What are Microservices?

Thought Leadership

By Felipe Silberstein | January 04, 2022
Man sits on multicolored lego blocks

Microservices refers to an approach of architecting software that enables services to operate independently, and within a larger ecosystem. With the evolution of cloud technology, you can link microservices to your internal systems through simple API calls.

Microservices providers are mainly cloud-based, making it possible to automatically adjust and scale the resources allocated to your platform when demand increases— for example, on Black Friday promotion days. This allows you to optimize the performance of your platform consistently over time, and get clarity on the associated costs. At Apply Digital, we leverage microservices in the digital platforms we build as they help us provide highly customized, optimized experiences for our clients.

The importance of microservices in the digital world

As our world continues to shift onto a digital playing field, businesses need increasingly agile solutions to build the digital experiences and infrastructure designed for the future.

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of eCommerce, along with virtual learning, social gatherings, and everything in between moving into the digital space. With these shifts, the world saw a massive increase in Internet users. The International Telecommunication Union reported that by 2020, 56.7% of the world's population had access to the Internet — that's more than 4.5 billion people. Others estimate that by 2030, 90% of the world's population will have Internet access. Businesses without a plan to update and evolve their digital strategy will likely find their current infrastructure overwhelmed by increased user demand.

Today, there are almost 90 million secure servers available that underpin the growth ahead of us. Taking a look at internet traffic growth, global rates went from 55 thousand Petabytes in 2017 to almost 200 thousand Petabytes in 2021. As user growth rates continue to climb, setting up remote services and cloud-based applications with the capacity for fast response will play a central role in your platform performance.

Microservices offer two key advantages for building platforms designed with this future in mind:

  • Better cost forecasting and optimization. Since microservice resources are elastic and situated on the public cloud, this allows companies to gain a transparent look at costs required to maintain and manage the infrastructure, especially in times of high demand.

  • Dynamic functionality. Microservices allow you to incorporate dynamic functionality in your content, through the use of APIs. Building with API-first infrastructure enables better platform performance since it eliminates the need for facilities or local servers. This simplifies your back-end setup without sacrificing front-end performance.

What's the relationship between microservices and APIs?

While we explained what microservices are and their benefits above, here we'll dive into the relationship between microservices and APIs. By coupling microservices and APIs together, it enables digital experiences that are highly tailored to your end users.

Let's start by looking at how microservices work again to paint the picture. Your microservices operate as self-contained services that are capable of performing single or multiple functions, all within the same software unit. These microservices work with your larger systems ecosystem, but each function autonomously in dependencies and resources. Since they operate independently, they need a way to communicate to your larger system. That's where APIs come in.

Unlike a microservice, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are not self-contained software. They are a communication protocol that allows your internal systems to perform information exchange using microservices. You could envision an API as a contract that regulates how and which information is sent, received, and interpreted between parties.

This method of communication simplifies the creation of digital architecture, since development teams no longer need to generate each component, function, and aspect. Instead, it is enough to establish communication with a microservice via API, so that your systems integrate the functionalities and work as part of a single platform.

Optimize your eCommerce with a decoupled approach

With this API-first approach, you can build a highly responsive client-facing platform. This allows you to deploy your brand on any device that is capable of rendering content. It is vital to have a headless system, as this will enable you to maintain greater cohesion between components and give you the flexibility to incorporate or remove functionality according to your needs.

These benefits explain why the modular method of platform development has gained prominence in the past year. In fact, Composable Commerce is the best expression of a decoupled architecture that is based on microservices.

When an eCommerce site evolves to using a decoupled approach, it allows you to shift the way you approach your strategy to put people at the center. It also allows your team to focus more on creating the desired digital experience rather than maintaining infrastructure.

At Apply Digital, we embrace this decoupled, API-first approach, atomic deployment style. For innovative businesses who want to future-proof their systems, a modular approach provides the flexibility you need. If you would like support on developing a similar digital strategy, reach out to someone on our team, and we'd be happy to help.