API and Microservices
What's the Difference and Why Does it Matter?
5 min read
Hey Hey, techies! Your girl is back again with another read for you and it’s on API and microservices.
Look let me tell you how this obsession for understanding the difference between these two came about.
One evening, I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw a tweet about micro-services. It was a thread and immediately after reading the thread, I felt my brain freeze for a good couple of seconds.
That moment of confusion is similar to those videos you see on the internet when someone hits their head on a hard surface and sees stars-yes, literally but mine would have been in question marks.
Anyways, on what I did next, you could take a guess. Yes, you got it right. Research-I went googling.
I kept digging and digging, a rabbit hole didn’t come close at all. I started reading blog posts and long geeky articles on these terms which got me even more confused, and watched videos, etc. Now that I’ve got a better understanding of micro-services and their differences, I’m here to share with you-my geeky friends in simple terms.
In this article, we will learn about microservices and APIs including their differences, a real-world example or use case that helped me understand both terms, as well as some reasons organizations are choosing this architectural paradigm.
What are Microservices?
Microservice is a software development approach that has gained popularity in recent years. Essentially, this architecture is based on the idea of breaking down complex software applications into small, independent services that can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently of each other. These small services communicate with each other through well-defined APIs.
Microservice is a way of building software applications that are composed of small, independent services that perform specific functions such as authentication, data storage or inventory management.
What are APIs?
API also known as Application Programming Interface is a crucial element in modern software development. It consists of a set of protocols and standards that facilitate communication between different systems, allowing developers to interact with software applications or services by sending requests and receiving responses in a standardized format. It is typical for us to talk about API in terms of B2B communication, however, API goes beyond that.
API is used for building distributed software systems and also increases both the usability and exposure of a service. It can also be used to expose the functionality of a single service or to combine multiple services into a larger system.
All applications rely on APIs to function.
Differences between microservices and APIs
Microservices are a way of designing, planning and building applications that would provide independent services while API defines how different software components interact with each other including microservices that communicate through a defined interface.
Microservices are designed and built to provide a specific business capability such as user authentication and payment processing while APIs are used to provide access to these data and functionality within an application.
Microservices can be implemented using a variety of programming languages and technologies while APIs can be implemented using a variety of tech but in the general scheme of things, they follow a standard protocol such as REST or SOAP.
API offers a simple way of connecting while the main idea of microservices is that applications are simpler to build and maintain when broken down.
Key Benefits of microservices
The key benefit of microservices architecture is its flexibility. Because each service is independent, changes can be made to one service without affecting the others which allow for faster development and deployment and can also lead to improved system reliability.
In addition, microservices architecture makes it easier to scale a system as needed because individual services can be added or removed, and it is possible to quickly adjust the system to changing demands.
Overall, micro-services architecture can offer numerous benefits to software development teams, including increased flexibility, faster development and deployment times, and improved scalability.
Why build microservices?
Scalability: Each microservices can be deployed and scaled independently of the others, making it easier to add more resources needed to meet increased demand.
Flexibility: Developers working on microservices can work on individual services independently which leads to faster development and deployment times. It also makes updating and changes easier without affecting the whole thing.
Resilience: It is easier to create more resilient systems around microservices and they can continue to function even if one or more fails because other services can function independently on their own.
Technology: Microservices give organizations and developers the freedom to use the best tool(s) for the job thereby reducing the risk of technology lock-in and ensuring the best possible tech.
Some real-world examples or use cases of microservices.
The ability to relate whatever I learn or have learned to real-world scenarios helps solidify my understanding of concepts.
Here are a couple of popular enterprises we know today that have either broken down their monolithic architecture or adopted this architecture from the beginning and they include;
Amazon: We can’t talk about microservices and not mention Amazon. Amazon, which is a leading e-commerce platform adopted the microservices architecture to better serve its users as well as scale and manage its services. Amazon's microservices are responsible for tasks such as product search, order processing, and inventory management.
Netflix: The company faced scaling challenges and experienced service outages for days which made it break away from the monolithic paradigm. Netflix's microservices are responsible for user authentication, recommendations, and video encoding. They can easily scale their infrastructure to handle large amounts of traffic.
Stripe: Stripe is a payment processing platform that has broken down its application into small, independent services. These services communicate with each other through APIs and are responsible for a specific business function. They are also developed, tested, and deployed independently. Also, they make use of containers and other tools to automate deployment, making it easy to scale its infrastructure and handle large amounts of traffic while also providing high availability.
API and microservices are both important concepts in modern software development and understanding their differences is crucial for building scalable, maintainable, and efficient software systems.
Both API and microservices may seem similar to many, but they are very different concepts, not related in any way and are completely independent concepts. That being said, microservices are a specific approach to designing and building software applications, while APIs are a general technique for building software interfaces.