Reactive Microservices Breed Compelling New Reactive Networking Protocol RSocket

C. Dunlap

Summary Bullets:

  • Reactive microservices will play a key role in furthering adoption of microservices in 2019.
  • Important OSS technologies will further this mission, including RSocket.

GlobalData’s recent report on application platforms predictions for 2019 anticipates a two- to three-year delay for microservices application adoption among enterprise DevOps teams (please see: Microservices, Serverless Apps Won’t Take Off in 2019, but Kubernetes Importance Is Elevated,” December 18, 2018). Delays are expected for the emerging app development architecture aimed at helping companies fulfill business transformations and move apps and systems to the cloud, due to complex networking implications around cloud-native architectures. Despite delays, there are promising open source software (OSS) technologies coming to light this year which offer the most likely scenario for microservices adoption among enterprise DevOps groups.

One such initiative will be delivered in the form of reactive microservices – and more specifically, supported through a new OSS reactive networking protocol called RSocket. The new Layer 7 protocol is based on Reactive Streams back pressure, a feature being built into microservices solutions to support highly scalable and reliable distributed systems, a critical capability as enterprises move to the cloud and migrate from monolithic legacy apps to microservices-based apps. A reactive approach builds on the idea of having various ’reactive’ semantics built into an application-level networking protocol to combat the infrastructure demands of microservices apps, including the ability to stream immediate and multiple client requests. Having reactive capabilities built into platform services will avoid the inevitable propagation of failures and performance problems stemming from the alternative approach, which is for developers to throw a panoply of tools at today’s app-level protocols, HTTP and REST.

The concept of reactive microservices first came to light in 2017 when Java 9 and Spring Framework included reactive capabilities in new releases. Since then, innovative startups including Lightbend and Netifi have been helping build momentum by evangelizing the benefits of reactive microservices to enterprise developers of CICD, data-driven cloud apps. In recent months, RSocket has enhanced that story. The protocol was engineered by the folks from Facebook, Pivotal, and Netifi (largely founded by former Netflix developers). It is transport- and language-agnostic, so it runs on top of any networking infrastructure.

Driving this emerging technology is DevOps’ move to cloud and multi-cloud environments, alongside the move to microservices and distributed systems, or CICD. Higher expectations among users have prompted a push towards data-centric apps which improve the user experience to ensure more immediate and meaningful interactions.

Early adopters of the technology will include Pivotal, which is expected to integrate RSocket (via Spring Boot) into its popular PaaS offering, Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF). Netifi offers an RSocket-based software solution called Netifi Proteus, an app development platform which includes back pressure, real-time stream processing, service discovery, enterprise security, and predictive load balancing. Lightbend has partnered with IBM in a collaborative development initiative expected to provide similar reactive microservices solutions. GlobalData will continue to follow these important microservices trends and innovations in future Advisory Reports.

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