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November 20, 2020

Tensegrity In Microservices Architecture

Tensegrity or Tensional Integrity is also known in layman words as Floating Compression. In engineering field, it is the science of building a structure of isolated "compressed components" like bars that connected by "pre-stressed tensioned loose components" like cables or tendons. Any disturbance to a component in the assembly not just alters but brings down the entire structure.

Below is a picture of one such engineering model. Take a deep breadth and try to identify the connectors that help maintain the beautiful engineering model that you are witnessing.


Think of a table engineered by applying Tensegrity principles, like the one above. You may love looking at those crafty products but when it comes to buying it for your daily use, you think of  durability, don't you?

Tensegrity in software product/services is taboo, for it is not a deliberate engineering but a result of neglect or poor engineering. It's manifestation crops up so often in today's buzz-word architecture -- microservices. Every company dreams of building and connecting together a loose set of services as one application overlooking the cons in distributed architecture. Some of the examples of its manifestation are:

  • Consumer service go down when its Producer service is unreachable.

  • Consumer service go down when its Producer service is times out.

  • Consumer service go down when its Producer service returns unexpected response.

I have voiced openly against startups going micro-services first architecture during my consulting days. I still warn them. I am a big advocate for monolith first and then tearing it down into microservices, after you got your domain modelling right and have well defined bounded context. And when you do break it down into microservices, it gives you enough leeway to accommodate your learnings from your short-comings in building distributed architectures. Tensegrity is the very basic thing, that you should watch out for and solve in your engineering microservices architecture by not re-inventing the wheel but by making use of available libraries that resolve these kind of issues.

Remember this as you refactor your monolithic architecture to microservices one,

Moving from monolithic architecture to microservices architecture is shifting complexity from your application to orchestration. Know your strengths and find your balance. 

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