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Table of contents
- Fifty Essays
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- Suggested reading and resources | University of Oxford
- The 100 best books of the 21st century
Since this isn't an article on Continuous Delivery we will call attention to just a couple of key features here. We want as much confidence as possible that our software is working, so we run lots of automated tests. Promotion of working software 'up' the pipeline means we automate deployment to each new environment.
A monolithic application will be built, tested and pushed through these environments quite happlily. It turns out that once you have invested in automating the path to production for a monolith, then deploying more applications doesn't seem so scary any more. Remember, one of the aims of CD is to make deployment boring, so whether its one or three applications, as long as its still boring it doesn't matter . Another area where we see teams using extensive infrastructure automation is when managing microservices in production. In contrast to our assertion above that as long as deployment is boring there isn't that much difference between monoliths and microservices, the operational landscape for each can be strikingly different.
A consequence of using services as components, is that applications need to be designed so that they can tolerate the failure of services. Any service call could fail due to unavailability of the supplier, the client has to respond to this as gracefully as possible. This is a disadvantage compared to a monolithic design as it introduces additional complexity to handle it. The consequence is that microservice teams constantly reflect on how service failures affect the user experience.
Netflix's Simian Army induces failures of services and even datacenters during the working day to test both the application's resilience and monitoring. This kind of automated testing in production would be enough to give most operation groups the kind of shivers usually preceding a week off work. This isn't to say that monolithic architectural styles aren't capable of sophisticated monitoring setups - it's just less common in our experience.
Since services can fail at any time, it's important to be able to detect the failures quickly and, if possible, automatically restore service.
Microservice applications put a lot of emphasis on real-time monitoring of the application, checking both architectural elements how many requests per second is the database getting and business relevant metrics such as how many orders per minute are received. Semantic monitoring can provide an early warning system of something going wrong that triggers development teams to follow up and investigate.
This is particularly important to a microservices architecture because the microservice preference towards choreography and event collaboration leads to emergent behavior. While many pundits praise the value of serendipitous emergence, the truth is that emergent behavior can sometimes be a bad thing. Monitoring is vital to spot bad emergent behavior quickly so it can be fixed.
Monoliths can be built to be as transparent as a microservice - in fact, they should be. The difference is that you absolutely need to know when services running in different processes are disconnected. With libraries within the same process this kind of transparency is less likely to be useful. Details on circuit breaker status, current throughput and latency are other examples we often encounter in the wild. Microservice practitioners, usually have come from an evolutionary design background and see service decomposition as a further tool to enable application developers to control changes in their application without slowing down change.
Change control doesn't necessarily mean change reduction - with the right attitudes and tools you can make frequent, fast, and well-controlled changes to software. Whenever you try to break a software system into components, you're faced with the decision of how to divide up the pieces - what are the principles on which we decide to slice up our application? The key property of a component is the notion of independent replacement and upgradeability  - which implies we look for points where we can imagine rewriting a component without affecting its collaborators.
Indeed many microservice groups take this further by explicitly expecting many services to be scrapped rather than evolved in the longer term. The Guardian website is a good example of an application that was designed and built as a monolith, but has been evolving in a microservice direction. The monolith still is the core of the website, but they prefer to add new features by building microservices that use the monolith's API.
This approach is particularly handy for features that are inherently temporary, such as specialized pages to handle a sporting event. Such a part of the website can quickly be put together using rapid development languages, and removed once the event is over. We've seen similar approaches at a financial institution where new services are added for a market opportunity and discarded after a few months or even weeks. This emphasis on replaceability is a special case of a more general principle of modular design, which is to drive modularity through the pattern of change .
You want to keep things that change at the same time in the same module.
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Parts of a system that change rarely should be in different services to those that are currently undergoing lots of churn. If you find yourself repeatedly changing two services together, that's a sign that they should be merged. Putting components into services adds an opportunity for more granular release planning.
With a monolith any changes require a full build and deployment of the entire application. With microservices, however, you only need to redeploy the service s you modified. This can simplify and speed up the release process. The downside is that you have to worry about changes to one service breaking its consumers. The traditional integration approach is to try to deal with this problem using versioning, but the preference in the microservice world is to only use versioning as a last resort. We can avoid a lot of versioning by designing services to be as tolerant as possible to changes in their suppliers.
Our main aim in writing this article is to explain the major ideas and principles of microservices. By taking the time to do this we clearly think that the microservices architectural style is an important idea - one worth serious consideration for enterprise applications. We have recently built several systems using the style and know of others who have used and favor this approach. The conference circuit in was full of examples of companies that are moving to something that would class as microservices - including Travis CI. In addition there are plenty of organizations that have long been doing what we would class as microservices, but without ever using the name.
Despite these positive experiences, however, we aren't arguing that we are certain that microservices are the future direction for software architectures. While our experiences so far are positive compared to monolithic applications, we're conscious of the fact that not enough time has passed for us to make a full judgement. Often the true consequences of your architectural decisions are only evident several years after you made them.
We have seen projects where a good team, with a strong desire for modularity, has built a monolithic architecture that has decayed over the years. Many people believe that such decay is less likely with microservices, since the service boundaries are explicit and hard to patch around.
