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  • Blog November 1, 2018

    Microservices vs API: Are They the Same Thing?

    3 Minutes Read

Microservices & API are hot topics that have been buzzing around the industry for a while now. They have revolutionized the way enterprises build their IT infrastructure, helping to minimize turnaround time and maximize the reliability of backend systems. They have transformed many web-native businesses, especially in e-commerce. Let’s take a closer look at their individual roles, and how they are related.

What is an Application Program Interface (API)?

An API is a particular set of rules and specifications that software programs can follow to communicate with each other. It serves as an interface between different software programs and facilitates their interaction.

Let’s understand how it works: ever notice that when you hit any e-commerce site, it asks you to sign up through Facebook or Google? How are they able to proceed without any extra code being written? The answer is API, which simplifies the work. Here, API facilitates the interaction between the application and the device, acting as an interface. When a sign up is requested, API pulls the data from the backend of Google or Facebook’s server, processes it, and pushes the relevant information to your browser.

What are Microservices?

In order to recognize the benefits of microservices it’s important to understand monolithic applications. A monolithic application is built as one single, silo unit. In a monolithic application, server side data is bundled together, with all data for handling requests running in a single process.

A microservice is an architectural style that structures an application as a collection of loosely-tethered, modular services. They are built around business capabilities and are independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery. Let’s take a look at how microservices can address issues with monolithic architecture.

Again, coming to our ecommerce example; suppose you picked out your favorite Nike shoe, and are all set to hit the checkout button. Suddenly an error occurs with your delivery address, so you are unable to place the order.

The reason for the error is lack of agility on the backend due to a monolithic application. Since, each component is working in silo with a centralized architecture, all pieces are tightly coupled and are dependent on each other. If a single code changes, the number of dependencies grows.

Switching to Microservices and the Significance of APIs:

To combat the aforementioned challenge enterprises are now deploying microservices, as they solve many IT challenges. They have the ability to isolate services to increase speed, reliability and scalability of applications through continuous delivery and deployment.

Here, a monolithic application (left) is being rewritten using a microservice approach (right):

For a microservice to function, all components must be able to interact with each other, the applications and web sites they power, and the databases from where they draw real-time information.

This is where API comes into the picture. APIs offer universal integration by facilitating communication between different coding language subsets. Because of this they present the most logical model for building an interface between the various components of microservice architecture.

Let’s see how these APIs act as a gateway in e-commerce:

A microservice is capable of being more than just an API for a system. An entire application can be comprised of a series of microservices that use their own APIs for communicating with each other. Additionally, each one of these microservices can abstract its own functionality, draw logical boundaries for responsibility within the application, and separate concerns to make a more credible codebase.

By now, you should have a sound understanding of the differences between microservices and APIs. However, some enterprises often misinterpret them as the same thing. Below are some common fallacies surrounding Microservice & API:

Fallacy 1: Microservices and APIs are the same -APIs determine how software components should interact, whereas microservices are a unique architectural approach that provides an efficient and scalable way to implement services.

Fallacy 2: Microservices: A-one-size-fits-all solution -It’s a common misunderstanding that microservices suit every application. When applying microservice architecture, one should use this application based on specific technology and business strategies. Not every application in an enterprise environment is a fit for microservice architecture.

Fallacy 3: Microservices are the execution of an API -This seems to be a heated one. Microservice architecture is the way you build your solution, whereas APIs are what your consumers see. Therefore, microservices are not the only way to implement an API, and similarly not all microservices use APIs.

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