Managing CI/CD for Microservices: A Guide and Best Practices
In this post, we’ll explore microservices, what they are, and how to manage CI/CD in a microservice architecture.
For most traditional applications, we have a singular codebase that holds all functions and databases.
While this allows teams to have all of their business in one place, what happens when the application is down?
For instance, we have the application’s database and all of its components together. Since there are no clear divisions between components, all components depend on the same database. This means that if the database is down, it affects all applications and components.
To solve the issue above, engineers like DevOps teams prefer to couple applications into a modular design. This way, components are independent and consist of their own database.
This method is known as the microservice architecture. The microservice architecture allows engineers to independently deploy components. Since these components are smaller, it’s highly maintainable and testable.
A highly maintainable codebase allows DevOps engineers to deploy components easily via continuous integration and continuous delivery/continuous deployment.
In this post, we’ll explore microservices, what they are, and how to manage continuous integration and continuous delivery in a microservice architecture.
Design Consideration for Microservice Architecture
There are different criteria to keep in mind when implementing the microservices architecture.
For instance, the goal of moving to a microservices architecture is to simplify the structure of complex applications.
Here are some considerations when switching to a microservices architecture:
- Team/business structure—This is the first thing to consider when switching to a microservices architecture. You don’t want to implement an architecture that’s not in flow with your business structure. Therefore, you’d want to design microservices around business capabilities. For instance, the architecture should answer questions like how big an individual microservice has to be, what team handles which microservices, etc.
- Microservice stack—Teams can implement microservices using any programming language, database, or even hardware of their choice. However, it’s important to understand the additional cognitive load that implementing microservices poses. Therefore, it’s important to choose a language that can bear this load. Another thing to put in place is implementing microservices using a stack that your team understands.
What Is CI/CD?
Continuous integration and delivery is a method that involves automating the integration and delivery process in software development.
Continuous integration refers to the building and testing process in software development, whereas continuous delivery involves reliably releasing software to users at any time. When we merge the integration and delivery pipeline, we get a CI/CD pipeline.
The CI/CD pipeline allows DevOps teams to automate the software development process—from the build time to delivery time—thus ensuring the shipping of software more reliably and faster to users.
Therefore, instead of the traditional method, where software updates were integrated into one large batch before deploying the newer version, CI/CD enables integration and delivery automatically as users build. Hence, continuous development, continuous delivery, continuous testing, and continuous monitoring are all automated processes.
How to Implement CI/CD in Microservices
Since microservices require breaking down complex code structures into smaller, simpler ones, this means we’ll have a smaller unit codebase when we compare it to the monolithic structure.
Therefore, there’s a need to develop, deploy, and ship from these smaller units. This makes the process a little more complicated if teams still utilize the traditional deployment method. However, with the CI/CD pipeline, teams can automate their processes from the building to deployment phase.
The managed or hosted CI/CD service involves the use of an external organization offering CI/CD capabilities for managing CI/CD. Implementing CI/CD involves taking security as well as running, scaling, and maintaining the health of a company into consideration. However, using an external service for CI/CD allows developers to focus on their tasks.
While managed CI/CD sounds like a great idea, it comes with some downsides. For instance, a firm with firm compliance can get into problems with regulators when they share their data with external services.
The self-hosted CI/CD solution involves designing your CI/CD pipeline yourself. With this method, you don’t rely on external services for your pipeline. Instead, you build and manage your CI/CD pipeline according to your application’s needs.
This method reduces the chances of running into regulatory and compliance issues since you don’t share data with external services. However, teams are in charge of keeping the pipeline running and ensuring its safety.
Best Practices for Managing CI/CD in Microservices
While implementing the continuous integration and delivery pipeline for your application, it’s important to note the following best practices for managing CI/CD.
Security is an important factor in the software field. Hence, from the building phase to the delivery stage, security is a priority. For instance, in tight compliant firms like health care or financial institutions, it’s important that you don’t share sensitive information with your CI/CD environment if it’s an external service.
Instead, you can integrate security systems like 2FA (two-factor authentication) to avoid sharing sensitive data.
For self-hosted CI/CD services, teams should preview changes before shipping them to users. This way, sensitive data doesn’t leak to the general public. Also, we encourage teams to participate in security audits for this CI/CD method to fish out security abnormalities.
Most DevOps teams utilize a version management tool like Git when committing changes to their codebase. These version management tools allow team members to create a branch from their codebase and review them before merging into the general codebase.
If there are so many branches that aren’t properly managed, we’ll get errors in releases.
To avoid this, it’s important that teams commit daily and clean up their branches. Also, commits/branches should be merged in accordance to the timeline they were created on. This is because merging a latter commit before a former one will cause an error.
Testing codes before including them in the CI/CD pipeline is important. If new versions are released to users without testing them, there’s a possibility of releasing broken products.
There’s also the possibility of leaking sensitive information to the general public. Therefore, A/B testing, beta testing, etc., are encouraged before releasing to the public.
Monitoring the CI/CD pipeline when releasing software with the CI/CD pipeline is a major concern for DevOps teams. This is because an error can occur when releasing with the CI/CD pipeline.
If we can’t track the error, it would create a ripple effect, and other jobs may fail too. Therefore, it’s important to integrate monitoring tools and notification systems to alert when there’s an error.
For DevOps teams, it’s important to ship software to users at the right time. Even with the microservice architecture, it can seem like a lot of work to deliver new versions to users when they’re scheduled. To achieve this, teams utilize a CI/CD pipeline.
In this post, we’ve explored microservices, including what they are and best practices to manage CI/CD.
Managing CI/CD in microservices isn’t a bed of roses. For instance, whether teams decide to go with the self-hosted or external CI/CD provider, they need to take security seriously.
The solution for this is packaging microservice components into security-isolated Docker or Kubernetes clusters. Control Plane provides this security for your microservice and CI/CD pipeline.
For instance, Control Plane provides a Terraform plugin to build your CI/CD pipeline. If you want to try out Control Plane, you can sign up for free here.