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Building a Microservice Architecture on Azure with .NET – Part 1

Microservices architectures have become a bit of a trend lately. As with all trends there are the lovers and the haters, however from my perspective Microservices as defined in the excellent book by Sam Newman describe the next evolution of application development. From my own experience building large scale ecommerce solutions Sam’s book was like a shot of clarity.

Martin Fowler has written an excellent summary of Microservices which is required reading for anybody who is thinking about venturing down this type of architecture. However, Thoughworks are still hesitant to promote a Microservices Architectures due to the inherent complexity that is created by having an application composed of many granular parts.  This complexity comes from having to provision, deploy and managed multiple applications within your eco-system.

Here is a definition from Martin Fowler’s article

In short, the microservice architectural style is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API. These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery. There is a bare minimum of centralized management of these services, which may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies.

Microservices have gained increasing popularity in the “Startup/Massively scalable” area with Netflix leading the charge. The Gilt Group is a great example of a company who capitalise on the Microservices Architecture. They are a flash sale clothing retailer who started off with a Ruby On Rails monolith. After the initial success of their company they have spent the last few years moving away from the Monolith and now have a system comprised of over 300 independent services. Netflix is supposed to have over 600 services and Hailo has about 160.

The Microservices label encompasses more than just the architecture, but also the processes and practises that are required to build these architectures. Many of the elements in Sam’s book will be familiar to .NET developers who have been following best practises over the years. Especially those that followed down the CQRS route implementing service buses like NServiceBus.

But Microservices are not just for the startups, they provide an excellent architectural model for Enterprises who now need to:

  1. expose their data and services to ever more increasing touch points.
  2. need to start scaling functions of their architecture
  3. need to start changing functions of their architecture

The image below of the Windows 10 platform displays both the opportunity and challenge in building digital services. How do you build a service that can provide an experience on every device from a smart phone to a large screen or integrate data from an IoT device yet deliver a user experience on a hololense!!!!

Windows-10_Product-Family

Traditional Architectures relied on us building a single monolithic application that probably serviced only a single touch point. As we have to service more touchpoints we will want to project our digital service to each touchpoint only exposing the user experience that is appropriate to the device.  We will also need to change touch points independently and often.

An Architectural Vision for a modern enterprise would be to have an Architecture that can provide an excellent customer/user experience through focused touch points supported by a low cost, scalable, highly available, redundent infrastructure that can support a low cost, high frequency of change with low risk.

Easy!!!

The below diagram articulates a highlevel logical architecture of a typical Enterprise scenario or the probably As-Is of your enterprise application.

DigitalArchitecture

The architecture is broken up into 5 layers.

  1. Touch points – These are the external devices that your users are going to interact with. They sit outside your firewall, and may intermittent connection to the internet
  2. Presentation Services – These are the services that your devices interact with, they could finished interfaces exposed as websites or REST services exposing the data for apps. They will most likely be HTTP end points.
  3. Frontend Services – These services provide the logic and processing for the Presentation Services. There may be a common set of services here that provide functionality to a number of Presentation services and are generally separated by their domains.  These services will have their own databases.
  4. Integration & Orchestration Services – This is the bridge between the modern, frontend world and the legacy backend services. The orchestration layer is typically provided by an enterprise service bus such as Biztalk Server, Mule or similar.
  5. Backend Services – these are the core backend services that drive and support your enterprise.

There are 2 key characteristics that separate the infrastructure requirements between the top and bottom of this architecture. The top layers need to be available 24/7, will change frequently and are open to the public and therefore need to be able to support traffic spikes and scale. The bottom layers may only require a low availability, sometimes a 9-5 schedule, change rarely and don’t need to scale as they operate on a predominantly batch based life cycle.  This is an important point when reviewing and selecting the types of infrastructure solutions to support the 24/7, frequently changing environments as this can only be achieved with high levels of automation and thus require the selected components to support automation.

As you can see from the diagram below we can use Azure services to deliver this architecture.

Slide2

In the next article we will decompose an ecommerce solution into the above architecture.

Published in Architecture Azure

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