How Microservices are Serving Up Smaller, Faster, and Tastier Ecommerce Morsels

You're at brunch in a trendy Melbourne cafe, and you order a deconstructed meal (like the true hipster you are). You're presented with a plate of individual ingredients - a piece of bread, some avocado, a poached egg, a little pile of spices - each one carefully prepared and presented on its own.

That's what microservices are like for ecommerce. Instead of one big, complicated system, elements are broken down into individual components that can be developed and managed separately. If you decide to go vegetarian, you can easily remove the bacon off your plate because it's not baked into a quiche, or scrambled with the egg. If you decided you wanted spinach after all, it's no big deal to find space for it on the plate. And the best part? Each element of your breakfast is clearly defined and observable - the freshness of your spinach is plain to see.

The applications of microservices in ecommerce have great benefits both from a technical and business perspective. Microservices can be language agnostic, which means any developer can contribute. This limits single point dependencies and broadens the pool for staffing or hiring. They allow for a reduced time to market for new features, allowing faster iterations and prototyping. For example, one could break out shipment management and make improvements without impacting interactions with other systems.

Microservices complement serverless architecture to provide powerful scalability. 

Microservices can be used to break down a monolithic application into smaller, more manageable pieces, while serverless architecture can be used to run those pieces at scale, without the need for dedicated (expensive) infrastructure. This means granular control over resources, allowing for cost reduction. For example, during a stocktake sale, one might want to give more resources to inventory services to ensure they are accurate throughout the peak period, then scale that service back down afterwards. This can be done to just that particular service rather than the entire platform, providing significant cost savings.

Ecommerce agencies like Aligent have used microservices since 2020 to integrate best of breed services and ecommerce components alongside core platforms, and recommends microservices as a method of de-risking the integration of legacy back office systems. Systems can have microservices added incrementally; it does not need to be an all or nothing approach. It is also the recommended approach for new to market platforms, as you don't have to order the full English breakfast from the get go. You can simply start with the bacon, and as your appetite grows, add more ingredients to the plate.

What does the future of ecommerce technology look like?

  • We can expect microservices to become even more popular as businesses continue to move towards cloud-based solutions and seek ways to improve their agility and scalability.
  • As microservices become more widely adopted, we can expect to see greater standardisation in the form of common frameworks and guidelines.
  • Serverless architecture is becoming more popular and we can expect to see more use of it in combination with microservices to allow organisations to focus more on building and deploying services, rather than managing infrastructure.
  • It is becoming increasingly important to have good observability tools in place as microservices become more complex. This includes logging, monitoring, and tracing to quickly identify and troubleshoot issues within the system.
  • With more data generated by microservices, there will be greater opportunities to use AI and machine learning to extract insights and optimise performance.

So if you want to create an ecommerce experience that's as cutting edge and sophisticated as a deconstructed meal in a Melbourne cafe, consider microservices.