Micro Blog

Micro 3.0 (M3O) is a platform for cloud native development

This is the official announcement for the release of Micro 3.0 better known as M3O - a platform for cloud native development. Our 3.0 release is a major refactor and consolidation of the existing tooling into something that addresses the entire workflow of build, run, manage and consume all from the developers perspective.

Read on to learn more or go straight to the latest release. Head to m3o.com for the hosted offering.

Overview

Micro focuses on developer productivity for the backend. It’s clear that the Cloud has become infinitely more complex over the past few years. Micro attempts to create order out of that chaos by distilling it all down to a handful of primitives for distributed systems development.

Why should you care? If you’re reading this you’ve no doubt encountered the tedious nature of infrastructure management, wrangling a kubernetes cluster on AWS or the thousands of things you need to do to cobble together a platform before starting to build a product. We think we’ve nailed the solution for that just as Android did for Mobile. Keep reading if you want to find out more.

Quick Flashback

Micro started out as a toolkit for microservices development, incorporating an api gateway, web dashboard and cli to interact with services built using a Go RPC framework. Back then it felt like getting anyone to buy into PaaS again was going to be a losing battle. So we chose to write single purpose tools around an RPC framework thinking it might allow people to adopt it piece by piece until they saw the need for a platform. It was really straight forward right until it wasn’t.

There was a simple Go framework plus some surrounding components to query and interact with them, but like any long lived project, the complexity grew as we tried to solve for that platform experience that just couldn’t be done with a swiss army knife. The repo exploded with a number of independent libraries. To the creator its obvious what these are all for but to the user there is nothing but cognitive overload.

In 2019 we went through a consolidation of all those libraries which helped tremendously but there was still always one outstanding question. What’s the difference between micro and go-micro? It’s a good question and one we’ve covered before. We saw go-micro as a framework and micro as a toolkit but these words were basically empty and meaningless because multiple projects working in coordination really need a crisp story that makes sense and we didn’t have one.

In 2020 we’re looking to rectify that but let’s first let’s talk about platforms.

PaaS in 2020

5 years ago the world exploded with a proliferation of “cloud native” tooling as containers and container orchestration took centre stage. More specifically, Docker and Kubernetes redefined the technology landscape along with a more conscious move towards building software in the cloud.

Micro took a forward looking view even as far back as 2015. It was clear distributed systems and cloud native was going to become the dominant model for backend services development over the coming years but, what wasn’t clear is just how long we’d spend wrangling all sorts tools like docker, kubernetes, grpc, istio and everything else. It felt like we were rebuilding the stack and weren’t really ready to talk about development aspects of it all.

In fact at that time, people mostly wanted to kick the tyres on all these tools and piece something together. Running kubernetes yourself became all the rage and even using service mesh as the holy grail for solving all your distributed systems problems. Many of us have come to realise while all of this tech is fun it’s not actually solving development problems.

We’ve gotten to the point of managed kubernetes and even things like Google Cloud Run or DigitalOcean App Platform, but none of these things are helping with a development model for a cloud native era. Our frustrations with the existing developer experience have grown and Micro felt like something that could solve for all that, but only if we took a drastic step to overhaul it.

We think PaaS 3.0 is not just about running your container or even your source code but something that encapsulates the entire developer experience including a model for writing code for the cloud. Based on that Micro 3.0 aka M3O is a platform for cloud native development.

What even is Cloud Native?

What is cloud native? What does it mean to build for the cloud? What is a cloud service?

Cloud native is basically a descriptive term for something that was built to run in the cloud. That’s it. It’s not magic, it might sound like a buzzword, but the reality is it simply means, that piece of software was built to run in the cloud. How does that differ from the way we used to build before? Well the idea behind the cloud is that its ephemeral, scalable and everything can be accessed via an API.

Our expectation for services running in the cloud is that they’re mostly stateless, leveraging external services for the persistence, that they are identified by name rather than IP address and they themselves provide an API that can be consumed by multiple clients such as web, mobile and cli or other services.

Cloud native applications are horizontally scalable and operate within domain boundaries that divide them as separate apps which communicate over the network via their APIs rather than as one monolithic entity. We think cloud services require a fundamentally different approach to software creation and why Micro 3.0 was designed with this in mind.

Micro 3.0 aka M3O

Micro 3.0 (M3O) reimagines Micro as a platform for cloud native development. What does that mean? Well we think of it as PaaS 3.0, a complete solution for source to running and beyond. Micro has moved from just being a Go framework to incorporating a standalone server and hosted platform. Our hosted offering is called M3O, a hat tip to Micro 3.0 or M[icr]o, whichever way you want to see it.

Another way to think about it. What Git is to GitHub, Micro is to the M3O platform. Let’s dig into it.

