Microservices vs API: How Do They Differ?


June 22, 2022


March 28th, 2023

Category Blog, Java

The world of digital transformation witnesses two approaches being compared on a frequent basis – Microservices vs API. Both technologies are key to success for any type of application design and development in the software industry. Microservices is a popular approach that creates an application by breaking the functionality into modular components. APIs are part of software applications that communicate with other apps.

Both said and done, both play an integral role in the software development arena but have their own individual characteristics that must be understood and analyzed to get the best of them. Also, they have proven their worth by working together.

Through this article, let us glance at them individually and then compare API vs Microservices based on certain parameters. Also, it will be interesting to see how they together can work wonders.

What Are Microservices?

Microservices are a novel style of software development through which applications are divided into smaller components. Each small component is known as a service, a microservice in its true sense. Each microservice operates on its own independence as a part of the big system. They may rely on each other for sharing information or collaborating with each other. Microservices are an example of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Microservices are an architectural and organizational approach to software development where software is composed of small independent services that communicate over well-defined APIs. These services are owned by small, self-contained teams.

Source: aws.amazon.com

Why Use Microservices?

Microservices are important since they offer a great deal of flexibility and agility to developers. They are the modern-day architecture for software development and by breaking down large components into smaller, independent ones, they offer effective and simplistic application development.

They allow you to communicate easily with developers, offer scalability, integrate different types of services, and provide faster deployment and implementation. As against the traditional monolithic applications where a single unit handled all functions, here, the tasks are managed by separate self-contained services. Hence, instead of filling in all portions of the application in a single program, it is easy to delegate tasks separately and manage them easily. This new style of architecture becomes easy to separate components in case of any issues. The best part is that any hassle with one of the components will not affect the performance and security of the other components. They continue to work their own way, unharmed.

Microservices make it so easy for developing and maintaining applications. Since all individual components are managed separately, it becomes easy for developers to work on them in their own way and then integrate them as needed. They prove beneficial for enterprises since separate teams can keep working on their assigned components. Teams also find it easier to function within confined boundaries, lessening time to work and produce results.

Features Of Microservices:
  • Fast updates, save time and efforts
  • Simple to understand and highly accessible
  • Enhanced collaboration within teams
  • High-end security with independent modules
  • Robust, resilient, and flexible
  • Can be upscaled or downscaled based on needs
  • Faster time to market
  • Smaller and easier to deploy
  • Relies on APIs and API gateways for better communication
Who Uses Microservices?
  • Uber
  • Netflix
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Comcast Cable
  • Groupon
  • Hailo
  • Karma
  • Gilt
  • Zalando
  • Coca-Cola
  • Spotify
  • Lending Club

What Are APIs?

API stands for Application Programming Interface It is an integral part of software applications that communicate with other applications. It consists of a group of approaches and protocols that showcase the sharing and modification of data within two applications. APIs are a part of our modern-day digitization since they catalyze effective communication between applications that may be different in their own ways.

An application programming interface, or API, enables companies to open up their applications’ data and functionality to external third-party developers, business partners, and internal departments within their companies.

Source: ibm.com

APIs reside between the software components and the public domain so that programmers can access them as an interface within applications. They facilitate B2B communication and empower developers to avail application data and use its functionality. Many APIs are created for third parties (public API) and many are created for specific microservices (private API). Certain API design styles include REST, SOAP, RPC, GraphQL, etc.

Also Read: A Comprehensive Guide To APIs – A Rage In Software Development

What Are APIs Used For?

APIs are mainly used for enabling software integration between different components. They help implement a digitization strategy through which newer business avenues can be explored, business competencies can be shared, and higher client value can be created. APIs, being versatile can be created on different containerized services and can use many languages like Java, Go, Python, etc. APIs can be deployed on all popular cloud providers. APIs can enhance the useableness of your service to its best.

API Features:
  • Authorization via OAUTH and authentication
  • HTTPS certificate
  • Paging and sorting
  • JSON/REST support
  • Error handling
  • Search by criteria
  • Secured sharing of datasets
  • Collection of data for intelligence and analytics
  • Routing and proxying
Companies That Use API:

Some of the popularly known APIs in different categories like communication, location, entertainment, business, social services, etc. are

  • Gmail API
  • Google Analytics API
  • Twitter API
  • Instagram
  • NASA
  • Telegram
  • Amazon S3
  • Firebase
  • Spotify
  • ZenDesk
  • Agile CRM


Microservices vs API: A Detailed Evaluation

Parameters Microservices API
Overview An architectural component in which functionality is divided into independent services. Microservices offer a method of designing and developing software. An interface through which applications can interact with each other. APIs connect software components to each other. They are software associations with formal code. A set of communication protocols to create software.
Interdependency Microservices depend upon APIs for their functioning and for connecting services with each other. Microservice can be an API. One microservice can have one or more APIs. They break up large components into small, agile ones. APIs don’t need microservices for their functioning. They act as connectors between applications. API may/may not be a microservice. One API may be connected to one or more microservices.
Objective Offer a variety of components to applications Serve as an interface to a single or multiple application
Way of Working Microservices make use of APIs to connect to services APIs reveal services to make them useable
Sizing Microservices are smaller units in size APIs could be larger in size based on complexity
Build Time They build quickly They take a longer time to build
Viewability Microservices are organized around the business competencies and solve complex problems related to the functionalities APIs work under the skin and are directly called by other applications, as a reusable user interface that can be associated with ease.
Maintainability Applications are easy and simple to maintain because of their organized and modular structure APIs offer a simple way to connect, integrate and develop a software application with ease and efficacy
Utilization Microservices create software systems as a collection of independent, loosely coupled services APIs create distributed software systems with loosely coupled components

Managing Microservices With API: The Right Combination

Can API and Microservices work together? This is a very frequently asked question, and the answer is a Yes.

When we compare Microservice Vs API, the composition of a microservice application itself contains APIs. They work together by leveraging the integration capability of APIs to connect the services of a microservices architecture. Developers make sure that the individual services that compose the software are interlinked with each other. These microservices are from the same software yet independent in execution and that is where the APIs get them together.

Microservices depend on APIs. APIs turn beneficial as they connect to different microservices like ML as a Service, Function as a Service, Software as a Service, etc. APIs turn as the distributor tool between the microservices. Without it, there would be less connection between the microservices.

Within each microservice, each service bears its individual API that decides the requests received and its response. One API could be connected to multiple services or multiple API could be connected to a single service. APIs are used in microservices, but they have usages beyond that too, without a microservice.

Also Read: Java Microservices: Basics, Examples, Frameworks, Interview Questions

As We Wind Up Evaluating Microservices vs API

As we see the significance of Microservices and API on an individual basis, we also do understand their importance when they work together. Depending upon the user requirements, it must be decided whether to choose either of them or in conjunction with each other. As the microservices deal with an approach to create an application breaking down functions into smaller, modular components, APIs deal with communication within applications.

Both are important components of modernized application development. The comparison of Microservices vs API is an interesting one and gets going strong, as the world of digitization accepts them both as two popular technologies.


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