Dealing with External Change

We advocate building components that are highly decoupled in terms of technical architecture, team structure, and so on to allow maximum opportunities for evolution, in the real world, components must interact with one another to share information that collaboratively solves domain problems. So how can we build components that can freely evolve yet make sure we can maintain the integrity of our integration points?

For any dimension in our architecture that requires protection from the side effects of evolution, we create fitness functions. A common practice in microservices architectures is the use of consumer-driven contracts, which are atomic integration architecture fitness functions. Consider the illustration shown in Figure 8-1.

Consumer-driven contracts use tests to establish contracts between a

Figure 8-1. Consumer-driven contracts use tests to establish contracts between a

provider and consumer(s)

In Figure 8-1, the provider team is supplying information (typically data in a lightweight format) to each of the consumers, C1 and C2. In consumer-driven contracts, the consumers of information put together a suite of tests that encapsulate what they need from the provider and hand off those tests to the provider, who promises to keep those tests passing at all times. Because the tests cover the information needed by the consumer, the provider can evolve in any way that doesn’t break these fitness functions. In the scenario shown in Figure 8-1, the provider runs tests on behalf of all three consumers in addition to their own suite of tests. Using fitness functions like this is informally known as an engineering safety net. Maintaining integration protocol consistency shouldn’t be done manually when it is easy to build fitness functions to handle this chore.

One implicit assumption included in the incremental change aspect of evolutionary architecture is a certain level of engineering maturity amongst the development teams. For example, if a team is using consumer-driven contracts but they also have broken builds for days at time, they can’t be sure their integration points are still valid. Using engineering practice to police practices via fitness functions relieves lots of manual pain from developers but requires a certain level of maturity to be successful.

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