Micro 3.0 includes the following.

Server

The server is our abstraction for cloud infrastructure and underlying systems you might need for writing distributed systems. The server encapsulates all of these concerns as gRPC services which you can query via any language. The goal here is to say developers don’t really need to be thinking about infrastructure but what they do need is design patterns and primitives for building distributed systems.

The server includes the following:

Clients

The server provides inter-service communication and two means of external communication with a HTTP API and gRPC proxy but that experience is made much better when there’s user experience on the client side that works. Right now we’ve got two ways of doing this.

Framework

One thing we really understood from our time working on go-micro was that the developer experience really matters. We see Go as the dominant language for the cloud and believe most backend services in the cloud will be written in Go. For that reason we continue to include a Service Framework which acts as a framework for building your services and accessing the underlying systems of the server.

The Service Framework provides pre-initialised packages for all of the features of the server and creates a convenient initialiser for defining your own services starting with service.New. A Service has a name, endpoints, contains a server of its own and a client to query other services. The framework does enough for you but then attempts to get out of your way so the rest is up to you.

A main package for a Micro service looks something like this

package main

import (
	"github.com/micro/micro/v3/service"
	"github.com/micro/micro/v3/service/logger"
	"github.com/micro/services/helloworld/handler"
)

func main() {
	// Create service
	srv := service.New(
		service.Name("helloworld"),
	)

	// Register Handler
	srv.Handle(new(handler.Helloworld))

	// Run the service
	if err := srv.Run(); err != nil {
		logger.Fatal(err)
	}
}

When you want to make use of something like the Config service just import it like so.

import "github.com/micro/micro/v3/service/config"

val, err := config.Get("key")

You can find many more examples in github.com/micro/services.

Environments

From our experience writing software isn’t constrained to a single environment. Most of the time we’re doing some form of local development followed by a push to staging and then production. We don’t really see tools capturing that workflow effectively. Thinking about how to do this now we’ve built in environments as a first class system.

M3O offers 3 builtin environments; local, dev and platform.

Our goal here is to really direct the flow from local > dev > platform as the lifecycle for any backend service development. Start by running the server locally, writing your code and getting it to work. Ship it to the dev environment for further testing but also to collaborate with others and serve it publicly. Then if you’re interested in a scalable and supported production environment, pay for the platform environment. That’s it.

Interact with the environments like so.

# view the environments
micro env

# set the environment
micro env set dev

# add a new environment
micro env add foobar proxy.foo.com:443

Micro isn’t constrained to our built in environments. You can add others as you wish.

Local Environment

The local environment is just that, your local laptop. Its where development starts and normally this requires you to run all sorts of crazy infrastructure. Micro focuses on providing pluggable abstractions as gRPC services so your service just talks gRPC directly to Micro and we hide the details from you. Locally that means we’re using best effort stuff like mdns, file storage, etc.

We’ve almost made it drop dead simple to start locally. You just run one command.

micro server

This will boot all the services you need and let you build a service that will look identical in any cloud environment running Micro as a Service.

Set your environment to the local server when using it.

micro env set local

Curl localhost:8080 with your namespace

curl -H "Micro-Namespace: $NAMESPACE" "http://localhost:8080/helloworld?name=Alice"

Get your namespace like so

micro user namespace

This might be blank locally but you’ll get the idea for how namespace isolation works in a bit.

Dev Environment

The ‘dev’ environment is a free cloud hosted environment that provides Micro 3.0 as a Service. What we’ve learned in the past few years is that open source is not enough. There’s some great open source tools out there but as soon as we get to deployment there’s so many hurdles to overcome. The dev enviroment provides everyone the ability to get up and running in minutes with the same tools you’d use for local development in the cloud.

All you have to do is set the env to ‘dev’ and use it like local.

If you’re using the dev environment URLs are *.m3o.dev. Find more details at m3o.dev

Platform Environment

The ‘platform’ environment is a secure, scalable and supported production environment for where you’d likely run customer facing services and products. This is a paid tier with 2x the resource limits of dev to start including slack & email support along with SLAs. You can think of it as the equivalent of a production platform you’ve come to know at any work place.

Our goal with Local, Dev and Platform is to invoke that workflow we’ve all come to know and expect as a real product. These are totally separate environments and they’re managed exactly as that with M3O as well.

Multi-Tenancy and Namespacing

With the advent of a system like kubernetes and a push towards the cloud we can see that there’s really a need to move towards shared resource usage. The cloud isn’t cheap and we don’t all need to be running separate kubernetes clusters. In fact wouldn’t it be great if we could share that? Well Micro is doing it. We build in multi-tenancy using the same logic kubernetes does called Namespaces.

