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Six ways microservices support digital transformation in business

Microservices architectures can play a key role in enabling digital transformation, especially for organizations seeking to modernize legacy applications and codebases.

By making applications lighter, more scalable and easier to manage, microservices can help to enable digital transformation...

in business. Let's explore how enterprises can leverage microservices -- for both legacy applications and new ones -- as part of a digital transformation strategy.

Microservices and digital transformation

Digital transformation is the process of reshaping all aspects of your organization to take advantage of modern technology. Microservices can help you to do that by making your applications faster and more efficient, as well as improving your ability to manage and maintain software.

Consider the following examples of using microservices to advance your digital transformation strategy:

  1. Better application management. A microservices architecture allows you to start and stop one part of an application without affecting the rest of the application. This makes it easier to apply updates without disrupting service. Continuous delivery of software is a key part of digital transformation in business.
  2. Efficient scalability. Scaling a monolithic application up as your needs change can be challenging because you have to increase the capacity of the entire application even if only one part of it needs to be scaled. For example, your application may require more storage. But because you can't scale the storage layer separately, you have to add completely new instances of the application rather than just providing more resources to the storage service. With microservices this is not necessary. You can scale only the part of the application that you need, resulting in faster, more efficient scaling.
  3. Improving security. In a well-designed microservices architecture, an attacker who is able to gain control of one microservice, or stop it from running, will not automatically be able to compromise the rest of the application. In this way, microservices help to provide security protections of the type that organizations need to respond to today's ever-increasing number and type of cybersecurity threats.
  4. Application modernization. One of the most challenging parts of digital transformation for many organizations is dealing with legacy applications. Modernizing monolithic applications requires rewriting the entire application, which is often not feasible to do in a single go. However, microservices allow a more realistic path to application modernization. You can start by refactoring legacy apps to fit a microservices architecture, rather than rewriting them entirely. You can then rewrite each microservice, making it possible to modernize your applications at a gradual, manageable pace.
  5. Coding flexibility. Microservices also make it possible to write part of your application in one language, and others in a different language. This is usually not feasible with monolithic architecture. From a digital transformation perspective, this coding flexibility is significant because it means you can take advantage of newer languages for certain parts of your application without having to rewrite the entire application.
  6. Increased service availability. With a microservices architecture, a failure in one microservice doesn't necessarily mean your entire application stops working. What's more, when a single microservice fails, it's usually easy to identify where the failure occurred and fix it quickly. Tracing and addressing failures is considerably harder when you are working with a monolithic application that may break in one area because of an underlying problem that lies somewhere very different.
Organizations looking to enable digital transformation should consider the six ways microservices can help.

You can use microservices today

Beyond the specifics discussed above, perhaps the most important reason why microservices are an excellent part of a digital transformation strategy is that you can use them to modernize your software and processes immediately.

Making use of microservices doesn't require a complete overhaul of your software stack or the way you operate.

Making use of microservices doesn't require a complete overhaul of your software stack or the way you operate. And you don't have to make the move to microservices all at once. You can instead start by refactoring some of your applications, or even just parts of them, to run as microservices using the original code base. You can then start modernizing each microservice individually.

You can and should also, of course, consider a microservices architecture when designing new applications. But if you don't have the luxury of being able to design all of your software from scratch, microservices are a good way to achieve digital transformation in business even when you are working with a legacy codebase.

This was last published in November 2017

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