May 18, 2024

WordPress is a powerful Content Management System (CMS) that can lay the foundation for different types of sites and apps. This uses a typical ‘monolithic architecture,’ but as a site grows, this may not be the best fit. This is where a ‘microservices architecture’ can be beneficial.

For this post, we’ll explore how you can build WordPress web apps using a microservices architecture. We’ll also introduce the Create Block Theme plugin and discuss how this exciting solution fits into your development too.

What microservices are

Before building any web app, you should understand microservices and how they differ from monolithic architectures.

With monolithic architecture, there is a tight coupling between all an application’s components. It essentially runs as a single service. It’s a simple way to develop an app, although maintenance and scalability can become a challenge as it gains complexity.

In contrast, microservices help you break down the app into a collection of smaller services. Each service is independent from one another regarding development, deployment, and scaling.

Each service handles a specific task and will communicate with the other services through an application programming interface (API). For example, consider a typical ecommerce site with a cart, checkout, order processing, product page, and more.

The DARTDrones website showing one of its ecommerce pages.

In a monolithic architecture, all these features would be part of a single, large application. WordPress is monolithic, and using Woo as your ecommerce platform is an excellent example.

However, implementing a microservices architecture can let you use the right technology for each task. For instance, you could use WordPress’ best-in-class CMS for your content marketing. Adobe Commerce could be your product management system. A checkout solution such as Bolt could fit your needs.

A woman wearing green pants is treading while holding a large turquoise shopping bag, set against a bright yellow and white background with abstract geometric shapes and the text
The Bolt website.

Gluing these together is possible with microservices. Next, let’s talk about why microservices should be a big consideration for your next project in greater detail.

What makes microservices stand out from monolithic architectures

The high-level ‘elevator pitch’ for microservices is how you can combine different technologies and tools to create a whole. However, there are other, deeper characteristics that are worth noting:

  • Decoupling. Each service maintains independence. This means you can use the best tech for each job rather than cope with unsuitable frameworks.
  • Autonomy. By extension, the services you integrate don’t need to rely on each other for performant running.
  • Specialization. Of course, each service will focus on its own job, which again impacts performance.
  • Resilience. Part of this inherent and performant asset is that one service failure won’t bring down your entire site.

There are even more advantages when using microservices, over and above these aspects:

  • Scalability. You’re able to scale individual services based on individual needs without impacting the rest of your app.
  • Flexibility. We’ve already outlined briefly how your services can use the best technology for their job. This even extends to the programming languages you use to create them.
  • Faster development. You can develop small and focused services quicker, better understand your service’s functionality, and maintain the system with greater ease.
  • Improved fault isolation. With the ‘modular’ setup, you can isolate a service if it fails without affecting your other services.

On the other hand, microservices can introduce complexity for communication, data consistency, and managing distributed systems. As such, you must weigh up your app’s requirements carefully. In short, consider both the benefits and the trade-offs before you decide to use microservices.

The components of a microservices architecture

As you’d expect, a microservices architecture can consist of several components. These ‘cogs’ work together in the entire ‘wheel’ to provide a scalable and maintainable app.

As such, there are some components that are key to a smooth implementation:

  • API gateway: This is the entry point for any client requests. It moves those requests to the appropriate microservices. It can also handle tasks such as rate limiting and authentication.
  • Service discovery: You will need to employ a dynamic way to let microservices discover and communicate with each other. Tools such as Consul or Eureka can help here.
  • Containerization: It’s common to package and deploy microservices as containers using tools such as Docker. This is how you provide isolation for each service.
  • Orchestration: As you add microservices to your app, managing them becomes more complex. A tool such as Kubernetes can help to automate this service management.
  • Caching: Caching mechanisms such as Redis or Memcached will often improve performance. This can be crucial, given the greater strain on your backend services and databases.
  • Messaging: Of course, your services need to talk to each other too. This is the job of ‘asynchronous’ messaging solutions such as RabbitMQ or Apache Kafka. These ‘message brokers’ enable a loose coupling between your microservices.

Tools are only one aspect of your setup, though. There are other considerations, such as how you’ll design each microservice within the full architecture.

Design patterns for microservices

Your design patterns for microservices matter just as much here as elsewhere in your development workflow. Given the potential complexity across your app, it’s important to consider which patterns will have the greatest impact. There are three we can point out:

  • Database-per-service: Each microservice uses its own dedicated database, which helps with data isolation and autonomy.
  • API composition: You can compose microservices to create higher-level services or APIs. This flexibility and reusability is a top benefit.
  • Event-driven architecture: Here, services will communicate through events. This facilitates a looser coupling and asynchronous processing.

It’s also vital to factor in specific design patterns for the tools you’ll use to build your architecture. For example, Docker and Kubernetes both have typical patterns that you’ll consider alongside the global design your architecture takes.

However, understand that not every component needs to be a microservice. The right idea is to begin with key services and evolve the architecture over time. Later, we’ll discuss this in more detail. First, we should look at how to develop the frontend.

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