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The Hidden Dividends of Microservices

By Tom Killalea

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 8, Pages 42-45

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Microservices are an approach to building distributed systems in which services are exposed only through hardened APIs; the services themselves have a high degree of internal cohesion around a specific and well-bounded context or area of responsibility, and the coupling between them is loose. Such services are typically simple, yet they can be composed into very rich and elaborate applications. The effort required to adopt a microservices-based approach is considerable, particularly in cases that involve migration from more monolithic architectures. The explicit benefits of microservices are well known and numerous, however, and can include increased agility, resilience, scalability, and developer productivity. This article identifies some of the hidden dividends of microservices that implementers should make a conscious effort to reap.

The most fundamental of the benefits driving the momentum behind microservices is the clear separation of concerns, focusing the attention of each service upon some well-defined aspect of the overall application. These services can be composed in novel ways with loose coupling between the services, and they can be deployed independently. Many implementers are drawn by the allure of being able to make changes more frequently and with less risk of negative impact. Robert C. Martin described the single responsibility principle: "Gather together those things that change for the same reason. Separate those things that change for different reasons."5 The clear separation of concerns, minimal coupling across domains of concern, and the potential for a higher rate of change lead to increased business agility and engineering velocity.


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