Monday, May 26, 2014

Transactions and Microservices

I've written elsewhere that I think the term Microservices is really just referring to good SOA principles (why we need another term I really don't quite understand). But for whatever reason, articles and blog entries on Microservices seem to be in vogue at the moment. A recent entry on InfoQ goes into some depth on various aspects of what they are and how to use them. Unfortunately the author talks about transactions in the context of Microservices (aka SOA) and has this to say:

"One solution, of course, is to use distributed transactions. For example, when updating a customer’s credit limit, the CustomerService could use a distributed transaction to update both its credit limit and the corresponding credit limit maintained by the OrderService. Using distributed transactions would ensure that the data is always consistent. The downside of using them is that it reduces system availability since all participants must be available in order for the transaction to commit. Moreover, distributed transactions really have fallen out of favor and are generally not supported by modern software stacks, e.g. REST, NoSQL databases, etc."

Huh? This paragraph is wrong on so many levels that I really don't know where to start! For a start "generally not supported by modern software stacks"? Seriously?! Others have spoken about REST and transactions for years, but we've done our own work for over a decade! You also don't have to look too far on this blog for references to NoSQL and transactions (extended transactions or ACID). And of course there's Google's Spanner! ACID transaction support is a key part of this!

Over the years during the initial SOA, WS-* and REST debates kicking transactions out of the picture was a convenient thing for many people to do. Fortunately sanity and better understanding of where they can and should be used has seen them and their variants returning to these environments. I had hoped that those days were over, but it seems that with Microservices we're turning back the clock yet again. Oh well, time to dust off those old papers, blog posts etc. as it seems there's life left in them thanks to Microservices!
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