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What to Know When Migrating DevOps to Microservice Architectures

If your DevOps team is planning to migrate from traditional server architectures to microservices, there are distinct changes that IT leaders must keep in mind.

If your DevOps team is planning to migrate from traditional server architectures to microservices, there are distinct changes that IT leaders must keep in mind. Both tools and technical capabilities will have to be adjusted to shift a DevOps team toward one that can successfully deploy and manage microservices in an efficient manner. Let’s look at why some IT leaders are behind the curve when it comes to the DevOps microservices movement and what steps must be taken to transform the team to microservice technologies in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Lack of understanding at the management level

Technologies and technology skills are constantly changing. Thus, CIOs and IT managers are well aware that tools and skillsets must evolve to take advantage in the latest evolutions in enterprise IT. However, in some cases the evolutionary changes for certain technologies aren’t nearly as clear cut as others. One of the areas of IT that CIOs regularly struggle with is DevOps. Other than understanding that DevOps is transforming the processes and methods that enterprises use to rapidly develop, test, deploy and manage applications using agile processes, few additional details are often fully grasped by IT leadership. Thus, when discussions on how to best move DevOps from developing software using traditional server-based architectures to microservices, many are left wondering how this shift is beneficial to the overall health of the organization.

Reasons why microservices are appealing to DevOps teams

An important question that must be understood by IT leaders is the precise reasons why software development using a microservice architecture has become so appealing to DevOps teams. Without getting overly technical, microservice architectures eliminate much of the inflexible, unnecessary and time-consuming tasks and technologies that are common when developing software on monolithic development architectures of old. Additionally, fully self-contained applications share compute resources and must be updated, modified and scaled as a singular program. This is a process that adds significant risk whenever changes to the software need to be made.

Microservices, on the other hand, are created with modularity and scalability in mind. In contrast to traditional development methods using monolithic architectures, individual programmatic tasks are configured and executed separately. Saying this a different way, a traditionally developed monolith application can be broken into multiple services that work together to accomplish the same functionality. A single microservice can be modified, expanded, contracted or moved without the chance of negatively impacting any other microservices. Thus, a microservices architecture allows developers the ability to build applications faster with operations technicians being able to manage and scale apps with far less effort.

New microservice platforms and tools

As expected with any technology advancements, a DevOps shift to microservice architectures will require several new platforms and tools. The most obvious difference between microservices and traditional software applications lies in the host operating system the software is executed from. While Microsoft Windows Server and full-blown Linux operating systems can execute microservices running within containers, most opt for a stripped-down OS that eliminates many of the unnecessary OS features/functionality of traditional server operating systems. Instead, a smaller, purpose-built OS is used. This OS provides the minimum functionality required to both secure and execute microservices.

Running on the host OS is a separate platform that is responsible for the creation of containers. A container platform can be loosely compared to a traditional hypervisor virtualization platform that creates multiple virtual machines on a single piece of hardware. Containers differ in the fact that a hypervisor virtualizes a complete virtual server -- hardware and all -- while a container only virtualizes and segregates workloads virtualized within a single host OS. Because of this, containers offer several performance efficiency gains compared to hypervisors. This is extremely important for microservices as each service becomes encapsulated within their own individual container.

Once microservice workloads are deployed into individual containers, a container orchestration platform is recommended so that each individual service can be called and executed when needed. Container orchestration platforms can also manage compute and storage resources for each containerized workload. Orchestration tools automate many of these underlying processes, which keep applications running smoothly for end users.

Finally, microservices and their corresponding container and container orchestration tools require new ways to monitor the overall health of the environment. Just as server virtualization architectures required a new set of tools to monitor each hypervisor at a granular level, monitoring microservices and containers requires new tools as well. Because a single monolith application can be broken down into hundreds or thousands of individual container workloads, monitoring the health of each container can seem like a challenge. Luckily, there are dozens of commercial and open-source container monitoring tools available. DevOps teams simply need to select and implement the one that works best for their infrastructure environment.

Skills that must be added

New technologies are only useful if your IT staff understands how to integrate them into existing production environments. Migrating from traditional DevOps software development architectures to microservices requires some major changes to what tools and platforms are used. Microservices will likely serve as the foundation for modern enterprise applications for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it’s vitally important that both developers and IT operations staff get the training necessary to successfully build and manage host operating systems, container platforms, orchestration/scheduler tools and container performance monitoring tools. Depending on the technologies and tools chosen, training that covers both concepts and tools will go a long way toward a successful DevOps microservices migration.

For more on DevOps and microservices:

Finding a Balance Between Microservices and Micromanagement  

Why DevOps Will Have To Change This Year

Making CI/CD Work for DevOps Teams