A laptop, frappuccino, and pumpkin on a desk.

It’s the fall season in my corner of the world and that could only mean one thing: the annual appearance of all things pumpkin.

As the weather begins its autumnal change, so too does the flavoring of nearly every consumable imaginable. Coffee, cereal, donuts – you name it – take on the hue and scent of what marketers commonly call “pumpkin spice.” It’s bandwagon jumping, plain and simple, a seasonal ritual to pump up sales by hijacking something trendy. And, truth be told, the vast majority of “pumpkin spice” products lack even a trace of pumpkin or anything that could be considered a spice.

The technology side of the broadcast industry is currently experiencing a similar phenomenon. In this case, though, the artificial additive is microservices, with a dash of cloud-native. It was bound to happen. The benefits of a true microservices-based architecture are too compelling to ignore and those that lack an authentic offering now have the need to wrap up their existing wares in something that at least gives off the aroma of microservices.

I’m helpless to put an end to my pumpkin-spiced autumn. It is a marketing-fueled, orange-hued bulldozer that cannot be stopped or slowed. Assisting media companies in sorting real microservices from the artificial, though, is a different story.

What follows is a microservices detector test — three questions you need to ask before you can call your workflows microservices-based.

Is the solution as lean as it can be?

What makes a microservice micro is the quality of representing the minimum amount of functionality put into the network that is capable of returning real business value. Count the number of features in an autonomous component driving your workflow and if you get to 2, it isn’t a microservice. And don’t be fooled by applications that allow for plugins. That’s not a microservices-based application, either. Component technology should stand alone and allow a ground-up approach to building the most efficient solution possible. Developing lean, componentized applications is a relatively new undertaking. Solutions that go back a few years are probably not built on a microservices architecture, and likely not equipped to meet today’s challenges.

All cloud-native applications are built against industry standards and are bereft of proprietary communications mechanisms.

Is the solution designed and built to be cloud-native?

For a quick tutorial on cloud-native vs cloud-enabled, here’s a handy comparison. Though deployable in any environment, including on-premises, microservices are the building blocks of cloud-native application. All cloud-native applications are built against industry standards and are bereft of proprietary communications mechanisms. They embrace open and common APIs for consistent management of the underlying services. And they are portable across all environments, accompanied by tools for optimizing the solution for different environments. Not cloud-native? Not a microservice. So-called shift & lift applications, monolithic apps that have been placed in an IP wrapper and relocated to the cloud, are further explained in this recent Videonet article.

Does the solution allow for truly efficient operations?

How microservices can be combined within a workflow has significant impact on overall efficiency. Does your application allow for multiple services to be easily combined (known as service composition) into a highly efficient solution or service chain? A truly efficient microservices platform will allow for in-memory composition of services, rather than at the network level, which maximizes the value (lower cost, easier deployment, higher performance) of the solution. Eliminating the need to connect microservices at the network level saves on ports and bandwidth. And being able to eliminate disk storage as an interim step improves end-to-end performance dramatically. Similarly, eliminating complex and fragile software adapters to translate between APIs also provides for more robust and seamless operations.

If you can answer “yes” to all of the above, congratulations! You’ve passed the microservices detector test. Your reward is the peace of mind and confidence that comes with knowing you’re constructing an infrastructure using building blocks that ensure optimal efficiency, agility and flexibility.

What the heck, we’ll also throw in all the pumpkin spice donuts you can eat.

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portatif of Steve Reynolds


Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is President of Imagine Communications, a global leader in multiscreen video and ad management solutions that broadcasters, networks, video service providers and enterprises around the world rely on to support their mission-critical operations.

Steve brings 25 years of technology leadership in the video industry to Imagine Communications. He has served as the CTO at Imagine Communications and Harris Broadcast, Senior Vice President of Premises Technology at Comcast, Senior Vice President of Technology at OpenTV, and CTO at Intellocity USA.

Steve earned a MS in Computer Engineering from Widener University and BS in Computer Science from West Chester University. As the Chairman of the AIMS Alliance and a member of SMPTE and SCTE, he has participated in numerous standards-making bodies in the cable and digital video industries. Steve also holds over 40 patents relating to digital video, content security, interactive television and digital devices.