A guide to open source for microservices

Build and manage high-scale microservices networks and solve the challenges of running services without fault that scale based on business demand.
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Microservices—applications broken down into smaller, composable pieces that work together—are getting as much attention as the hottest new restaurant in town. (If you're not yet familiar, dive into What Are Microservices before continuing here.)

However, if you have moved on from "Hello, World" and running a simple handful of microservices, and are building hundreds of microservices and running thousands of instances, you know there is nothing "micro" about them. You want your instances to increase when users increase and decrease when users decrease. You want to distribute requests effectively between instances. You want to build and run your services intelligently. You need a clear view of the service instances that are running or going down. How can you manage all of this complexity?

This article looks at some of the key terminologies in the microservices ecosystem and some of the open source software available to build out a microservices architecture. The focus is on building and managing high-scale microservices networks and solving the challenges of running services without fault and that scale correctly based on business demand.

Here is a wholesome, lavish spread of open source cuisine that is sure to be gastronomically, "microservically" appetizing. I'm sure I've overlooked some open source applications in this area; please let me know about them in the comments.

[Download the PDF version of this cheat sheet here]


The right way to deploy applications is in containers. Briefly, a container is a miniature virtual server packed with the software required to run an application. The container pack is small, smart, and easy to deploy and maintain. And deploying your application in a container is clever. You can deploy as many instances as you need and scale up or down as needed to meet the current load.

Open source containers

Software Code License
rkt GitHub Apache License 2.0
Docker GitHub Apache License 2.0
FreeBSD Jail GitHub FreeBSD License
LXC GitHub GNU LGPL v.2.1
OpenVZ GitHub GNU General Public License v2.0

Container orchestrators

If you have hundreds or thousands of service instances deployed on containers, you need a good way to manage them. Container orchestration is the right solution for deploying and managing all of these containers. Orchestrators can move across; scale up, down, or out; manage higher or lower loads; regulate added, removed, and dead containers; and much more.

Open source container orchestrators

Software Code License
Kubernetes GitHub Apache License 2.0
OpenShift GitHub Apache License 2.0
Nomad GitHub Mozilla Public License 2.0
LXD GitHub Apache License 2.0

API gateways

An API gateway is a watchman that controls and monitors API calls to your application. An API gateway has three key roles:

  1. API data and management: API listing, API subscription, API documentation, community support
  2. API viewpoint and billing: Analytics, metrics, billing
  3. API control and security: Subscription caller management, rate control, blocking, data conversion, production and sandbox support, key management

API gateways are usually multi-tenant solutions to deploy multiple applications on the same gateway.

Open source API gateways

Not all of the following API gateways support every function mentioned above, so pick and choose depending on your needs.

Software Code License
3scale GitHub Apache License 2.0
API Umbrella GitHub MIT License
Apigee GitHub Apache License 2.0
Apiman GitHub Apache License 2.0
DreamFactory GitHub Apache License 2.0
Fusio GitHub GNU Affero General Public License v3.0
Gravitee GitHub Apache License 2.0
Kong GitHub Apache License 2.0
KrakenD GitHub Apache License 2.0
Tyk GitHub Mozilla Public License 2.0


Continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD; it may also stand for continuous delivery) are the net sum of processes to build and run your processes. CI/CD is a philosophy that ensures your microservices are built and run correctly to meet users' expectations. Automation is the critical CI/CD factor that makes the build and run process easy and structured. CI's primary processes are build and test, and CD's are deploy and monitor.

All of the CI/CD tools and platforms listed below are open source. I don't include SaaS platforms that are free for hosting open source. GitHub also isn't on the list because it is not open source and does not have built-in CI/CD; it uses third-party CI/CD product integrations instead. GitLab is open source and has a built-in CI/CD service, so it is on this list.

