Microservices vs SOA – Chap4. Comparing Architecture Capabilities

This post is part of a series of posts with my personal notes about the chapters in the book “Microservices vs. Service-Oriented Architecture” by Mark Richards.

In this chapter I compare microservices and SOA by focusing on three major architectural capabilities—the size of the application each architecture pattern supports, the type of systems and components that can be integrated using each architecture pattern, and finally the ability of the architecture pattern to support contract decoupling

Application Scope

SOA is well-suited for large, complex, enterprise-wide systems that require integration with many heterogeneous applications and services. It is also well-suited for applications that have many shared components, particularly components that are shared across the enterprise. As such, SOA tends to be a good fit for large insurance companies due to the heterogeneous systems environment and the sharing of common services—customer, claim, policy, etc.—across multiple applications and systems.

The microservices pattern is better suited for smaller, well-partitioned web-based systems rather than large-scale enterprise-wide systems. The lack of a mediator (messaging middle-ware) is one of the factors that makes it ill-suited for large-scale complex business application environments.

In some cases you might find that the microservices pattern is a good initial architecture choice in the early stages of your business, but as the business grows and matures, you begin to need capabilities such as complex request transformation, complex orchestration, and heterogeneous systems integration. In these situations you will likely turn to the SOA pattern to replace your initial microservices architecture. Of course, the opposite is true as well—you may have started out with a large, complex SOA architecture, only to find that you didn’t need all of those powerful capabilities that it supports after all. In this case you will likely find yourself in the common position of moving from an SOA architecture to microservices to simplify the architecture.

Heterogeneous Interoperability

The ability to integrate with multiple heterogeneous systems and services is one of the few areas where microservices architecture takes a back seat to SOA

The microservices architecture style supports protocol-aware heterogeneous interoperability. communication between a particular service consumer and the corresponding service that it’s invoking must be the same (e.g., REST).

SOA also supports protocol-aware heterogeneous interoperability, but it takes this concept one step further by supporting protocol agnostic heterogeneous interoperability. A particular service consumer written in C# on the .NET platform may invoke a corresponding service using REST, but the service (in this case an EJB3 bean) is only able to communicate using RMI. Being able to translate the consumer protocol to the service protocol known as protocol transformation is supported through the use of a messaging middleware component.

If you find yourself in a heterogeneous environment where you need to integrate several different types of systems or services using different protocols, chances are that you will need to look toward SOA rather than microservices. However, if all of your services can be exposed and accessed through the same remote-access protocol (e.g., REST), then microservices can be the right choice.

Contract Decoupling

There are two primary forms of contract decoupling: message transformation and message enhancement. Microservices architecture does not support contract decoupling, whereas contract decoupling is one of the primary capabilities offered within a SOA. If you require this level of abstraction in your architecture, you will need to look toward a SOA solution rather than a microservices one for your application or system.

In the last chapter 5, we will do summary and recommend some useful resource for you to continue explore more deep dive into Microservices and SOA


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