How cloud-native apps and microservices impact the development process – InfoWorld

Isaac Sacolick By
Contributing Editor, InfoWorld |
I was a hands-on developer and chief technology officer during the days of object-oriented programming, three-tiered web platforms, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and hosting on virtual servers in the data center.
So much has changed since then!
The more advanced software development teams are developing microservices and enabling rich front-end user experiences using client-side JavaScript. Hosting options have exploded and include platform as a service (PaaS), containers as a service (CaaS), serverless functions, and other architectures. The applications developers build are leveraging real-time data streams, connecting with machine learning models, and interfacing with SaaS and enterprise systems.
Today’s development tools have evolved significantly. They enable globally distributed development teams to operate independently, release frequent changes, and respond to issues quickly. Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), continuous testing, infrastructure as code (IaC), and AIops enable teams to automate integration, deployment, infrastructure configuration, and monitoring.
The changes also include cultural and practical transformations such as adopting continuous planning in agile, instrumenting shift-left testing, proactively addressing security risks, and instituting site reliability engineering.
I reached out to several experts to go a level deeper and suggest best practices on how the development process changes when building and deploying cloud-native applications and microservices.
My first concern with development teams that target building many small, atomic, or frequently deployed microservices is when their deployment velocities don’t account for the required collaboration and safety guardrails.
I spoke with Jason Walker, field CTO for BigPanda, about his experiences with development teams that successfully build, deploy, and enhance microservices. He acknowledges, “The most significant impact is velocity, and the dev-test-deploy cycle time is drastically reduced. Developing in the cloud for a cloud-based service and leveraging an ecosystem of microservices for inputs, an agile team can move very quickly.”
Walker suggests that the working environment must help teams stay on track and deliver business value while operating at high velocities. He offers several best practices:
One of the more important coding disciplines in object-oriented programming and SOA is code refactoring. The techniques allow developers to restructure code as they better understand usage considerations, performance factors, or technical debt issues.
Refactoring is a key technique for transforming monolithic applications into microservices. Refactoring strategies include separating the presentation layer, extracting business services, and refactoring databases.
Robin Yeman, strategic advisory board member at Project and Team, has spent most of her career working on large-scale government and defense systems. Robin concedes, “The largest technology barriers to utilizing agile in building or updating complex legacy systems are the many dependencies in the software architecture, forcing multiple handoffs between teams and delays in delivery.”
Robin suggests that refactoring should focus on reducing dependencies. She recommends, “Refactoring the software architecture of large legacy systems to utilize cloud-native applications and microservices reduces dependencies between the systems and the teams supporting them.”
Refactoring also improves microservices in important ways, such as:
Kit Merker, COO at Nobl9, offers this advice to organizations transitioning to cloud-native applications and microservices. “You can’t just rewrite everything—you need to phase the transition. One best practice is to set clear service-level objectives that are implementation agnostic and manage the user’s impression of your service even as you are transitioning to cloud-native implementations.”
Design patterns have always been used as tools to structure code around common problem sets. For example, categories of object-oriented design patterns are creational, behavioral, and structural; they’re used to solve common problems in software design. SOA design patterns have been around for more than a decade and are a precursor to today’s REST API and cloud API design patterns.
Using microservice design patterns is critical for long-term success. Technology organizations target independent, resilient, auto-provisioning services that support failure isolation, continuous delivery, and a decentralized governance model. That can be challenging if development teams don’t have a common language, microservice architecture, and implementation strategy to develop with design patterns.
Tyler Johnson, cofounder and CTO of PrivOps, explains that developing microservices is a key strategy for reducing complexity. He says, “One way to describe cloud-native applications is as a set of distributed, interacting, complex systems. This complexity can quickly become unmanageable, which is why a modular, standardized microservices architecture including standardized devsecops tooling, APIs, and data models is necessary.“
Michael Bachman, global architect and principal technologist at Boomi, suggests that using the composite microservice design pattern enables developers to focus on the user experience. This design pattern is particularly important when developers build applications connected to multicloud services and SaaS platform APIs.
Bachman explains, “The composite is a collection of endpoints presented through an abstracted view. Developers can go to a service catalog, make calls to a composite, and don’t care about what goes on underneath. We’re getting closer to the end user and enabling a trusted experience through a composite service at the high end of the stack.”
In summary, building cloud-native applications and microservices requires development teams to excel at longstanding software development practices such as collaboration, code refactoring, and developing reusable and reliable services. Since teams are developing these services at a significant scale, it’s important to learn, adapt, and mature these best practices.
Isaac Sacolick is president of StarCIO and the author of the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, which covers many practices such as agile planning, devops, and data science that are critical to successful digital transformation programs. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO and digital transformation influencer. He has published more than 700 articles at,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.