How small are micro-services?

Introduction

Sometimes you see heated discussions about the size of a micro-service. After all, they should be small as you can read from the definition. But small is a subjective concept and in the end, size doesn’t have the do anything with micro-services.

This is part of my monolith, micro-service and self-contained systems comparison blog series.

Single responsibility or Domain Driven Design (DDD)

Some people are so focused on the size (lines of code or number of classes) of their micro-service that they split up a micro-service or create some kind of strange construct.

But the single responsibility principle of a micro-service is much more important. The services are created to handle the logic of a domain.

In an online webshop, you could have some micro-services related to the order, product or payment management for example. And when there is some part of your application that needs the logic of that domain, it can call that micro-service.

Pizza someone?

Other people try to control the size of the micro-service by defining the number of people who are working in the team creating it.

Since each micro-service is ‘owned’ by a team, they define the team size as the number of people who has enough with 2 pizzas. The so-called pizza team.

But if you have ‘big eaters’ your team has then 3 persons, 1 analyst, 1 developer and 1 tester? The pizza team as a metric for the size of a micro-service doesn’t make any sense.

How small is small?

Well, as small or big as needed to create the logic around the domain for which the micro-service is designed. And in the case it happens to be 1 million lines of code, so be it. Ok, you should try to split your micro service then into different parts, each related to a subdomain in that case. But in a sense, there nothing wrong with bigger micro-services.

The lines of code is not an issue as long as it isn’t blocking the continuous delivery to production. When it tends to become a monolith where the development of a feature blocks the release of the micro-service to production, then you have an issue.

Conclusion

Forget about the lines of code or the number of people in the team which is creating the micro-service as a metric. That is not a good way to handle your micro-service architecture.

The main reason why you should do micro-services is that you have separate services, one for each domain of your application. And keep in mind that you should be able to go into production at any time with your micro-service. Don’t let a big feature block you to release some small updates you have done in your code.

Have fun.