How Netflix OSS Helps Companies Build Microservices Architectures

Netflix was among the first companies to publicize its move to microservices from a monolithic architecture. The Netflix backend application has been powered by microservices since 2009. The entire customer-facing Netflix website has run entirely on AWS and microservices since the end of 2010, and the company has been sharing information about its technology use since 2010. In 2012, Netflix began to open-source its code, allowing other companies to use its libraries to build their own AWS cloud-based microservices architectures.

This article, part of ProgrammableWeb’s microservices series, highlights several Netflix open source software projects for building microservices architectures and highlights other microservices-related open source software projects.

Netflix OSS for Building Microservices Architectures

The official Netflix OSS site, currently lists more than 30 open source projects, some of them extending beyond microservices. The code helps developers handle several aspects of cloud platform development, such as big data analytics, storing and serving data in the cloud, improving performance, and ensuring security at scale.

Here we focus on some of the most popular Netflix OSS projects for building microservices architectures.

Archaius

Archaius is a Java library for distributed configuration. It includes a set of APIs that Netflix uses for configuration management. Netflix built Archaius to enable changes to the behavior of deployed services dynamically at runtime. This ability helps ensure the availability of deployed applications and also allows properties to be changed dynamically. For example, specific application features could be enabled or disabled dynamically based on the request context, such as the country of origin, specific server region, specific server instance, or the user’s device.

Eureka

Eureka is a REST-based registry service that features the Eureka Client, a Java-based client component that improves interactions with the service. Eureka includes a built-in load balancer using basic round-robin load balancing for mid-tier load balancing.

Microservices architectures often consist of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of fine-grained services. Amazon Web Services (AWS) adds additional wrinkles. As the Eureka documentation explains, “In AWS cloud, because of its inherent nature, servers come and go. Unlike the traditional load balancers which work with servers with well-known IP addresses and host names, in AWS, load balancing requires much more sophistication in registering and de-registering servers with load balancer on the fly. Since AWS does not yet provide a middle tier load balancer, Eureka fills a big gap in the area of mid-tier load balancing.” Eureka makes it possible for clients to discover the addresses of available endpoints; it also keeps track of application- -specific Web service metadata and Web service availability.

Hystrix

Availability is one of the most important benefits of building applications based on microservices architecture. Netflix built Hystrix, a latency and fault tolerance library, as a means to control the interactions between microservices. The library isolates points of access between microservices, which helps prevent cascading failures and fault tolerance problems.

Hystrix helps prevent distributed systems from going down due to failures of individual services or dependencies. Hystrix does this by isolating points of access between third-party libraries and services, stopping cascading failures across services, providing fall-back options, and gracefully degrading when possible.

In its announcement post, Netflix explained, "Tens of billions of thread-isolated and hundreds of billions of semaphore-isolated calls are executed via Hystrix every day at Netflix and a dramatic improvement in uptime and resilience has been achieved through its use."

Ribbon

Ribbon is a client-side inter-process communication (IPC) library which takes advantage of client-side software load balancing algorithms, including load balancing strategies such as simple round robin, weighted response time, zone -aware round robin, and random load balancing. Among the modules are several REST APIs, such as APIs to integrate load balancing, fault tolerance, client configuration. Netflix described its use in a blog post, wherein engineers use Hystrix to wrap Ribbon API calls for a greater tolerance of failure and latency.

Distributed applications often consist of dozens, sometimes hundreds of services. In a large microservices architecture, communicating between services could take many network hops.  Enabling a client-side load balancer like Ribbon in a microservices architecture helps reduce latency, because it allows services to intercommunicate using one network hop. Ribbon reduces the number of hops needed to communicate between services reducing latency, which in turn improves performance.

Zuul

In many ways, Zuul is the glue holding together the Netflix microservices architecture. It provides insights into other components of the Netflix architecture and makes it possible for Netflix engineers to find, isolate, and fix problems among the massive number of requests.

Netflix uses Zuul as a gateway service for its streaming application and the Netflix API. Among its functions are dynamic routing, canary and stress testing, load shedding, static response handling, authentication and security, and insights and monitoring.

