Microservices vs. Application Programming Interfaces API. Both have a distinct role in software development. However, given the overlap between the two, it becomes confusing to understand how they really differ. So today’s article will guide you through the concept of APIs and microservices separately, what they do, how they work, and how they differ from each other.
What are microservices?
Microservices Architecture is an architectural method that structures an application as a collection of smaller components, also known as services that are poorly coupled, independently implementable, highly maintained and testable, owned by a small development team, and organized around business capabilities.
In addition, microservices enable the frequent, reliable, and fast delivery of extensive and complex applications. The main reason behind the popularity of microservice architecture is its ability to easily build, integrate and manage applications. Allows developers to build applications step by step and then work on each service separately, without affecting the functionality of other services.
Why use microservices?
To understand the use of microservices, it is necessary to understand its predecessor – monolithic architecture.
A monolithic architecture is a traditional model of designing a software program in which all the functionalities are under one big block. This means that all components of the application, such as the UI layer, the data access layer, and the business logic layer, remain in a single storage. It becomes difficult to add new features or functionality to the code base because of its large and complex architecture. Simply put, everything inside a monolithic architecture is so connected that it certainly becomes difficult to handle.
Compared to monolithic architecture, microservices predominate:
- Simplicity: To understand an application perspective, a developer does not need to understand the entire application.
- Robustness: Because the application is divided into several services, even the failure of one will not adversely affect the entire software.
- Updates: Similarly, updating a part of the application does not require modifying a complete system that saves money, time, and troubleshooting effort.
- Security: If a service is compromised in any way, it will not harm other services.
- Flexibility: It is independent of the programming language and framework that a development team uses for certain application services, as it will not affect others.
In general, by separating responsibilities, microservices simplify and accelerate the software development process. “But how will the collection of isolated modules interact and function simultaneously?” – You may ask. This is where the API comes in.
What is an API?
An API or application programming interface is a tool for communicating services with each other in the microservice architecture, which may differ in construction and function. An API can only do so if it is connected to services and microservices such as Function as a Service (FaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Database as a Service (DBaaS). APIs are like doors that help both developers and users to interact with the software. The API can be recognized as a point of contact through which all services communicate to process a customer’s request and provide an appropriate response.
Why use the API?
APIs provide a secure way to request and share content, services, and functionality with both internal and external users. Without APIs in our toolbox, microservices may not exist.
For example, you shop online and want to check. There is a GPay payment option and you already have an account there with your payment information set up. How convenient, right?
Because Google pay is a different company than the online store you are in, an API will facilitate the interaction between the store and GPay. Here, the store API will request access to payment information. Now, the GPay API will store the request, validate it, collect the information from the database, and finally send it to the store to complete the transaction.
Not only for third-party applications but also APIs are used to interact with the application’s microservices. Increases service usage and exposure. An API simplifies the complexity of using data across other services while providing an easy way for developers to access the data they need. It acts as an easy solution for individual microservices to interact with each other.
Microservices VS API
An API is a cross-service communication channel that allows customers to use the basic services of an application. While a microservice is an architectural design that divides an application into small, small-containing services that make it easier to build and maintain software.
Although both are different from each other, they are usually associated because microservice architecture services use APIs to communicate with each other. In a microservice-based application, each service has a separate API that determines what requests it receives and how it responds to them.
An important thing to note here is that no microservice is the same and each of them uses APIs differently. Some might assign an API to access different services or multiple APIs to a service.
Finally, APIs are not limited to microservices but have far-reaching uses. They can be used to share data between systems in the web application or they can be used internally without implementing microservice.
If you are a business owner who wants to develop their application or software on the microservice architecture, then you need to hire experienced developers who can provide prominent solutions. On the other hand, if you are a developer, then you should focus on microservices and APIs even more, as they can be very useful for your future project.
What are APIs used for?
If you use software, use APIs. This is because APIs allow software integrations – they allow separate software entities to share information and work together.
Imagine you are shopping online and you are ready to check. You can see that the store you are in offers the option to pay through PayNow, a payment processor, and you already have a PayNow.com account with payment information set up. How convenient!
Because PayNow is a different company than the store you are currently in, an API facilitates interaction between the store and PayNow. First, the store uses the PayNow payment gateway API to request your payment information. The PayNow API then sends the request, validates it, retrieves the information from the customer database, and sends it back to the store. Finally, the store uses your card information to complete the transaction.
External APIs vs. internal
Now, the full disclosure: the APIs we’ve talked about so far are all instances of a certain type of API called the web API. Web APIs make it easier to communicate between web servers. My examples are also all open APIs, which means they are available for use by anyone, including third-party software developers.
However, APIs should not be publicly available. Internal APIs are used for communication within an application, and access is usually limited to the organization’s employees and authorized developers. Knowing this, we can now start unpacking microservices.
The future (and present) of software architecture
Over the past decade, leading software companies – Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify – have taken the microservices approach. Of course, their implementations are a bit more complex, but the basic principle is the same: dividing the tasks of an application into software subcomponents makes everything simpler and more efficient, and the APIs link everything together.
If your organization is creating or updating its software infrastructure, it helps you understand these concepts. To date, APIs and microservices are changing not only the way software works together, but also the way people work together.
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