Senior full stack developer and CTO at Ideamotive.
In software application development, microservices are a style of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) in which an application is structured around an assembly of interconnected services. In microservices, the application architecture is built using lightweight protocols. Services are well thought out in architecture. Microservices break an application into smaller services and provide improved modularity.
Compared to its predecessor, monolithic architecture, microservices are more beneficial. You don't have to cram all the software components and services into one big container and pack them tightly. With microservices, you can create an application with:
Intrigued? Here we’ll also show you some other benefits of microservices, see what is microservices in Node.js, as well as show you some Node microservices example implementations.
What are the benefits of both and why is it a good idea in most cases to build an application based on microservices in Node.js, especially SaaS?
Maintaining a complex application in a large team is more efficient if the application is based on microservices, as it is easier to distribute responsibilities between developers.
Building applications based on microservices allows developers to focus on well-defined modules, making development, testing, and maintenance more flexible and streamlined.
Unlike monolithic architecture, whenever a microservice needs to be updated, there is no need to deploy the entire application. The only requirement is to release a REST-ful API for other services.
Developers can iterate over microservices separately, they are not limited to other components.
Microservices can be written in a variety of programming languages, allowing for significant flexibility in developing the entire application.
Microservices architecture can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is easier to maintain small units than one large and complex one. However, whenever the need arises to manage the application as a whole, it is more difficult with microservices.
The same problem applies to testing - it seems more efficient to test each microservice separately, but in a monolithic application, you can run end-to-end testing and come across bugs faster.
Login, caching, and other issues that affect the entire application are easier to deal with in a monolithic architecture because only one application needs to be taken care of.
In monolithic applications, developers only need to handle one deployment, unlike microservices where there can be multiple deployments. In some cases, this saves a significant amount of development time and effort.
In general, a monolithic architecture is the best choice for lightweight products that don't require a lot of business logic. Microservices, on the other hand, are the perfect choice for complex, evolving applications that are designed to scale. This is especially true for SaaS products, which may have 1,000 users today and 100,000 tomorrow, so they must be prepared to handle exponential growth as users often pay monthly and need a highly available service. All this is also the reason why developers prefer to build their products with Node.js.
As we mentioned above, microservices are programming language agnostic, which is one of the strongest advantages of microservice architecture. At the same time, the connection between Node.js and microservices is especially strong and deep. In fact, one of the ideas behind creating this framework was to make it easier and more efficient to build applications based on microservices.
From a business perspective, leveraging the benefits of both technologies has a significant impact on the product, not only at the point of creation but also later on in maintenance and scaling.
From practical experience, once a service went from PHP to Node.js and it became 70% faster. It also used up fewer resources. Another example: GoDaddy moved from .Net to Node.js and they loved it. Netflix has improved its app load times by 70%. Let's analyze more reasons to choose Node.js for your next microservice:
Node.js and microservices are built to scale. Especially in SaaS products, it is important to not only be able to handle growth but also to keep development and maintenance costs as low as possible. No monolithic architecture can provide the same level of flexibility.
The argument above is also true when it comes to maintaining high performance: if one microservice goes down due to a bug or other problem, the whole application is not affected. The fact that Node.js is one of the most popular web technologies also matters: with easier access to talent and online communities, it's easier to get the best performance out of an application.
Node.js has a built-in web server. You don't have to argue with another Nginx or Apache. You can also happily say goodbye to things like FPM since Node.js is essentially single-threaded.
In Node.js, a module is cached from the first instance. After that, every time you need a module, you will refer to the cached instance. Because Node.js comes with a standard streaming API, it provides the best performance and secure development for real-time applications such as chat or online games.
Using Node.js reduces the number of lines of code by about 2-3 times compared to Java or .NET, which helps improve maintainability.
With fantastic non-blocking event-driven I/O for writing non-blocking code, Node.js is extremely fast for low CPU, I/O driven applications (database queries, API calls, etc.). It works well when integrated with NoSQL database architecture as both Node and NoSQL are good at parsing JSON data.
Node Package Manager (NPM) provides many reusable packages that make development easier. According to the latest statistics from Google, the number of available NPM modules is almost double compared to Java.
Node.js code is easy to set up and maintain compared to its counterparts such as Java/.NET/Python. It does not require complex installation configurations. With platforms like Express, Sail, and Hapi, Node.js enables rapid API development and customization.
Microservices communication can mainly be done in two ways - API calls and message brokers. Node.js provides easy and fast integration with most of the latest message brokers such as RabbitMQ and Kafka. In turn, Node.js is best suited for distributed systems. It also provides support for building full-stack applications - internal and external - using templating engines such as EJS, Jade, etc. As with microservices, we are also moving towards a serverless architecture - Node.js is best suited for Lambda (Serverless) due to less memory and lighter code, which ultimately helps during a cold start.
Despite the many benefits of using Node.js to develop microservices, there are a few limitations:
When it comes to dealing with CPU-intensive applications, Node.js blocks the application from making a request (which is CPU-intensive) and puts all incoming requests in a queue. With this nature, the application may become unresponsive.
The Node APIs are updated in the next releases. Sometimes these updates are not backward compatible. When this happens, it can cause an application built with Node.js to become unstable, as developers may need to modify the code to make sure it works with the latest versions of Node.js.
