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Delivering Digital

Microservices Help Drive Digital Transformation

Microservices could ease innovation budget pressures, but teams need better visibility across services

Enterprises across a range of industries are investing heavily in digital transformation efforts, a recent study found, but the question is whether their budgets will continue to keep pace. Many innovation budgets are expected to remain flat in the coming year, but the good news is that microservices in software development could help ease budget pressures.

According to a global survey of 354 software architects, engineering managers, and other experts in application development, and conducted by workflow automation provider Camunda, 90 percent of respondents reported that digital disruption has been accelerating from moderately to extremely rapidly in their industries over the past 18 months.

However, 49 percent of respondents said they expect their teams’ budgets to stay the same in 2019.

Microservices could help them get the most out of these flat budgets. Software built with microservices architectures is developed in small, modular components and systems. This is in contrast with large applications that are built with monolithic and interdependent code that is hard to maintain and update. The study showed that 60 percent of respondents are currently using or planning to use microservices to achieve faster time to market for new products and services. In addition, 54 percent are doing so to support digital transformation and power next-generation applications.

Every time enterprise IT technology undergoes a transformation, the tools used to manage that technology gets upended. It happened when distributed computing displaced mainframes, and then again with the rise of Web applications.

Now it’s happening with the rise of microservices architectures, in use by 63 percent of survey respondents. Among those, more than half run or plan to run between 10 to 49 microservices in production and 15 percent run or plan to run more than 100.

They cited improvements in employee efficiency, customer/end-user experience, infrastructure, and development cost-savings as benefits.

Companies also reported these top motivations for adopting a microservices architecture:

  • Improved scalability of applications (64%).
  • Faster time to market for new products and services (60%).
  • Supporting digital transformation efforts and powering next-generation applications (54%).
  • Giving development teams more autonomy (54%).
  • Increasing application resilience (50%).

But works remains. The majority of enterprises appear to be unaware of the impact microservices architectures can have on their revenue-generating business processes. According to the survey, 84 percent of enterprises said they factor business workflows into their broader business processes, yet only 45 percent do the same for microservices.

Additionally, 59 percent of survey respondents said they face or are expecting to face a lack of visibility into end-to-end business processes that span multiple microservices.

60% of respondents are using microservices to achieve faster time to market

This lack of visibility isn’t just a technical problem—it’s a business problem. As enterprises lose visibility across microservices, they also lose visibility into the end-to-end flow of their business transactions involving customers, partners, and suppliers, as well as staff workflows. This could make future optimizing and troubleshooting difficult regardless of how much easier microservices promise to ease systems management.

In addition to lack of visibility, error-handling issues at the boundary of two or more microservices pose a challenge among half of organizations. Additionally,  communication between teams was also named as a top challenge by 46 percent of organizations.

“Enterprises are adopting microservices for compelling reasons, [but] the majority will be unintentionally limiting the benefits from the architecture and may even be impeding their ability to provide a better end-user experience,” said Jakob Freund, CEO of Camunda.

The takeaway? While microservices promise to help enterprises be more agile and even cost-effective when it comes to managing their environments, organizations will have to make the necessary upfront investments to get there.

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