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The benefits of microservices for mobile, and how Node.js can help

Mobile and microservices: Both are gaining traction in the enterprise. But these two ideas are more than just concurrent trends; the benefits of microservices architecture and development may prove particularly pertinent for organizations looking to ramp up their mobile application development and optimize the management of those apps.

Mobile: A driver for microservices

Bill Novak, senior enterprise mobility solutions architect at Red Hat, said mobile is a driver for microservices adoption because of developers' goals to break up and distribute the logic being put into a mobile application or service.

"The idea is to break things apart into smaller, bite-sized pieces of business logic or connections to back ends," Novak explained. "It's easier to maintain, easier to reuse … so it's one of the things driving microservice design within the mobile ecosystem."

Novak also explained that the exchange of large packets of data between devices and the back end -- a typical procedure in monolithic architectures -- doesn't lend itself to mobile use cases, where quick responses and instant delivery are a must.

You can have small microservices attached to very specific areas within the enterprise that the data needs to go to or be brought from, and I think that's the better approach to facilitate the user experience.
Bill Novaksenior enterprise mobility solutions architect, Red Hat

To that end, Novak said developing mobile apps with a microservices-based approach allows for the creation of smaller, more manageable packets of data. The benefits of microservices will help provide users the experience they are looking for.

"Our expectation as users is to grab applications fast, download them, look at them and know how to use them in a very short amount of time," Novak explained. "You can have small microservices attached to very specific areas within the enterprise that the data needs to go to or be brought from, and I think that's the better approach to facilitate the user experience."

Legacy investments and the power of Node.js                                                                                

While the tooling, strategies and underlying support technologies for enterprise application development are changing, Novak does not think development or application management teams should necessarily consider legacy investments to be wasted. In fact, he advised that those teams find ways to repurpose those investments while also pursuing the benefits of microservices.

"I don't think any of those assets they've built, in terms of the monolithic apps, have been wasted," he said. "You can reuse portions of them and create the microservices around them."

Novak explained that certain development frameworks may be particularly helpful in allowing teams to bring legacy services over to microservices. Node.js has proven to be a particularly helpful framework for making this switch and creating connections with back-end infrastructure, he said.

"In our experience, Node.js is going to be a good platform for them to convert those services over to microservices," Novak said. "It's a low-learning curve … very similar to JavaScript. So, if they have that client-side skill set, they're going to be able to use Node pretty readily."

In addition to Node.js, Novak said plenty of other frameworks software development kits are available to help facilitate microservices development, such as Ionic, Angular JS, Bootstrap and Backbone.js. However, he warned that, while these frameworks and tools will certainly help organizations, there is no "magic bullet" when it comes to bringing legacy investments up to speed with a microservices architecture.

"There's no solution out there that's going to enable the enterprise to just turnkey create monolithic into microservices," Novak said. "But a platform will at least help you get close to the end zone."

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