Open source CI/CD tools

Software Code License
Jenkins GitHub MIT License
GitLab GitLab MIT License
Buildbot GitHub GNU General Public License v2.0
Concourse GitHub Apache License 2.0
GoCD GitHub Apache License 2.0
Hudson GitHub MIT License
Spinnaker GitHub Apache License 2.0

Load balancers

When your number of requests scale, you must deploy multiple instances of your application and share requests across those instances. The application that manages the requests between instances is called a load balancer. A load balancer can be configured to distribute requests based on round-robin scheduling, IP routing, or another algorithm. The load balancer automatically manages request distributions when new instances are added (to support higher load) or decommissioned (when load scales down). Session persistence is another load-balancing feature that redirects new requests to the previous instance when needed (for example, to maintain a session). There are hardware- and software-based load balancers.

Open source load balancers

Software Code License
HAProxy GitHub HAPROXY's license / GPL v2.0
Apache modules (mod_athena, mod_proxy_balancer) SourceForge or

Code.Google or

Apache License 2.0
Balance SourceForge GNU General Public License v2.0
Distributor SourceForge GNU General Public License v2.0
GitHub Load Balancer (GLB) Director GitHub BSD 3-Clause License
Neutrino GitHub Apache License 2.0
OpenLoBa SourceForge Not known
Pen GitHub GNU General Public License, v2.0
Seesaw GitHub Apache License 2.0
Synapse GitHub Apache License 2.0
Traefik GitHub MIT License

Service registry and service discovery

When several hundreds or thousands of service instances are deployed and talking to each other, how do requester services know how to connect the right responder services, given that deployment points are dynamic as services are scaled in and out? A service registry and service discovery service solves this problem. These systems are essentially key-value stores that maintain configuration information and naming and provide distributed synchronization.

Open source service registry and discovery services

Software Code License
Baker Street GitHub Apache License 2.0
Consul GitHub Mozilla Public License 2.0
etcd GitHub Apache License 2.0
Registrator GitHub MIT License
Serf GitHub Mozilla Public License 2.0
ZooKeeper GitHub Apache License 2.0


When your microservices and their instances cater to users' needs, you need to maintain a good view of their performance. Monitoring tools to the rescue!

Open source monitoring tools and software come in numerous flavors, some barely better than top. Other options include OS-specific; enterprise-grade; tool collections that provide complete integration; do-one-thing tools that merely monitor or report or visualize and integrate with third-party tools; and tools that monitor specific or multiple components such as networks, log files, web requests, and databases. Monitoring tools can be web-based or standalone tools, and notification options range from passive reporting to active alerting.

Choose one or more of these tools to enjoy a chewy crunch of your microservices network.

Open source monitoring software

Software Code License
OpenNMS GitHub GNU Affero General Public License
Grafana GitHub Apache License 2.0
Graphite GitHub Apache License 2.0
Icinga GitHub GNU General Public License v2.0
InfluxDB GitHub MIT License
LibreNMS GitHub GNU General Public License v3.0
Naemon GitHub GNU General Public License v2.0
Nagios GitHub GNU General Public License v2.0
ntop GitHub GNU General Public License v3.0
ELK GitHub Apache License 2.0
Prometheus GitHub Apache License 2.0
Sensu GitHub MIT License
Zabbix Self-hosted repo GNU General Public License v2.0
Zenoss SourceForge GNU General Public License v2.0

The right ingredients

Pure open source solutions can offer the right ingredients for deploying and running microservices at high scale. I hope you find them to be relishing, gratifying, satiating, and most of all, microservicey!

Download the Microservices cheat sheet

What to read next

A gentle introduction to microservices

What are microservices? Have you heard the phrase "microservices" used in a discussion of modern application development and wondered what it's all about? At Opensource.com…

(Alumni, Red Hat)
October 1, 2015
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Girish has over 20 years’ experience in technology and software at a global IT Services organization based in India. Girish is architect of "I Got" cloud platform to uplift the bottom of the pyramid built with open source stack and contemporary architectural patterns such as microservices, containerisation and multi tenancy. Girish writes on open source and tech topics.


Great article. What do you think about podman for container?

What about Kata containers?

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