Microservice – the word conveys a sense of something that is dinky, efficient, useful, but not really world changing, right? Wrong. While microservices are small cogs forming parts of larger machines, they are also driving innovation and disruption on a global scale.
Our world is in a state of flux. As a species, we’ve faced quite a variety of threats over the past few years, affecting everything from the health of individuals to that of the global economy:
- Covid-19 and the global pandemic
- Financial market crashes and volatility
- Climate change and natural disasters.
Understandably, people (individuals, businesses and governments) are looking for new ways to counter these threats. The global rate of innovation is rising and industries as diverse as healthcare and banking are undergoing extreme disruption. So how are microservices making waves amid this sweeping sea of change?
An API a day…
…gives the doctor a say. Being at the frontline of the global pandemic, it’s not surprising that healthcare is one area currently experiencing reform. For the past two years, healthcare organisations have been looking for Covid-19 cures, treatments and vaccinations. They’ve had to treat vast numbers of patients in less than ideal circumstances and develop new methods for recording and sharing data. As they’ve done so, they’ve created new physical and digital healthcare infrastructure.
In the UK, the NHS recently said that moving to an “API-first approach” and a microservice-based architecture was one of its Spine platform’s main aims for the future. “We want to build and run a more open platform. It will consist of discrete services that can evolve independently,” said the organisation’s Head of Delivery for Platforms in December 2020.
Banking on change in developing countries
Meanwhile, if you’re already familiar with APIs and microservices, it’s likely that you’ve heard of them in the context of fintech or open banking. They are closely connected concepts, after all. Open banking aims to change the world by giving bank customers the ability to easily select the best products and services to meet their needs. It’s a concept most closely linked with developed countries, though. After all, to have the ability to choose freely between banking services, we need to have access to them in the first place.
The situation in many developing countries is a bit different. According to the Global Findex database, almost 1.7 billion people were still “unbanked” in 2017. Without formal access to banking services, it becomes incredibly difficult for people to escape pov
erty, and to trade, make e-commerce transactions and develop businesses.
So how can microservices and APIs help to increase financial inclusion? Let’s look at Southeast Asia as an example. Again, according to the 2017 Global Findex report, around 290 million people in the region are unbanked. Despite this, the region’s population is digitally savvy and a comparatively high number of people have access to smartphones. Telecoms and financials companies that operate there have begun to understand this trend. They are combining microservices with communications technology to offer banking services to those who were previously financially excluded.
Fighting the climate crisis
Recent natural disasters — such as severe storms, flooding and wildfires — have brought climate change to the forefront of all of our minds. Some industries, such as energy, transport and agriculture, have a relationship to the threat of rising temperatures around the globe. The actions needed to counter it may not be easy to take, but in most cases, they are fairly obvious. For some other fields, though, the link between cause and effect is more complex. This is where microservices can step in to help.
According to the IT for Carbon Footprint Foundation, technology is responsible for around 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Much of this 3% comes from producing the electricity needed to run servers. To reduce tech-related emissions, we need to find ways to make servers run more efficiently.
Traditional or “monolithic” systems and applications can be difficult to scale accurately. For example, their user numbers may vary significantly at different times. If companies can’t adapt the amount of power that their servers use accordingly, then they are running them inefficiently.
Microservices, on the other hand, tend to be cloud-based and much more flexible. Using them makes it easier to balance server loads, cutting down on idle time. In short, this reduces electricity wastage.
And there we have it, a short summary of how microservices are making massive changes around the world.