Guest View: Microservices or death: Diffusing the monolith time bomb

Guest View: Microservices or death: Diffusing the monolith time bomb

Guest View: Microservices or death: Diffusing the monolith time bomb
When a company embarks on “digital transformation,” it often has to modify its existing software systems. This can become excruciatingly difficult in large organizations with software monoliths—large, custom-built software systems with multiple development teams working on the same codebase.

A common response from companies with their backs up against the “monolithic wall” is to hire executives from well-known tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others to “digitally transform” them. This often involves replatforming to a new architecture that leverages microservices and APIs.

Frequently, when this new technical leadership comes in, they bring their most trusted developers with them. (I personally experienced the same at Dell, where I, an ex-Amazonian, and other leaders from BEA, eBay, Microsoft and Amazon set out to transform their e-commerce experience.)

This can help speed up the transition to microservices, but there’s also a shelf life to how long good developers are willing to stick it out. If the monolithic stack doesn’t go, the good developers will.

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Trouble is, monoliths are notoriously pesky, and replatforming isn’t always as easy as it seems. At the end of the day, the transition to microservices has less to do with technology and more to do with managing people and vendors. Leaders who think they can build new software and avoid touching legacy systems and confronting organizational roadblocks are fooling themselves. There’s simply too much inertia to avoid these challenges and replatform to a new architecture the right way.

While failure to make the transition can amount to career suicide, recognizing the real challenges can lead to success.

Embracing vs. resisting change A change leader should first recognize that not everyone in their company is willing to accept change.

Like it or not, there will always be two groups of developers in your organization: Those who embrace and drive change, and those who resist it at every turn. Competent and well-intentioned as this latter group may be, changing their attitude to follow the new microservices model is a cultural shift that must happen—and sooner rather than later.

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Often, this shift involves long, painful meetings, and sometimes even letting people go. Even Amazon, the poster child of service-oriented architecture, required a top-down directive from Jeff Bezos before turning the corner.

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