This open-source tool increases microservices visibility

Backstage by Spotify might just be the ticket for developers wanting to get better visibility into their microservices

Click, click, click. “OK, I've now logged into the dashboard. Only 250 clicks to go before I get these 3 tasks done. Gosh, I love GUIs,” thought no engineer ever.

Almost every engineer I've ever worked with has preferred to review their services through a CLI rather than a dashboard. For the longest time, I thought it was a matter of pride — that you can control systems without touching a mouse. l337 vibes.

I understood the real reason after playing around with a Jenkins GUI a while back. It was a phenomenal chore to click, click, click, click, click to get around. For those of us with fast typing speeds, it's much easier to type out commands.

But visual information can be worth bashing your left mouse button in specific situations. As systems become more complex, we can benefit from visual representations of data.

The case for visualising microservices

A few triggers may need to be pulled before you feel a burning need.

You may feel this if you:

  1. Use a diverse array of nuanced tooling and

  2. Are responsible for several services and

  3. Have KPIs to respond and fix issues faster

If you have pulled one or more triggers, here's one visual tool in particular that I think will rock your (engineering) world.

Introducing the Backstage Software Catalog

Backstage was created at Spotify for launching and managing its microservices. A group of its developers created it to solve a problem that plagues many tech companies:

The faster you grow, the more fragmented and complex your software ecosystem becomes. And then everything slows down again. — Stefan Ålund, Spotify

The project was spun off in 2020 as open-source, so (+1) for the community. It can help you do a myriad of things but I like 2 of its features in particular:

Feature #1 - Visual breakdown of all the services you are responsible for

Image Source: Spotify, What the Heck is Backstage Anyway?

Feature #2 - Performance overview for a particular service you own

Image Source: Spotify, What the Heck is Backstage Anyway?

In the words of its authors, Backstage ensures that "every team can see all the services they own and related resources (deployments, data pipelines, pull request status, etc.)".

More on Backstage via https://backstage.io/


This is one of several visual tools that can help engineers make quicker sense of the slew of data their systems generate. Subscribe and share if you want me to share more ideas like this that can boost your working experience.

Until next time, stay groovy.

Before anyone says: this is not a sponsored post.