Microservices are about organisational change

Microservices technology can pave the way for companies to decentralise the way they build software to deliver innovation and reduce the cost of failure

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More than just a technology buzzword, microservices are changing the way organisations develop software, according to the technology head honcho at SAP Hybris.

Speaking to Computer Weekly on the sidelines of a recent company event, Moritz Zimmermann, chief technology officer of SAP Hybris, said unless organisations move from a “centralised command and control” way of building software to a totally decentralised model, “they will make their lives more complicated with microservices”.

Whether it is decision-making or data governance, Zimmermann said a decentralised model of software development underpinned by microservices will provide the agility that companies need to address the threats posed to their business by Silicon Valley companies and startups.

“It’s not a better mouse trap – it is really about the organisational change needed for delivering innovation quickly,” he said. “If you want innovation, you have to reduce the cost of failure and that’s what microservices do.”

Microservices are seen by some developers as an evolution of service-oriented architecture (SOA), where applications are pulled together from granular software services and components, each of which supports a business goal.

With SOA, Zimmermann argued that organisations still dealt with monolithic applications, “where you had to synchronise the work for development teams and there were a lot of inefficiencies”.

Microservices, on the other hand, require little centralised management and enables applications to be deployed independently in a scalable manner.

Although microservices have been bandied about by business application suppliers such as SAP and open source software players such as Red Hat in recent years, organisations are not embracing the technology in droves for now.

“Every 10 to 15 years, the industry goes through an architectural paradigm shift – there will be five to six years of uncertainty and we’re two-thirds through that with microservices,” said Zimmermann.

“Not all the best practices have been found and shared yet in terms of how an IT organisation should be set up. There are still tons of questions and education is needed.”

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Asked how microservices will change the software ecosystem, Zimmermann said as more enterprises start to write their own software, effectively becoming software companies, their relationships with technology suppliers will change.

“Enterprise software 10 to 20 years ago was about optimising processes like finance, but now it is strategic because it is part of your product. It’s more about using open source technology and being able to combine off-the-shelf applications with custom-written software,” he said.

Noting that enterprises do not want to be beholden to a single technology supplier for software which is becoming increasingly strategic, Zimmermann said software companies should offer value by helping companies “put together a mashup of microservices and leave things open enough”.

For now, most adopters of microservices are hyper-scale internet companies such as Netflix and Amazon, though Zimmermann said there has been growing interest from financial services companies and communications service providers.

For one thing, Singapore-based fibre service provider MyRepublic has built its own applications using microservices, not only to avoid the hefty cost of business support systems, but also to enter regional markets and introduce services quickly.

Eugene Yeo, group chief information officer at MyRepublic, said: “We roll out new enhancements and features every week, and it takes just a single click of a button to publish our code on our staging environment with zero downtime.”

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