Node obviously integrates well with the NoSQL database architecture since both have a JSON-based underlying structure. But when it comes to dealing with relational databases, Node has proven to be a bit inefficient and less performant.
The number of available NPM packages in Node.js is almost double that of Java, C#, etc. Since many of them are unverified, they are usually substandard and provide immature tools.
Consider a scenario in which you are developing an enterprise application that must support the following characteristics:
Based on the above requirements, you can say with confidence that the application is 100% suitable for the Node.js microservices architecture.
You must define an architecture that structures the application as a set of loosely coupled interacting services. Services can communicate using synchronous or asynchronous protocols. Services can be developed and deployed independently of each other. Each service has its own database to be separate from other services.
Let's look at some typical scenarios where you might want to consider using the microservice style of architecture:
In the era of the Internet and well-developed outsourcing services, there are still those who believe that it's ok to hire a one-size-fits-it-all developer. Such entrepreneurs strongly believe that it’s really possible to build a microservice with such a “team”.
However, as our experience shows, the microservices architecture offers many benefits, and when multiple developers work on multiple services, you complete tasks faster. It also divides the entire application into small independent services that help you a lot in terms of development, scalability, testing, and understanding of the application.
So, let’s see what roles and resources are to be found:
Each team can develop, deploy and scale their service independently. There is no need to outgrow the team, and the part for which one developer is responsible is understandable and digestible. Small and autonomous teams contribute to the growth of both the whole team and the individual. This requires trust and some people skills, mainly these two:
Always having green tests is great, but how do you achieve this in your project? A good software engineer should be able to design CI (continuous integration) pipelines so that new features and fixtures can be quickly tested. On the other hand, deployment requires knowledge of CD (continuous delivery) pipelines. Sounds like nothing out of the ordinary for any software development architecture.
What other tests, besides end-to-end testing, are important for creating reliable solutions? Don't skip unit tests as well as service/API tests to test your endpoints as thoroughly as possible.
However, microservices introduce an additional layer of operational complexity, so microservice developers need to have hands-on experience with automated deployment tools and Docker orchestration.
Summing up, when hiring a dedicated team of devs, make sure every one of them has all the required skills and experience using the above-mentioned tools.
Nevertheless, developer happiness is a subjective matter influenced by many factors. The 2018 Node.js User Survey Report states:
“Node.js continues to have a positive impact on users, especially in terms of productivity and developer satisfaction; when respondents are asked to describe Node.js, respondents use mostly positive terms such as "fast", "light", "cool", "powerful", "flexible" and even "fun".”
Hence, we can hope for a better performance of Node.js in terms of the talent pool.
To understand the growing trend, it's important to look at which companies are using Node.js microservices, what problems they've encountered, and how Node.js has helped them solve those problems. That's why we've selected the top 3 companies using Node.js and prepared a case-by-case guide to help you understand why you should move to Node.js as well.
Why Netflix moved to Node.js:
Benefits of Node.js for Netflix
“Node has proven so handy, that the company is expanding its use to other layers of the stack”, said Kim Trott, director of user interface engineering at Netflix.”
NASA, a pioneer in aeronautics, has had difficulty consolidating its scattered legacy databases related to EVA suits. This has made it difficult for scientists to access databases for research purposes. Data access was slow and required rummaging through several places to get data for proper research.
Collin Estes, who designed the Node.js enterprise architecture for NASA, describes why the system needed an API-based architecture. When you ask which companies use Node.js, you don't expect NASA, but it's true for the following reasons.
Why NASA switched to Node.js:
Benefits of Node.js for NASA (they have made several key transformations in terms of cloud readiness and data portability):
Data sync, made possible by Node.js, helps everyone from astronauts to ground crew access NASA's vast databases quickly and securely.
Linkedin, the world's largest professional network, has over 774 million users. It is also one of the largest applications that deploys Node.js to production.
In short, this decision was primarily based on improving application performance and reducing resource usage. Using Node.js as the back-end, they have moved from synchronous to asynchronous request processing, resulting in much faster front-end loading speeds.
Why Linkedin moved to Node.js:
Benefits of Node.js for Linkedin (The Node.js app helped LinkedIn reduce resource usage and improve app performance):
“Node.js also enabled us to move to a model where the client makes a single request for a page. The code was simplified and we moved to stateless servers,” said Deepank Gupta - a Senior Software Engineer at LinkedIn on a Medium blog.
In the coming years, Node.js will be actively used to create mature open source tools and develop microservices for enterprise-grade software. In turn, Ideamotive will always be here to help you gather and manage your dedicated microservice development team.
Our Node.js experts will be only happy to discuss the best-suited microservices framework for Node.js (Koa is by far the best Node.js framework for microservices), explain the differences between Python vs Node.js, and show their recent case study.
Whatever path you choose, our tech talent marketplace is always ready to supplement your team with the specialists of the next profile:
Be sure, hiring with Ideamotive’s vast Talent Network is your best bet!
Dawid is a full stack developer experienced in creating Ruby on Rails and React Native apps from naught to implementation. Technological superhero, delivering amazing solutions for our clients and helping them grow.View all author posts
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