We’ve mapped this same experience locally so you get a rudimentary form of namespacing for local dev but mostly we’re making use of kubernetes namespaces in production along with a whole host of custom written isolation mechanisms for authentication, storage, configuration, event streaming, etc so Micro 3.0 can be used to host more than one tenant.

Whether you decide to self host and share your cluster for dev, staging and production we felt like multi-tenancy needs to become a defacto standard in 2020. How it works in practice. Each tenant get’s a namespace. That namespace has its own isolated set of users and resources in each subsystem. When you make any request as a user or service, a JWT token is passed with that so the underlying systems can route to the appropriate resources.

Once you’ve signed up to the dev environment your namespace will be set for you. You can get it using the command

micro user namespace

When you’re using any sort of CLI commands, your namespace and auth token are automatically injected into request including refreshing those tokens. The same happens for any of your services running on Micro. If you want to use the http API or the public api url [api.m3o.dev] then go ahead and grab your namespace and set the header as Micro-Namespace.

Additionally each namespace gets its own custom domain so the foobar namespace becomes foobar.m3o.dev with say the helloworld service routing would be to foobar.m3o.dev/helloworld.

Source to Running

Micro was built out of a frustration with the existing tools out there. One of the things I’ve really been saying for a long time is that I wanted “source to running” in just one command. With Heroku we sort of got that but it really took too much away from us. Back in 2010 Heroku was focused on monolithic Rails development. Since then I’ve really said Heroku took too much away and AWS gave too much back. We needed something in between.

Micro can take your source code, from a local directory or a repo thats hosted on github, gitlab or bitbucket. In one command it will upload or pull from the relevant place, package it as a container and run it. That’s it. Source to running in just one command. No more need to deal with the pipeline, no more hacking away at containers and the container registries. Write some code and run it.

Development Model

Source to running is cool. It’s what a PaaS is really for but one thing that’s really been lacking even with the new PaaS boom is a development model. As I eluded to, Heroku takes too much away and AWS gives too much back. We’re looking for a happy medium. One that doesn’t require us to rely on VMs or containers but on the other side doesn’t limit us to monolithic development.

Micro has always focused on the practice of distributed systems development or microservices. The idea of breaking down large monolithic apps into smaller separate services that do one thing well. To do this we think you really have to bake the development model into the platform.

What we include is the concept of a Service which contains a Client and Server for both handling requests and making queries to other services. We focus on standardisation around protobuf for API definitions and using gRPC for the networking layering.

Not only that we’re including pubsub for an event streaming architecture and other pieces like nosql key-value storage and dynamic config management. We believe there are specific primitives required to start building microservices and distributed systems and that’s what Micro looks to provide.

Multi Language Clients

One of the key learnings we had from the development of a Go framework called go-micro was that we mostly use a single language for each platform we develop for such as web, mobile and so on. Cloud will be no different. We support Go for the Cloud, but think there needs to be an ecosystem for consumption of Go services and potentially extending beyond where there’s no way around using python, java, ruby, rust or javascript. Because Micro’s interface is gRPC we code generate gRPC clients and allow any language to leverage the Micro server.

In the past multi-language clients have been pain stakingly hand crafted and one thing we learned from building a framework, it’s incredibly hard to replicate this across languages also. With gRPC we’ve really found a happy medium of saying, there’s a built in service framework you can use to write code really elegantly with Go but gRPC allows us to reduce the scope of the surface area and provide strongly typed clients that can support a different model of development, one that might have more scope for pushing microservices to wide scale adoption in a way that wasn’t possible with frameworks.

We additionally include grpc-web generated clients which enable frontend to quickly and easily make use of typed javascript clients to leverage the same development as the backend. We’ve seen grpc-web slowly gain adoption internally at various companies and think this might extend to the public domain fairly rapidly as well.

See the micro/client/sdk directory for the generated clients. These will be pubished to their respective package managers in the near future.

Building API First Services

Micro was built to make microservices development much easier and to increase developer productivity on the backend, beyond being able to consume those services using gRPC we think the world still really cares about HTTP/JSON based APIs and so Micro include an API gateway which translates http/json to grpc requests automatically. This means everyone is building API first services in the cloud without having to do anything.

Here’s a quick example.

Say you write helloworld on the backend with the following proto

syntax = "proto3";

package helloworld;

service Helloworld {
	rpc Message(Request) returns (Response) {}
}

message Request {
	string name = 1;
}

message Response {
	string msg = 1;
}

Then expose this as the “helloworld” service on the M3O platform. You’ll instantly be able to access this as $namespace.m3o.dev/helloworld/message

We use path based resolution to map a http request to gRPC. So /[service]/[method] becomes [Service.Method]. If your microservice name doesn’t match the proto for whatever reason (you have multiple proto Services) then it works slightly differently e.g your service name is foobar then the endpoint becomes /foobar/helloworld/message.

