Reflections on the first day of µCon

I spent today in London, attending the first day of µCon, a conference dedicated to microservices. A lot of delegates seemed to be in the same position as me – working with a monolithic application that needs separating. Microservices are certainly not the answer to my problems, but many of the techniques and architectures will help me. The most relevant session was Chipping Away at a Monolith by Mark Landeryou and Steve McDonald from SagePay, which gave me a lot to think about.

Some other immediate responses:

  • There was a great deal of pragmatism. As enthusiastic as people were about microservices, there was an air of caution rather than triumphalism. This is a good solution in some situations but certainly not a silver bullet.
  • The question of technical debt came up a lot. I’ve read several things recently questioning the use of the term ‘technical debt‘, and some of the speakers took a similar view. I’m often seeing it used thoughtlessly and dangerously.
  • Many microservice architectures have focussed on HTTP/REST, but some of the other options (pub/sub messaging, thrift) are interesting.
  • Conway’s Law is a constant reference point, and I need to sit down and read the original paper. I find myself wondering recently why we even organise programmers into IT departments rather than place them in the business where they are needed.
  • The Unix Philosophy came up a lot too, with one speaker describing Unix pipes as the most perfect API ever invented.
  • My main concern with microservices is that they are an ideal. Most people have good intentions but still somehow find themselves dealing with difficult codebases. Greenfield development is rare and temporary. Maybe we need conferences focussed on monolith programming – but I expect that would be a hard sell

Another early start tomorrow for day 2. It’s going to take me a few days to read through the notes I made properly (21 pages so far), but I’m looking forward to another day of talks.

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