Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, May 23, 2022

Survey Finds Microservices Teething Issues 

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Microservices, the web-scale application architecture, is making serious headway in production, according to a vendor survey, but the tradeoff for more agile application delivery is a new set of operational challenges that include identifying and resolving performance issues.

The inherent agility of the lightweight microservices architecture is among the attributes driving adoption, reports application performance management specialist LightStep, along with the ability to scale microservices to quickly deliver individual business applications.

The LightStep survey of 353 developers in April found that 91 percent are currently using the microservices architecture while and equal number have either expanded their microservices offerings in the last year or plan to in the coming year.

The embrace of microservices has also exposed teething problems as enterprises migrate from traditional monolithic architectures to microservices to deliver scalable applications ranging from e-commerce to social media logins. Nearly all (99 percent) of respondents reported operational challenges, primarily troubleshooting the root cause of performance issues.

Significantly, 98 percent said the inability to pinpoint root causes in microservices infrastructure has had a direct impact on business operations.

“The introduction of microservices makes everyday performance and root cause analysis far more challenging,” said Ben Sigelman, co-founder and CEO of LightStep. The San Francisco-based startup argues that traditional application performance management tools built for monolithic applications won’t cut it when monitoring microservices.

“Customers lose track of transactions as they pass from service to service, and that renders those tools completely ineffective in the presence of microservices,” Sigelman said in releasing the survey on Wednesday (May 2).

Difficulty identifying the root causes of performance issues means it takes longer to resolve issues, degrading application performance. Forty percent of those polled said those operational issues end up increasing expenses while just over one-quarter reported lost revenue.

Among the key architectural differences in a microservices framework is the heavy use of cross-service API calls used to process transactions. The result, the LightStep survey found, is a substantial increase in application data volume at a time when enterprises are already awash in structured and unstructured data.

Despite these ongoing operational issues, 52 percent of survey respondents said they still consider microservices to be a “flexible framework” with advantages that outweigh operational challenges. The remainder were evenly split in their view that microservices represented the “Wild West” of application delivery or, conversely, provided “established standards” for deployment.

Early proponents of microservices such as Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) also promote the architecture’s dual-use capabilities. In a separate survey released earlier this year, Red Hat found that early adopters are using the approach to deploy new applications while reworking existing apps.

Continuous integration and deployment were cited in the Red Hat survey as the top benefit delivered by microservices, following by IT agility and the ability to scale.


About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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