One neat hack we’ve picked up from web browser is auto detecting an endpoint so we can shorthand something to something like /helloworld. With the web if an index.html page is found its served. In our case if we find the Call method in your proto we’ll automatically use it so /helloworld/call just shortens to /helloworld.

With Stripe, Twilio, Segment and others become huge API players, we think the world is going in that direction and you are probably building http apis too. So Micro builds in this in as a first class primitive. In future we’ll also look to include support for graphql.

Ten Commands

Alright so we talk a good game, but how easy is it? Well lets show you.

# Install the micro binary
curl -fsSL https://install.m3o.com/micro | /bin/bash

# Set env to dev for the free environment in the cloud
micro env set dev

# Signup before getting started
micro signup

# Create a new service (follow the instructions and push to Github)
micro new helloworld

# Deploy the service from github
micro run github.com/micro/services/helloworld

# Check the service status
micro status

# Query the logs
micro logs helloworld

# Call the service
micro helloworld --name=Alice

# Get your namespace
NAMESPACE=$(micro user namespace)

# Call service via the public http API
curl "https://$NAMESPACE.m3o.dev/helloworld?name=Alice"

Easy right? We see this as the common flow for most service development. Its a fast iterative loop from generating a new template to shipping it and querying to make sure it works. There’s additional stuff in the developer experience like actually writing the service but we think that’s a separate post.

Documentation

Another thing we really learned from the past is nothing like this works without great documentation and tutorials. So we’ve written a whole suite of docs for Micro available at micro.mu and provide help for using the M3O on m3o.dev.

You can find other interesting resources at Awesome Micro.

Licensing

Micro continues to remain open source but licensed using Polyform Shield which prevents the software for being picked up and run as a service. This is to contend with AWS and others running open source for profit without contributing back. It’s a longer conversation for another day.

Motivations

We really believe that writing software for the cloud is too hard. That there’s far too much choice and time wasted focusing on how to piece everything together. There are tradeoffs to adopting a PaaS but ultimately our focus is developer productivity. By choosing one tool and one way we stop thinking about the how and just get down to what we’re trying to build.

M3O and Micro 3.0 look at the state of distributed systems development in the cloud native era and try to drastically simplify that experience with a platform that bakes in the development model so you can just get back to writing code.

Deprecating Go Micro

We will now be ending support for go-micro. Having personally spent 6 years since inception on go-micro I feel as though its time to finally let it go. What started as a tiny library to help write Kubernetes-as-a-Service back in 2014 turned into a widely used open source framework for Go microservices development. Having now amassed more than 14k stars you might wonder why we leave it behind. The truth is, while it solved a problem for many it never became what it was intended for.

Go Micro was built on the premise that developers need a simpler way to build distributed systems. With strongly defined abstractions and a pluggable architecture it did that well but that became really unwieldy to manage. With an MxN matrix of complexity, Go Micro became the thing it was trying to fight against. As we attempted to hone on this platform effort, it just became very clear that to do that we’d need to start fresh.

Go Micro will live on as an independent library under my own personal account on GitHub but it will no longer be supported as an official Micro project. Hopefully it finds second life in some other ways but for now we say goodbye.

If you’d like to upgrade from Go Micro v2 to Micro v3 please see this upgrade guide.

Next Steps

You can use the Micro 3.O as a self-hosted open source solution locally, on a VPS or managed kubernetes, whatever works for you. Our goal is to facilitate a vastly superior developer experience for building services in the Cloud. Come join Discord or Slack to chat more about it. And lastly head to to m3o.com if you’re tired of the way you’re building software for today and want to learn of a better way that’s going to make you 10x more productive.

So to revisit. To get started for free in the cloud based dev environment just run the following commands.

# Install the micro binary
curl -fsSL https://install.m3o.com/micro | /bin/bash

# Set the env to the dev environment
micro env set dev

# Signup before getting started
micro signup

# Create a new service (follow the instructions and push to Github)
micro new helloworld

# Deploy the service from github
micro run github.com/micro/services/helloworld

# Check the service status
micro status

# Query the logs
micro logs helloworld

# Call the service
micro helloworld --name=Alice

# Get your namespace
NAMESPACE=$(micro user namespace)

# Curl it via the public http API
curl "https://$NAMESPACE.m3o.dev/helloworld?name=Alice"

If you want to test things out locally first

# start the server locally
micro server

# set the environment to local
micro env set local

# login using user: admin pass: micro
micro login

And that’s it! Please come chat with us in Discord or Slack and invite friends to test out the M3O platform.

To learn more about the M3O platform see the dev docs at m3o.dev. And for the open source docs check out micro.mu.


Written by Asim Aslam
Founder & CEO Micro