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Five things to know about the future of microservices and IoT

Microservices are emerging as a preferred way to create enterprise applications. Just like mobile app development adoption five years ago, a lack of expertise can slow down some companies in their pursuit. However, with IoT development on the rise, it’s inevitable that microservices will become the architecture of choice for developers — today and tomorrow.

Although it has received criticism for not fitting into certain DevOps cultures, microservices are increasingly adopted and gaining fans across numerous industries. Large-scale online services like Amazon, Netflix and Twitter have all evolved from monolithic technology stacks to a microservices-driven architecture, which allowed them to scale to their size today. Microservices are ideal for supporting a range of platforms and devices spanning web, mobile and IoT (including wearables). When developing for IoT specifically, here are the five considerations for why the future is bright with microservices:

  1. Lower cost: IoT sensors and devices are fairly affordable today. That said, it is almost always more cost effective to roll out hundreds of small sensors that each do one thing really well instead of opting for fewer, but more powerful and more pricey options. One big reason for this is that no matter the device, in just a few years, most will become “obsolete” or superseded by more sophisticated, more cost-effective alternatives. The beauty of going with the simpler hardware is that you can rely on microservices to add value and fill functional gaps. You can also gradually roll out the network and continue to upgrade and maintain it in a cost-effective manner as individual components get replaced. Done right, this means you’re never in a position where you have to replace an entire monolithic system in one go.
  2. Faster innovation: The world of IoT deployments is generally still very much in beta. Although there are already billions of cool and useful devices deployed, we’re still only scratching the surface when it comes to unlocking their full potential. A microservices development approach allows you to unlock innovation (and thus value) faster by making it easy to test new combinations of “things” and “services.” No need to build an entire technology stack or invest in big infrastructure over many months. With microservices, you can tinker and test to your heart’s content and quickly reap the benefits of innovative solutions to your problems.
  3. Isolated risk: Assembling your solution via microservices allows you to adjust and iterate quickly, thus avoiding the danger of missing the mark. You can do this without having to re-architect your entire system or IT environment. Most mobile and web application developers have already found great success in applying agile development. Developing for IoT, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to build a full feature on top of a device in just a week. However, by focusing on building microservices in one to two week sprints, you can keep moving towards the finish line and connect all the APIs you need, one by one, with dramatically lowered risk.
  4. Flexibility and agility: Another major benefit of leveraging microservices is that if, after testing, you determine that a particular service isn’t working out, you can replace it with something better or more tailored to your needs. A microservices approach to development and integration allows you to build a feature quickly and improve on it over time. When it’s ready to be replaced, you’re just updating one piece of the puzzle without having to worry about impacting the rest of the picture.
  5. Unlimited value-add: The device you deploy is never going to transcend its physical capabilities until you upgrade or replace its physical components. The digital upgrades you can provide via constantly evolving microservices, however, are unlimited both in their scope and their frequency. A camera may be designed to only capture 2D images, but depending on the third-party service it’s linked to, it might provide you with statistical traffic information, queue sizes or weather information.

Soon enough, it will become hard to remember the time when enterprises did not by default turn to microservices. With the rise of IoT, there’s a perfect storm brewing that will push microservices into new and traditional industries. The benefits are high, the risk is low and the savings in terms of cost and resources make this one a no-brainer.

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