Yet until we see enough systems with enough age, we can't truly assess how microservice architectures mature. There are certainly reasons why one might expect microservices to mature poorly. In any effort at componentization, success depends on how well the software fits into components. It's hard to figure out exactly where the component boundaries should lie. Evolutionary design recognizes the difficulties of getting boundaries right and thus the importance of it being easy to refactor them. But when your components are services with remote communications, then refactoring is much harder than with in-process libraries.
Moving code is difficult across service boundaries, any interface changes need to be coordinated between participants, layers of backwards compatibility need to be added, and testing is made more complicated. Another issue is If the components do not compose cleanly, then all you are doing is shifting complexity from inside a component to the connections between components.
Not just does this just move complexity around, it moves it to a place that's less explicit and harder to control. It's easy to think things are better when you are looking at the inside of a small, simple component, while missing messy connections between services. Finally, there is the factor of team skill.
New techniques tend to be adopted by more skillful teams. But a technique that is more effective for a more skillful team isn't necessarily going to work for less skillful teams. We've seen plenty of cases of less skillful teams building messy monolithic architectures, but it takes time to see what happens when this kind of mess occurs with microservices.
Suggested reading and resources | University of Oxford
A poor team will always create a poor system - it's very hard to tell if microservices reduce the mess in this case or make it worse. One reasonable argument we've heard is that you shouldn't start with a microservices architecture. Instead begin with a monolith , keep it modular, and split it into microservices once the monolith becomes a problem. Although this advice isn't ideal , since a good in-process interface is usually not a good service interface.
So we write this with cautious optimism. So far, we've seen enough about the microservice style to feel that it can be a worthwhile road to tread. We can't say for sure where we'll end up, but one of the challenges of software development is that you can only make decisions based on the imperfect information that you currently have to hand.
In May , the same group decided on "microservices" as the most appropriate name. James presented some of these ideas as a case study in March at 33rd Degree in Krakow in Microservices - Java, the Unix Way as did Fred George about the same time. It appears in The Art of Unix Programming to describe systems that get too big. This is a different concept to how we're using "service" in this article. Sadly the term service has both meanings and we have to live with the polyseme.
Systems using these still exhibit the characteristic of smart endpoints, dumb pipes - and trade off transparency for scale. Most web properties and certainly the vast majority of enterprises don't need to make this tradeoff - transparency can be a big win. When we see the figure of Socrates and he says things which we take to be ironical, what do we think that means?
Irony is not sarcasm. Instead, Socrates offers a puzzle with the gap between where Socrates means what he says, and where he does not; and that gap is itself susceptible of explanation and account. As a consequence we can understand what Socrates says in terms of truth and falsity; but in terms of truth and falsity at different levels of implication and explicitness.
The philosophical work is done by the negotiation between these two levels; but the figure of Socrates himself remains throughout innocent of deception. The figure of Socrates, thus, can remain a moral paradigm even while he forces argumentative clarity from his interlocutor by not saying what he means. The discussion of knowledge and what there is always inextricably bound to the questions of value and goodness. The difference between Vlastos and Nehamas is a fundamental one, and goes to the heart, I think, of the ways in which they think differently about how philosophy is done.
For Nehamas, by contrast, the ironical figure of Socrates is, as it were, cut from whole cloth: Socrates is always concealed, always resistant to this kind of piecemeal interpretation. In that case, the only way that we can think about the figure of Socrates is as the representation it is not of some actual figure, but a representation, through and through. Vlastos, by contrast, seeks some kind of certainty beneath the puzzles about Socratic knowledge and ignorance. The two books, taken together, gives you a snapshot of how it is that thinking about the difference between represented figures and itemised arguments might make a difference as to how we read these texts, a philosophical difference.
The sense of vertigo or incompleteness may indeed go all the way down.
This means, among other things, that questions about knowledge or what there is cannot in fact be separated from questions about how to live; the ways in which Socrates lives his philosophical life is not detachable from the content of the arguments, once the context as a whole is fully taken into account. So the arguments stand, but they are always finessed by their context; conversely the context is itself reflected upon by the arguments. The figure of Socrates stands in the middle.
The 100 best books of the 21st century
You talked about Vlastos trying to emulate Socrates. Should we think that there is really a Socrates at all? In all of these versions of him, he is a construct or a fiction. When we read a dialogue like the Theaetetus , is the point of the figure of Socrates that he is a character to emulate? The interesting thing about Plato is that his agenda themselves are interesting: he wants us to think about argument, about how you live with arguments, or, indeed, how you could live without them.
There was a tendency in the philosophy with which I grew up to believe that argument is all there is, and that arguments can be demarcated and separated, particularly that arguments about knowledge could be separated from arguments about the good. In my view that is exactly right. Five Books aims to keep its book recommendations and interviews up to date. If you are the interviewee and would like to update your choice of books or even just what you say about them please email us at editor fivebooks. Five Books interviews are expensive to produce. If you've enjoyed this interview, please support us by donating a small amount.
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Cultural shifts have meant that obscenities once viewed as outrageous are commonplace. In tandem with television and movies, literature has also shown its willingness to spill blood on the pages, as violent horrors that once would not even have been alluded to now become the basis of best-selling novels. But is it a classic? It can be argued it is not. It suffers the burden of those who go first—they seem less impressive than those who come after. For many readers, it has a universal appeal.
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