Why organisations are embracing a shift to microservices

IDC predicts that by 2022 90 per cent of all apps will feature microservices architectures

The rapid advance of cloud has changed the way businesses operate for good, influencing today’s modern organisations and their need for agility and high availability.

These demands have led to the rise of microservices-based architectures, with IDC predicting by 2022, 90 per cent of all apps will feature microservices architectures that improve the ability to design, debug, update and leverage third party code. For instance, Netflix’s shift to microservices has famously helped it to serve up its content to so many different devices. Companies such as Twitter and Airbnb have also leveraged microservices to dramatically accelerate development.

Defining microservices

Microservices are business driven, service specific applications that can be scaled quickly and cheaply with high performance and availability across public and private clouds. By building new cloud apps as collections of small, granular services, they can be built much more quickly, while being resilient, highly scalable, and able to evolve quickly. They are becoming the go-to for Australian enterprises, helping them transition to a highly responsive cloud infrastructure and compartmentalise, while improving the services delivered by old monolithic architectures.

Factoring an application into component parts has been around for many years, with many software developers already working with componentisation. What has changed over the last few years is that application development is often driven by the business, and developers are building distributed applications specifically for the cloud.

Keeping up in a competitive market

Transformation to an everything as a service (XaaS) economy has been a catalyst for organisations to modernise operational business models and create greater efficiency to engage customers, employees and business partners.

A global study by Unit4 into decisions organisations are making driven due to the Everything as a Service (XaaS) economy revealed 78 per cent of respondents believe XaaS will influence their industry and 74 per cent of those state that influence will be positive. On the other hand, it has brought significant challenges to established services organisations that once dominated their markets. They must develop new strategies that support technological agility and a customer-centric approach so they can deliver the same seamless, value-for-money services that disruptive and leaner companies are offering.

To remain competitive, incumbents are reconsidering their archaic technical architectures and undergoing digital transformation to create flexible platforms for the future. Furthermore this Unit4 survey revealed, 61 per cent of senior managers and C-suite executives have started making changes to their business models as a result of XaaS. A further 47 per cent believe they are late to implement changes, and 41 per cent admit they are behind their competitors, with the majority blaming their technology infrastructure, claiming it is inadequate.

These results only highlight how the needs of a business are changing quickly; more than ever organisations must be smart about technology. They must use technology to help them operate at scale and reach customers in new markets, or to serve new service offerings. The ability to respond to customer expectations on-demand, with foresight and insight, requires simple but smart systems. People working with the systems need to feel empowered and catered for so they can provide the best customer service.

There is no doubt then that to remain competitive, organisations need to reinvent themselves. Microservices are a good approach to IT architecture reinvention. The question organisations must ask themselves is how can they build this new enterprise systems utopia with limited budgets and resources, while taking advantage of the critical business data they have collected over the years?

A new, modern and scalable enterprise infrastructure

The introduction of the cloud has allowed people to do many things they couldn’t do before, such as experiment, test, and analyse data in many different ways. Irrelevant of the cloud service in the background, loosely-coupled microservices provide the ability to build out from the core enterprise systems with custom and differentiating extensions.

For organisations undergoing the digital transformation and shifting to microservices research Vice President at Gartner, recently offered his advice to organisations when implementing microservices, suggesting to determine whether your organisation is mature enough to adopt microservices, then take it slowly, initially using microservices only where you need to. Allowing for this, means they can support rapid changes in the organisation, operating and delivering infrastructure for new revenue streams and service, despite legacy applications in the background.

Empowering your people

The people within an organisation are the most valuable asset and the root to new and differentiating ideas that can change the course of a business. Research from Curtin University during a study of Australia’s happiest workers revealed 60 per cent of workers in their 70s report felt satisfied with their job compared to 24 per cent of Gen Y, 28 per cent of Gen X and 33 per cent of Baby Boomers, showing the importance of empowering your people.

Microservices offer the ability for staff to expand, adapt their expertise, problem solve and allows for the capability of app development so they can innovate faster. As microservices can be deployed independently, small teams can develop specific services that can be shared and leveraged by others via APIs. Tapping into the ideas and encouraging strategic thinking of those within an organisation will be important in the future.

Rapid ROI

The new economy requires the ability to offer new services and innovations to your people and customers quickly. Whilst microservices will remain challenging as organisations continue to implement them, using platforms such as Azure Service Fabric, allows application teams to encapsulate a customer or business scenario in an application independently of the systems in place to meet the constant changing customer demands. In addition, microservices make integration much simpler and secure.

As increased competition from innovative start-ups collides with increasing customer expectations, it is crucial for organisations to change the way they deliver their services and do business with customers. Services organisations need an extensible, agile and adaptable software architecture that’s fit for purpose in the modern age. Microservices deliver this in many ways, making integration much simpler and secure and helping organisations build a transformation strategy that will see them thrive in the future.

As organisations collect more cloud applications and confidence in the cloud grows, they will find this compartmentalised approach, breaking apart code into smaller, business-driven services, is a more sustainable and differentiating long-term strategy.

Yujin Evered is regional president, Asia Pacific, at Unit4.