, we consider traditional approaches as well as unique solutions from emerging providers that fit your business needs. We won’t just tell you what to do—we’ll consult with leaders at your enterprise to build a strategy that fits your needs, help your organization implement that strategy, and have the technical knowledge available to smoothly operate the process.

The transition from a monolithic application to microservices is difficult and far from a one-size-fits-all process. We’ll start by learning about your organization first: Which applications are easy to move over, and which ones are hard? Is there a skillset in place to manage these new API’s? Which cloud capabilities are beneficial to your company? Do you have the right security policies in place to protect sensitive information? We’ll help you develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that can get your microservices architecture up and running, then help you develop it to fulfill your needs.

And that’s only the beginning. Let us walk you through all the steps to help your architecture grow and evolve to meet the needs of your business.