Don’t use services unless you necessarily need them

There are multiple factors or requirements that might lead you to refactor some functionality into services. Here are some examples,

  • You have explicit requirements to distribute work across machines. This is a typical example of smart client applications (i.e. Silverlight apps), which runs a thin UI layer and have all the backend logic as part of services.
  • You need to run code remotely in a specific machine, so a good choice is to expose that as a service.  
  • You need to expose certain functionally of your system to other parties in a loosely coupled manner. Other parties in this context could mean anything such as other applications in the same organization, third party client applications, etc.
  • You have some CPU intensive code that you might want to execute in another machine to do some load balancing.

If you don’t have any of these requirements, you might want to think twice before coming up with the crazy idea of building services because you just think it is cool. The idea of building services must born from explicit requirements in the system you are creating, and that must be planned carefully. 

A common problem I usually see is that many developers or architects opt to build services to follow old principles of work distribution like you find in N-Tier applications, so they end up with tons of services that only makes sense in the context of the application they are building, but not as a unit of reuse.  In many cases, these services are usually UI driven, which means they are tied to the UI workflow and does not have a well defined interface.

Here is where I recommend to stick to the Martin Fowler’s first law of distribution, “Don’t distribute your objects”. Using a different layer with services for your business logic to solve scalability issues don’t necessarily makes sense these days. That’s a problem you can usually solve by scaling horizontally with additional web servers to support more user requests at the same time. If you still need to reuse some logic from different places within your application, nothing prevents you from moving all that logic to common libraries that run within the same process.

Services when used incorrectly only adds more complexity to the solution you are creating. You have an additional layer to maintain and configure, and configuring services is not something trivial. Unless you don’t use a central repository, you will probably run into a configuration hell with configuration files everywhere.  This generally leads to maintainability issues in the long run.

In conclusion, avoid distributing work with services unless you really need it.

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