Mitigate Risks at Deployment

An important benefit of microservices is that they can be deployed quickly because of the small size of the deployable units. Resilience helps to ensure that the failure of an individual microservice doesn’t result in other microservices or the entire system failing. This results in lower risks should an error occur in production despite the microservice passing the tests.

However, there are additional reasons why microservices minimize the risk of a Deployment:

  • • It is much faster to correct an error, for only one microservice has to be redeployed. This is far faster and easier than the Deployment of a Deployment monolith.
  • • Approaches like Blue/Green Deployment or Canary Releasing (section 11.4) further reduce the risk associated with Deployments. Using these techniques, a microservice that contains a bug can be removed from production with little cost or time lost. These approaches are easier to implement with microservices since it requires less effort to provide the required environments for a microservice than for an entire Deployment monolith.
  • • A service can participate in production without doing actual work. Although it will get the same requests as the version in production, changes to data that the new service would trigger are not actually performed but are compared to the changes made by the service in production. This can, for example, be achieved by modifications to the database driver or the database itself. The service could also use a copy of the database. The main point is that in this phase the microservice will not change the data in production. In addition, messages that the microservice sends to the outside can be compared with the messages of the microservices in production instead of sending them on to the recipients. With this approach the microservice runs in production against all the special cases of the real life data—something that even the best test cannot cover completely. Such a procedure can also provide more reliable information regarding performance, although data is not actually written, so performance is not entirely comparable. These approaches are very difficult to implement with a Deployment monolith because of the difficulty of running the entire Deployment monolith in another instance in production. This would require a lot of resources and a very complex configuration because the Deployment monolith could introduce changes to data in numerous locations. Even with microservices this approach is still complex, and comprehensive support is necessary in software and Deployment. Extra code has to be written for calling the old and the new version and to compare the changes and outgoing messages of both versions. However, this approach is at least feasible.
  • • Finally, the service can be closely examined via monitoring in order to rapidly recognize and solve problems. This shortens the time before a problem is noticed and addressed. This monitoring can act as a form of acceptance criteria of load tests. Code that fails in a load test should also create an alarm during monitoring in production. Therefore, close coordination between monitoring and tests is sensible.

In the end the idea behind these approaches is to reduce the risk associated with bringing a microservice into production instead of addressing the risk with tests. When the new version of a microservice cannot change any data, its Deployment is practically free of risk. This is difficult to achieve with Deployment monoliths since the Deployment process is much more laborious and time consuming and requires more resources. This means that the Deployment cannot be performed quickly and therefore cannot be easily rolled back when errors occur.

The approach is also interesting because some risks are difficult to eliminate with tests. For example, load and performance tests can be an indicator of the behavior of the application in production. However, these tests cannot be completely reliable since the volume of data will be different in production, user behavior is different, and hardware is often differently sized. It is not feasible to cover all these aspects in one test environment. In addition, there can be errors that only occur with data sets from production—these are hard to simulate with tests. Monitoring and rapid Deployment can be a realistic alternative to tests in a microservices environment. It is important to think about which risk can be reduced with which type of measure— tests or optimizations of the Deployment pipeline.

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