Microservices and containerisation


If you want a well-researched, detailed, and useful distraction from the news today, check out Vasco Figueira’s microservices post; emphasis added.

Some recent backtracking from what we have been calling “Microservices” has sparked anew the debate around that software architecture pattern. It turns out that for increasingly more software people, having a backend with (sometimes several) hundreds of services wasn’t that great an idea after all. The debate has been going on for a while and much has already been said, but there are still a couple of things I’d like to say.

TL;DR “Microservices” was a good idea taken too far and applied too bluntly. The fix isn’t just to dial back the granularity knob but instead to 1) focus on the split-join criteria as opposed to size; and 2) differentiate between the project model and the deployment model when applying them.

I see parallels with the industry’s current infatuation with containerisation, or as a client once so elegantly put it, more leaky abstractions that break in new and wonderful ways. They both have their uses, but broadly if our aim was to simplify, secure, and optimise these ever more complex architectures, microservices and containers have been—at best—a mixed blessing.

(I say this as someone who uses FreeBSD jails and virtualisation at the drop of a hat, and wished the industry had broadly adopted Solaris/illumos-style zones instead. Nothing so perfectly encapsulates the industry’s hubris and self-justification than k8s. But that’s a topic for another post. Don’t email me!)

Even if all this sounded like word salad to you, this is the highlight of the whole article which could easily apply to every technical human endeavour:

Having a ready answer when the thinking gets tough is a soothing lie that just moves complexity about. There is no substitute [for the] application of cognitive power to a problem.

Author bio and support


Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Hi!

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