Build microservices apps on Azure Service Fabric

Azure Service Fabric, Microsoft's PaaS solution for microservices, provides a highly flexible framework for building cloud-scale applications. Here's how to take advantage of it

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If there’s one thing the cloud is good at, it’s hosting and running highly scalable applications. Unfortunately, by itself, the cloud doesn’t make building applications that can scale rapidly any easier. Distributed systems need to handle such complex issues as concurrency and consistency, which require new design patterns and new ways of working.

Technologies like Node.js are ideal for building microservices-based applications. But even if you employ tools like MQTT and Seneca, you still need to build your own management tooling to handle scaling. Yes, you can take advantage of AWS Lambda to work with Amazon’s PaaS-hosted Node.js to run at scale with external triggers driving applications, but that’s not the general-purpose cloud platform developers seek.

Microsoft’s next-generation PaaS

Enter Microsoft’s recently announced Azure Service Fabric, a complete reworking of Azure’s original PaaS for the modern cloud, with a focus on composing cloud-scale applications from clusters of microservices. Because Service Fabric is a PaaS, there’s no need to worry about servers or containers: The underlying high-density infrastructure is handled by Azure. It’s also a proven platform that today runs many core Microsoft services, including Cortana and Azure’s various database platforms.

While the original Azure PaaS was stateless, making it hard for developers coming from a traditional application development background to get comfortable, Service Fabric offers both stateful and stateless options. Both approaches have their benefits in the cloud. Maintaining state can be important in fault-tolerant systems, and the fact that this capability is built into Service Fabric means you don’t need to add extra layers to an application and increase latency.

One aspect of microservices that Azure Service Fabric brings to the fore is the mapping of microservices to user “stories.” In Service Fabric, a microservice can be a shopping cart, a user profile, or any other specific element of an application that needs to scale. Making a microservice user-centric puts a cognitive wrapper around it, so it’s easier to understand and implement. Scaling becomes a matter of scaling with the number of users and firing up services to match interactions.

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