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Modularization

One factor is modularization. Teams develop software in modules to be better able to deal with its complexity; instead of having to understand the entire software package, developers only need to understand the module(s) they are working on as well as the interplay between the different modules. This is the only way for a team to work productively in spite of the enormous complexity of a typical software system. In daily life there are often problems as modules get larger than originally planned. This makes them hard to understand and hard to maintain, because changes require an understanding of the entire module. Thus it is very sensible to keep microservices as small as possible. On the other hand, microservices, unlike many other approaches to modularization, have an overhead.

Distributed Communication

Microservices run within independent processes. Therefore, communication between microservices is distributed communication via the network. For this type of system, the “First Rule of Distributed Object Design”[1] [2] applies. This rule states that systems should not be distributed if it can be avoided. The reason for this is that a call on another system via the network is orders of magnitude slower than a direct call within the same process. In addition to the pure latency time, serialization and deserialization of parameters and results are time consuming. These processes not only take a long time, but also cost CPU capacity.

Moreover, distributed calls might fail because the network is temporarily unavailable or the called server cannot be reached—for instance due to a crash. This increases complexity when implementing distributed systems, because the caller has to deal with these errors in a sensible manner.

Experience[3] teaches us that microservice-based architectures work in spite of these problems. When microservices are designed to be especially small, the amount of distributed communication increases and the overall system gets slower. This is an argument for larger microservices. When a microservice contains a UI and fully implements a specific part of the domain, it can operate without calling on other microservices in most cases, because all components of this part of the domain are implemented within one microservice. The desire to limit distributed communication is another reason to build systems according to the domain.

  • [1] http://yobriefca.se/blog/2013/04/28/micro-service-architecture/
  • [2] http://martinfowler.com/bliki/FirstLaw.html
  • [3] http://martinfowler.com/articles/distributed-objects-microservices.html
 
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