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Microservices vs SOA - Know The Difference

Posted by Lesa Moné on March 21, 2018

Microservices vs SOA - what are the differences and the benefits?
Microservices remains a hot topic in the tech world, at conferences, fire-side chats, and in boardrooms. Recurrent questions always arise: “What is the difference between Microservices and SOA? Are Microservices an evolution of SOA or something entirely different? SOA and Microservices occupy different territory. Microservices and SOA are similar in many respects, and very different in others.  

What is Service Oriented Architecture?

Simply, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an architectural style that supports service-orientation which initially became popular as a way of breaking complex applications down into discrete parts that could be managed easily. SOA is a software development model for distributed application components that incorporate discovery, access control, data mapping and security features. This collection of services that communicate with each other by either data passing or it could involve two or more services coordinating some activity. A third party method of connecting services to each other is often required.

What are Microservices?

Microservices are a variant of the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) architectural style that structures an application as a collection of loosely coupled services. In a Microservices architecture, services should be fine-grained, and the protocols should be lightweight.

The Microservices style of architecture develops complex application software from small, individual applications that communicate with each other using language-independent interfaces (APIs). Companies run into trouble if they are unable to scale monolithic architecture that has developed over time, if their architecture is difficult to upgrade or maintenance becomes too complex. SOA or Microservices can be the answer to this problem.

Microservices vs SOA: The Differences

So what makes SOA different from Microservices? If both types of architecture involve breaking large applications into smaller services and facilitating easier communication within a network, why has Microservices been lauded as a revolutionary game changer, while SOA has been forgotten? The differences are slight but apparent.

  1. Microservices apps may involve more services.  An SOA app might comprise two or three services—a storage service and a front-end service, for example. A Microservices app could have dozens of services.

  2. Communication methods.  Communication between different services in an SOA app tends to use relatively simple approaches. Microservices use complex APIs.

  3. Containers and Microservices go hand-in-hand.  Containers go hand-in-hand with Microservices so each of the independent applications you develop can be self-sustaining and self-running.

  4. Microservices have independent data storage.  Under the SOA model, it’s common to have a single data storage layer that is shared by all of the services in the application. Microservices apps tend to dedicate a database or other type of storage to each service that requires it.


Microservices: The Benefits


A decentralized method of creating and maintaining applications means for fewer down times, quicker iterations, and a more flexible landscape. Monolithic applications are built and deployed as a single application, and small changes can easily suspend the use of entire systems until bugs are fixed.


Culture Shift

Microservice architecture embeds a culture of freedom, responsibility, autonomy, inclusivity, deep communication, and fast iteration.


Technology Diversification and Conflicting Dependencies

Under the Microservice approach, you can pick the best technology for specific features without running into stack or language issues.

For example - the profile service of an application may be written in Java, the login service may be written in an older version of C++, and the order service can be written in the latest version of C++ simultaneously.

Reduction in IT Cost

  • Agility: Microservices architecture speeds up deployment, and shows that processes can be accomplished in shorter times. Shorter times to deployment cuts your IT spend.
  • Efficiency: reducing the amount of complexity required to run a given application also results in savings. Up to 50% of cost may be saved by reducing the complexity of an application’s infrastructure.
  • Flexibility: Dispersing functionality across multiple services eliminates an applications susceptibility to a Single Point of Failure (SPOF). Stronger applications perform better, have fewer outages, and has the potential to scale rapidly.
  • Accountability: Decreased downtime directly increases revenue - through improving user engagement, increasing consistency, and sharpening efficiencies. All of these byproducts lead to increased user retention and engagement.

There are many differences between SOA and Microservices. Based on the differences, Microservice architecture is a modern IT architecture that prepares many enterprises for digital transformation. There are also many reasons to implement the Microservices framework, from reduced IT cost to rapid deployment. 

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