Data As A Microservice: the future of data architecture
Let me preface this article with an understatement: sometimes, enterprise architecture can be complicated. Large companies run thousands of applications, multiplied by dozens of environments replicated for testing, user testing, sandboxing, accumulated over years of acquisitions, re-architecturing (yes, it is a word I made up), and experiments all with the purpose of driving business forward. Like any complex system, human beings have been trying to make sense out of it by conceptualizing models and architectures aimed at simplifying the system thus making it more efficient, robust, scalable, secure, and spiritually vertuous (OK, maybe not the last part, although can a piece of software be inherently virtuous? A question for another day). With all this in mind, I would like to take some time to reflect on one of these concepts: Micro-Services and how this concept can apply in the realm of data management.
Microservices VS Enterprise Service Bus
First introduced in 2011 during workshop of software architects held near Venice in May 2011, Microservice Architecture is defined by James Lewis as follows:
The term “Microservice Architecture” has sprung up over the last few years to describe a particular way of designing software applications as suites of independently deployable services. While there is no precise definition of this architectural style, there are certain common characteristics around organization around business capability, automated deployment, intelligence in the endpoints, and decentralized control of languages and data.
Microservice architecture is a subset of a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), aiming at distributing microcomponents to deploy applications as opposed to a centralized application integraiton layer, often called Enterprise Integration Layer (EAI) or Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). Leaving aside the obvious angry developer argument stating that all of this is marketing jargon and rebranding of the same products, it’s interesting to take note of a fundamental trend I covered before in this blog: enterprise are looking to implement agile enviroment, which extremely granular elements in order to ensure business reactivity. The dream of the all-integrated all-consolidated entreprise layer is fading.
Data As A Microservice
In a very similar manner, the idea of single source of truth containing all the enterprise data is coming to an end. And, unlike some data lakes proponents would like to make you believe, it is not because of the pitfalls of traditional technologies that can’t handle large volume of data or distribute it efficiently. Building a single centralized source of data is an utopia. Instead, companies are now shifting their focus towards platforms enabling rapid agnostic data integration, agile data schema modification, and complete distribution. These platforms can then be used in a microservice architecture, making them Data As A Microservice platforms. I’ll admit, I may have made that term up too because it sounds cool, but it is very important to note for you data vendor, data scientist or data consumer (CIOs and CTOs organization). The future of data microservice-like agility, not monolithic unification.