Microservices Get a Kick Start as OSS PaaS Leaders Commit to New App Development Architecture

Charlotte Dunlap

Charlotte Dunlap

Summary Bullets:

  • Red Hat and Pivotal/Cloud Foundry are looking to establish leadership roles in defining microservices technologies.
  • Approaches vary between the two OSS players, with a division primarily around buildpacks versus containers.

Microservices is the hottest new technology to hit the application platforms market sector, promising to deliver a more agile and efficient way to build, deploy, and manage apps. Most application platform providers are trying to figure out how microservices fit into their current middleware portfolios, but Red Hat and Pivotal (Cloud Foundry) are taking an early lead on launching their own distinct initiatives. The OSS PaaS leaders are causing disruption to the application platforms industry through thought leadership and announcements around microservices, albeit through varying technology support of containerization, buildpacks, and orchestration. The battle has begun over which of the two will generate the most momentum around their technology strategies. This week, I compared the different approaches between the rival PaaS players (please see: OSS PaaS Rivals Red Hat and Pivotal Tackle Microservice Architectures via Very Different Approaches, June 30, 2015).

In short: Last week, Red Hat announced support of the industry’s de facto standard, Docker, for its Linux container image format, which will accompany its microservices efforts around its newest version of the OpenShift 3 PaaS, coupled with the RHEL Atomic Host operating system. To support its microservices strategy, Pivotal/Cloud Foundry is building off the popular Heroku cloud platform to create its own buildpacks for writing programs, with updates to be included in the next version of Cloud Foundry.

Microservices represent a new cloud architecture for distributed applications composed of smaller, individual processes or codebases within an application, typically delivered through containers and connected through common APIs. This contrasts with traditional monolithic applications made up of a single, sometimes large codebase which can become impossible to continually update in a timely manner. The software design pattern approach of microservices plays nicely into the plans of those enterprises which have transformed their data centers and may be choosing open source technologies and cloud services to reduce costs and simplify application development/deployment through a more lightweight approach. This doesn’t preclude enterprises from building lightweight apps without OSS or the cloud, however. The microservice architecture delivers faster time to market, simplified app development, and automated management of the service, addressing key issues such as continuous delivery.

Both approaches by Red Hat and Pivotal, while different, achieve some of the same goals. Microservices leveraging containers let developers roll images to production when app updates are needed, for easily creating instances. This supports a level of portability which is the biggest reason Docker has grown in popularity. Buildpacks, on the other hand (and in Cloud Foundry’s case), rely on the Twelve-Factor App method, catering to small, stateless services (100-1,000 lines of code). They are easily scaled up or down by changing the number of processors/servers on which they run.

The concept of microservices is not new and is most often compared with the service-oriented architecture (SOA) associated with traditional app development. Most consider microservices a newer and shinier version of SOA, however, one which embraces open source technology, is based on a REST-based API architectural style, and is a much more lightweight approach to app development, deployment, and management. Its lightweight nature and ability to support application development through a common API layer which communicates with common services reflects its most obvious benefit. Rather than building traditional monolithic applications with a single codebase, developers can build an application made up of individual services which can be created, supported, and updated on a component basis, speeding the release and update cycles of new applications – literally from months to many times per day.

Other leading PaaS players have begun their own initiatives as well:

— IBM’s efforts are primarily focused on a beta project of a new IBM container service on Bluemix, which leverages Docker technology.
— Oracle’s microservices strategy involves building off its SOA technology.
— Microsoft’s pending microservices offering evolves around Azure Service Fabric.
— SAP began publicizing its microservices strategy a year ago, leveraging Cloud Foundry and SAP Hana Cloud Platform.

Expect to see the microservice architecture being heavily leveraged among cloud leaders over the next 12 months to help differentiate services and support enterprises’ need for a more efficient process around building new mobile and IoT apps.

About Charlotte Dunlap
Charlotte is a Senior Analyst for Application Platforms at Current Analysis. She covers the technologies that provide the infrastructure necessary to build and run enterprise applications and services. She analyzes the software, services and professional services necessary to integrate disparate systems, create cross-business and cross-technology communications, deliver rich, collaborative applications, and build software that is transparent, optimized and reusable.

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