As enterprises strive to achieve business agility, the need to revamp legacy architecture is becoming apparent. More and more enterprises are thus making the shift from monolithic applications to those built on a microservices framework. This is much more flexible, scalable and easier to deploy, since each service is independent of the others. Microservices also ensures a container backed sophisticated tech stack for developers, while avoiding the bottlenecks of a central database. Containerization has benefited enterprises massively too, because apps can be run as soon as the code, run time and libraries are packaged inside these containers. Sounds simple, right?
Only if it was! Building this framework is no less challenging than dealing with clunky legacy systems. Unless your tech team is well versed with the technicalities, successful app development is impossible. There’s something that can make the dev team’s lives a little simpler, though: service meshes. A fairly new concept that has been making the rounds in IT, a service mesh is a dedicated infrastructure layer that enables service-to-service communication through APIs.
Much like the microservices framework, this was also popularized when developers at Netflix and Google created their own libraries to request traffic as and when required. It essentially acts as a data plane between services, and ensures modularization, cohesion and coupling within the app. A typical services model deals with caching, load balancing, routing and flow control, but this model can also break easily, when there are multiple layers of infrastructure. When there are too many APIs within a microservice for a single functionality and not enough communication, everything falls apart.
With the rise of cloud native apps, Docker and Kubernetes have also become very popular within the developer community, but these containers have resolved issues related to deployment, not run time. Performance lags and increased run-time are still the biggest pain points. That’s where these meshes come in. While their primary role is traffic management, they also take care of service discovery, health checks, load balancing, fault injection and authentication.
One of the major benefits that microservices offers is scalability, but achieving this is not easy. The more the number of services within the app, the more complex it becomes for these apps to communicate. With service meshes in the mix, each service has a separate responsibility, and inter-service bridge building happens at scale. Traffic is routed in an east-west fashion through data centers, which reduces the infrastructural load. Better in-app flexibility and transparency can also be built through these meshes, as they decouple complexity and structure the flow of requests.
Safe to say, then, that teams need to have sufficient knowledge about service meshes to develop sophisticated applications. There are umpteen benefits that come from adopting this development approach as well. Successfully implemented service meshes mean zero latency across a homogenous network of independent APIs, enabling the end app’s reliability, security and visibility. Complex architecture, can thus be deployed more simply, as this makes for faster test-deployment cycles. All of this, in turn, leads to a holistic, seamless user experience for the end consumer.
But it is not only the responsibility of the developer teams to drive the adoption of service meshes in the organization. As long as business leaders are unaware about the value it brings, it makes no sense for teams to adopt this. In the absence of service meshes, performance lags, inconsistency in data, maintenance and upgradation issues and high costs of infrastructure are bound to exist. App quality might also suffer, if developers get too bogged down with execution, leading to a lack of creativity.
With proper direction, service meshes can act as the glue that binds a successful digital transformation together. Enterprises are also slowly moving towards making the most of this offering, as developers can focus more on business goals rather than executional cycles. It is imperative that modern apps follow the service mesh approach to remain future ready and agile. Else, there’s a very good chance of not reaching the end of the line.
Yogesh Dhande is a team lead at iauro Systems.