Zuul provides a unified interface for distributed applications. This means that Web browsers, game consoles, and mobile applications can consume services from multiple hosts without having to manage authentication or cross-origin resource sharing (CORS) for each and every Web service in a distributed application.

Companies Using and Contributing to Netflix OSS Projects

Once Netflix open-sourced its code, plenty of developers took advantage and contributed to make the libraries even more powerful. Today, quite a few companies have built microservices architectures with the help of Netflix OSS and are active contributors to Netflix OSS projects. Here are a just a few examples.

Dynatrace

Dynatrace, which provides full-stack performance management tools,  implemented Eureka and Hystrix to support its monitoring of the orchestration layer in microservices environments, according to a recent Dynatrace Ruxit blog post. Organizations that use Dynatrace can add Netflix OSS monitoring by downloading a plugin file and uploading it to their Dynatrace Ruxit environments.

Nirmata

A detailed Nirmata post explains how the company moved to a microservices architecture using a combination of Netflix OSS and Docker.  Recognizing that they needed more infrastructure components than regular three-tier applications (such as a service registry, traffic gateway to control the traffic to the services, and a framework to develop uniform REST API), Nirmata turned to the Netflix code, because “Netflix infrastructure has been battle tested at scale … real scale.” Four Netflix OSS components --– Zuul, Eureka, Archaius, and Ribbon – allowed the company to deliver on their promises of continuous delivery and helped the company focus on solving challenges related to distributed applications.

Ordina

Earlier this year, Ordina was officially added to the list of active users and contributors to Netflix OSS. The announcement blog post mentions that the company has successfully helped clients in Belgium move to microservices by using the Netflix and Spring Cloud stack. Spring Cloud Netflix (by Pivotal) provides Netflix OSS integrations for Spring Boot apps, making it easier for companies to adopt and use microservices.

Other Microservices Open Source Software Projects

Netflix was among the first companies to release open source software for microservices architectures, but others have joined in the fun. Here are just a few:

Apollo

Launched in May 2015 by Capgemini, Apollo is an open source platform for powering microservices, big data platforms, and next generation applications. Capgemini’s Apollo project was initially used internally to power microservices and big data platforms for its clients.

fabric8

Part of a community of Red Hat projects, fabric8 is an open source platform for creating and managing microservices and integrations. Based on Docker, Kubernetes, and Jenkins, fabric8 aims to make it easier for developers to deploy Java integration solutions and services on multiple machines as well as in containers, processes, and JVMs.

Gizmo

The New York Times’ Gizmo is an open source tool kit to help developers build microservices APIs and pub/sub daemons written in the Go programming language. According to the announcement post, The New York Times uses Go primarily for building JSON APIs.

Kong

Kong is an open source, scalable API gateway that was first released by Mashape in April 2015. Its API gateway provides a single, unified entry point whereby clients can access the multiple services of a distributed application. Mashape originally built Kong to secure, manage, and extend the thousands of APIs and microservices for its API marketplace.

Mantl

Mantl is an open source project built by Cisco to help developers deploy its own microservices platform without having to write any glue code. Mantl combines Docker, Mesos, Terraform, and other core components. According to the documentation, “The base platform contains control nodes that manage the cluster and any number of agent nodes. Containers automatically register themselves into DNS so that other services can locate them.”

Spring Cloud

Spring Cloud is part of Spring (by Pivotal), an open source application development framework for enterprise Java. Spring Cloud includes several projects that involve microservices, including; Spring Cloud Data Flow, Spring Cloud Stream, Spring Cloud Stream Modules, and Spring Cloud Task. Spring Cloud Netflix is a project that provides Netflix OSS integrations (Eureka, Hystrix, Zuul, and Ribbon) for Spring Boot apps.

...And that’s just the beginning

Netflix continues to provide open source software for many of the technologies that power its cloud platform including technologies for powering microservices. Many companies have built AWS cloud-based distributed applications, thanks to the open source software provided by Netflix.

 

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