From six to 1,400 microservices in less than five years? At first glance, that sounds like overwhelming complexity. Can you actually see the entire system across all of the microservices? This is the key to highly available and reliable SaaS cloud platforms. But what does this mean, and how can SaaS providers achieve it?
Over the past decade, the cloud has become the virtual space where the majority of companies’ business processes and communications take place. Considering the accelerated digitization processes of the last year alone, cloud computing plays an increasingly crucial role when it comes to making distributed teams more productive. As a result of these developments, the number of applications, microservices and interfaces is increasing, creating a more complex IT infrastructure.
The reliability and availability of cloud services must, therefore, be a high priority for providers. Weak services and downtime not only cause frustration among customers, but can also lead to considerable financial losses on the customer side. Accordingly, SaaS providers must establish processes and methods that help them provide secure and highly reliable cloud infrastructures, or risk losing their customers.
Microservices as the Foundation for Reliability
Complexity is implied with every SaaS cloud platform. This can be managed in two different ways. On one hand, management can be done via a centralized monolith. Through this, complexity arises from a single system with only one interface to external systems. On the other hand, complexity can be distributed via smaller system units in the form of microservices. This means that the various functions of an application or service are broken up and assigned to several individual instances that communicate with each other. The advantage of this is that if a microservice fails, the entire application is not necessarily affected.
Microservices in cloud environments have been enjoying steadily growing popularity for some time now. In fact, 76% of the companies surveyed as part of a 2019 Forrester study stated that microservices will be high on the business agenda for many companies in the future. Only 4% disagreed with this statement at the time. In 2020, a TechRepublic survey found that the majority of experts surveyed (73%) have already integrated microservices into their application processes, and 66% of respondents use them in the form of cloud services. Microservices are everywhere!
Service Level Objectives and Automation
Due to the numerous interfaces that arise with microservices and the need to be monitored, this architecture appears, at first glance, to be more error-prone than traditional monolithic systems. Some companies already rely on service level objectives (SLOs) – i.e., targets and measurable KPIs to ensure service quality – for a higher level of security. However, these are often limited to the outer layer of the entire system.
Formulating appropriate SLOs for each microservice with additional alerts can counteract this. In combination, these provide profound protection of the system against creeping errors.
In order to maintain an accurate overview with regard to security and security-related incidents, and thus ensure the reliability of the system, the microservices and their respective SLOs must be closely monitored and continuously tested. When we surveyed software and IT professionals back in 2019, we found that 71% of respondents reported that microservices-based architectures are much easier to test than monoliths. And with the help of automation, operational teams can ensure that the overall reliability level is close to 100% in every single instance of the systems, no matter how complex. A separate, centralized automation tool monitors all microservices in use and is able to alert appropriate teams about any abnormal activity with respect to individual breached SLOs. In addition, this tool should be linked to an incident management platform so that any breach can be remediated directly. By following this framework, software developers will enjoy the benefits of a more manageable and scalable microservices system.
We live in a time when consumers expect technology to be updated regularly and run reliably. If this is not the case, they will simply opt for better alternatives. To prevent this, companies need to invest in more effective service structures. Microservices, combined with a central platform that automates testing and management, is the foundation for achieving reliability and scalability.