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From Monolith to Microservices: Non-Technical Aspects of Migration

12/14/2023 Karolina Szafrańska


Technical input & supervision: Mykhailo Lasynskyi

The Domain Driven Design (DDD) approach and microservices architecture have emerged as promising solutions to the challenges of monolithic systems. While the appeal of streamlined maintenance, faster system deployment, and increased scalability is undeniable, the journey to microservices is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Organizational capability becomes a critical factor in determining the success of such a transformation.

One of the key benefits of adopting microservices is the autonomy it provides to development teams. The ability to make changes independently and to scale teams according to specific components or features can significantly increase agility and flexibility. However, before taking the plunge, it is critical to evaluate both technical and non-technical considerations.

Domain Driven Design: is the organization ready?

There are several key factors to consider before embarking on the migration journey. First, the decision-making process within the organization must be agile enough to accommodate potential changes. A fixed decision-making structure can inhibit the adaptability required during the migration process. In addition, defining roles for analyzing and overseeing the work becomes critical, especially when changes require coordinated efforts across multiple teams.

In a hierarchical enterprise, changes require multiple permissions. Unlike monoliths, where every change means adding code to the system, microservices architecture requires more frequent changes. Domain Driven Design (DDD) supports the adaptation of poorly partitioned domain systems by enabling the relocation of functionality. Difficulties arise when changes require approval each time, leading to potential blockages.

Domain Expert: a key person on a business side

According to DDD theory, during migration we need to communicate with a person who knows the business well, and divide the system into microservices based on their knowledge. These experts play a critical role in breaking down the monolith into microservices that align with the nuances of the business. Their involvement ensures that the migration is not just a technical overhaul, but a strategic alignment with business objectives. It is a good idea to make sure how such communication looks like in practice before making the final decision on migration.

The relationship between business and system is complex and varies across industries. In sectors like healthcare, business and systems can exist independently. However, for entities like, for example, Netflix or Spotify, the business’s value hinges on the functionality of the system. This dynamic influences who can perform the role of the domain expert, sometimes shifting from the business owner to some technical person who maintains the system. In such cases, businesses may expect continuity in operation but within a new architectural framework so it is always a good idea to keep that in mind during the analysis phase.

Deep Understanding of the Business Landscape

It is imperative to assess whether the organizational culture supports the necessary flexibility and whether stakeholders are prepared for a paradigm shift. Careful evaluation of both technical and organizational aspects will ensure that the migration to microservices becomes a catalyst for positive change rather than a disruptive force.

However, the effectiveness of the DDD approach and microservices depends on organizational level of preparation. While Domain Driven Design and microservices offer enticing solutions to the challenges of monolithic systems, their successful implementation requires a thorough assessment of organizational alignment. A strategic approach, collaborative engagement with domain experts, and a keen understanding of the business landscape are the compass points that can guide an organization through the transformation.

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