Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"The Death of Big Software"

The current edition of our ESaaS textbook makes the case that as early as 2007, Jeff Bezos was pushing Amazon towards an "API only" integration strategy, in which all services would have to be designed with externalizable APIs and all inter-service communication (even inside the company) would have to occur over those APIs.  We pointed out that this service-decomposition approach to designing a large service—i.e. compose it from many microservices—was one of the first highly-visible successes of "service-oriented architecture," which in 2011 had begun to acquire a reputation as a content-free buzzphrase bandied by technomarketeer wanna-be's. Indeed, I've recently reported on other CACM pieces extolling the benefits of microservices-based architecture and how such an organization enables a more agile approach to Dev/Ops.

As we reported in ESaaS, enormous monolithic projects (the opposite of SOA) fail too often, are too complex to manage, and so on. Since small agile teams (Bezos calls them "2-pizza teams") work best on modest-sized projects, all the more reason to decompose a very large service into its component parts, and put a small agile team on each part. But a Viewpoint (op-ed) article in the December 2017 CACM goes farther and asserts simply that "big" monolithic software systems are dead.  In addition to the execution problems, big monolithic systems, with their implied vendor lock-in and very long development cycles, are anathema to a nimble business. And the advent of inexpensive cloud computing removed an important deployment obstacle to "going SOA", since a multi-component app could be deployed and accessed from anywhere, even if the components came from different vendors.

All of which is to say that the time is more than ripe for the Second Edition of ESaaS (probably coming sometime next year) to take an "API first" approach to service design: rather than thinking in terms of an app and its features, for the architecture design phase think in terms of resources (in the REST sense) and operations you want to expose on them. Expect a thoroughly revamped discussion of SaaS architecture including a précis of the last 5-8 years of evolution, quickly accelerating from the early stumbling blocks of SOAP-based SOA through the growth of simple HTTP/XML/JSON-based RESTful services and now to an "API first" microservices design approach.  SwaggerHub, here we come!


  1. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Fantastic read.

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  4. Former developer on SwaggerHub here, now an educator about to teach a Software Engineering module and looking to adopt the ESaaS approach. Looking forward to the second edition! (Proud owner of v0.8.5).