Enter the Pact Matrix. Or, how to decouple the release cycles of your microservices

So, you’re writing microservices! You’re feeling pretty smug, because microservices are all the rage. All the cool kids are doing it. You’re breaking up your sprawling monoliths into small services that Do One Thing Well. You’re even using consumer driven contract testing to ensure that all your services are compatible.

Then… you discover that your consumer’s requirements have changed, and you need to make a change to your provider. You coordinate the consumer and provider codebases so that the contract tests still pass, and then, because you’re Deploying Early and Often, you release the provider. Immediately, your monitoring system goes red – the production consumer still expects the provider’s old interface. You realise that when you make a change, you need to deploy your consumer and your provider together. You think to yourself, screw this microservices thing, if I have to deploy them together anyway, they may as well go in the one codebase.

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A microservices implementation retrospective

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Over the last year at realestate.com.au (REA), I worked on two integration projects that involved synchronising data between large, third party applications. We implemented the synchronisation functionality using microservices. Our team, along with many others at REA, chose to use a microservice architecture to avoid the problems associated with the “tightly coupled monolith” anti-pattern, and make services that are easy to maintain, reuse and even rewrite.

Our design used microservices in 3 different roles:

  1. Stable interfaces – in front of each application we put a service that exposed a RESTful API for the underlying domain objects. This minimised the amount of coupling between the internals of the application and the other services.
  2. Event feeds – each “change” to the domain objects that we cared about within the third party applications was exposed by an event feed service.
  3. Synchronisers – the “sync” services ran at regular intervals, reading from the event feeds, then using the stable interfaces to make the appropriate data updates.

Integration Microservices Design

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