Three Reasons Retail Leaders are Embracing Fulfillment Microservices

Fulfillment-related microservices are gaining popularity, and there's a good reason for it. When you think your eCommerce retail business is meeting...



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Fulfillment-related microservices are gaining popularity, and there's a good reason for it. When you think your eCommerce retail business is meeting your customers' needs, you find new features are needed, and new technology emerges. You are constantly trying to keep up with new fulfillment methods, and increasing pressure to reduce cost-to-serve.
In today's competitive market, rapid innovation is the name of the game. The only way to keep pace with the speed of change is to be as agile as possible. When enterprises have agility, they are more resilient to sudden market changes. As we've experienced during the pandemic, flexibility can make the difference between staying in business and shuttering your doors.

One popular pathway to agility is to migrate systems from the monolithic architectures typical of traditional software providers to microservices-based approaches.

Three reasons backend microservices increase agility are:

  1. More control over technology
  2. Faster iteration
  3. Greater scalability

We'll take a look at why microservices can increase agility, especially compared to traditional monolithic architecture.

What are Microservices?

Before we get to the three reasons, let's first discuss how microservices vary from traditional monolithic development architectures. 

A monolithic architecture consists of a single large application consisting of a single build of a unified code. Alternatively, the microservices approach creates small, discrete pieces of connected yet interdependent functionality to build the overall application.

Whereas monolithic architectures require developers to code features that must work with the entire application, modular microservices enable DevOps to make changes in separate, autonomous entities. Further, unlike SaaS models, microservices are platform-agnostic, creating greater flexibility.

Reason #1: Retail Leaders Want More Control Over Technology

With the growing complexities of the eCommerce environment and increasing consumer expectations, retailers benefit from controlling more of their technology rather than having overreliance on what SaaS service providers and what monolithic systems can and cannot offer.

For example, the SaaS provider may only offer the opportunity to update features quarterly when the retailer would be more competitive with more frequent updates. Other disadvantages would be painful upgrade cycles and limitations on customization.

Unlike monolithic systems, discrete microservices can be updated and deployed at an enterprise's own pace. Individual DevOps teams can perform each discrete task independently when they are ready, without disrupting other functions. One team can work on one module while separate teams work on other modules. Each can be independently deployed, increasing agility, eliminating bottlenecks, and reducing friction between DevOps teams.

Reason #2: The Microservice Approach Allows Retail Enterprises to Innovate Faster

Having separate control over each task lets you iterate faster. Monolithic architectures have an enormous code base, which slows down the build and release cycle. By decoupling tasks, microservices enable teams to develop, test, deploy, and update individual tasks without affecting the entire system. This speeds up innovation and reduces the risk that one feature update, rollout, or error will affect everything else—potentially causing errors and delays.

A related reason why the microservices model speeds innovation is they are interchangeable. This makes replacing new pieces much easier than updating the entire code base. The development team can build a new microservice for a feature, push it out independently, and take it back down if a problem occurs. As a result, businesses can better grow and adapt to constantly evolving technologies and a shifting business environment.

Reason #3: Greater Scalability Creates the Agility to Compete

Retail is unpredictable, especially as the economy and consumer behaviors experience rapid shifts. We saw this in the extreme with the onset of the pandemic. Service modules in monolithic applications are tightly coupled, making it difficult to isolate applications thereby hindering scalability. Alternatively, it's relatively easy to scale individual services up and down without disrupting other functionality when using autonomous microservices.

When demand increases, you upgrade or divert more resources to the affected microservice. You can add new components without downtime or redeployment of the entire system. When you can quickly scale up and down, you save money, improve performance, and optimize the customer experience.

The Control, Speed, and Scalability You Need for Agile Development

Microservice architecture gives companies greater control over their technology, giving them more flexibility than relying on SaaS or traditional software vendors. By innovating in shorter cycles and scaling as needed, companies gain the agility to keep up with a constantly changing retail landscape.

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