Using Microservices with an API Gateway

The Kong API Gateway can operate using microservices architecture, vastly increasing agility for enterprise users who have previously relied on monolithic service architectures.

Microservices work by splitting applications into task-specific services that connect, but can be programmed, maintained and upgraded independently. In this way, when you need to change the functionality of an application, you can do so by deploying a new microservice or updating only the microservice that is required for that function, rather than needing to update the application code as a whole.

For IT teams working to tight schedules and heavy workloads, this makes it easier to customize the functionality of applications faster, with fewer programming errors that may occur when working on much larger volumes of code.

End users already expect organizations of all sizes to operate dynamically, creating brand risks for companies with older monolithic structures that are less scalable and more costly to upgrade, with the additional risk of business interruption if applications need to be taken offline to implement upgrades.

How do microservices work?

Microservices are individual and autonomous services, but they do not work in total isolation. Instead, they are loosely coupled to create a cohesive experience akin to that achieved by a single larger volume of application code.

Kong API Gateway allows the use of microservices by deploying them in containers, effectively packaging the individual services together with methodologies and tools so that they can be deployed independently and maintained individually.

For larger development teams, this is an even more significant capability, as it means development workflows can be divided up between individuals and groups with each working on a different microservice, contributing towards the overall application without redundant and overlapping program code.

This unlocks the option of parallel development — multiple teams working on components at the same time — while giving each team a greater sense of ownership over the modules they create.

When it comes to compiling internal API documentation to describe how each module or microservice operates, this makes it much more likely that there will be one individual or a smaller group of people within your organization capable of outlining its functionality comprehensively and without missing anything important.

More benefits of microservices

We have already touched on the ability of microservices to improve agility by enabling parallel development of new applications, but this is not only an advantage during the initial programming stage.

Microservices deliver powerful benefits at every stage of development:

  • As mentioned above, development teams can divide larger applications into individual microservices that can then be programmed independently, allowing them to be developed simultaneously by individuals and groups working in isolation.
  • Newly developed and newly updated microservices can be tested more easily independently from the application as a whole, and before they are deployed into the real world. Errors are easier to locate within the microservice’s much smaller volume of code.
  • Updates can be deployed much more agilely, as there may only be one or few microservices that need to be upgraded, allowing the rest of the application to remain in its existing form. Depending on how core the functionality of the microservice is, it may be possible to update it without taking the application as a whole offline.

In addition to all of this, microservices improve resiliency as they disperse functionality, allowing individual components to be replaced rapidly in the event of a failure, without the application as a whole ceasing to function.

This reduction in downtime is arguably one of the most critical capabilities of microservices architecture in the modern era, when data-driven enterprises are expected to provide always-on access for customers, especially via the web and mobile apps.

How is a microservices API Gateway different?

A microservices API Gateway like Kong is designed to function as a proxy for data transmitted between different services.

It allows microservices to function similarly to customized APIs, creating a bespoke interaction for the end user that meets their unique needs.

This complements the inherent nature of microservices as a way to perform small sets of functions — or even a single function — with highly specific interaction options to get the job done effectively and efficiently and return the required data.

Using an API Gateway like Kong, traffic can be processed and manipulated in a number of important ways:

  • Aggregate results from multiple microservices and returns them to the client as a single response.
  • Fan single requests out to a series of different services as needed to complete the task.
  • Proxy requests to individual and multiple services as appropriate.
  • Translate data from different protocols and databases to make it universally usable.
  • Work as a universal point of contact between the user and the application.

As an open-source API Gateway, Kong ensures that your development teams have total control to customize and extend applications as required.

Whether via new microservices, adjusted policies, bespoke and off-the-peg plugins, or directly modifying the open-source code, this ensures that even the most complex and niche of enterprise use cases can be catered for.

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