In the realm of microservices, building applications using backend for frontend is a great way to streamline how data is returned to the frontend. For instance, while building an eCommerce application using microservices that expose APIs to be used by the frontend, this pattern can help in shifting frontend logic to an intermediate backend for frontend layer, reducing the resources needed by the frontend to function.
Instead of having a single backend API to send and receive data from, the pattern ensures there is a dedicated backend server for each client application. By tightly coupling to an independent user experience, it helps teams in building robust software platforms that involve several client-facing apps, streamline their maintenance, and deliver value rapidly.
The need for backend for frontend
As a modern architectural software pattern, backend for frontend allows software development teams to implement independent backend servers that can be consumed by specific UIs or frontend applications – eliminating the time, cost, and effort of customizing a single backend for multiple interfaces.
Here are some compelling reasons for using the backend for frontend pattern:
- Call relevant microservices: Acting as a simple interface between the frontend and microservices architecture, the backend for frontend pattern helps in calling the relevant microservices APIs and obtaining the needed data.
- Ensure minimal logic: By formatting data based on the frontend representation and then sending this formatting data back to the frontend, the backend for frontend pattern ensures there is minimal logic on the frontend.
- Keep frontends simple: Since the backend for frontend pattern is focused on individual UIs, it helps keep frontends simple, while enabling teams to have a unified view of data through the backend.
- Streamline data representation: Backend for frontend also helps to streamline data representation while taking up the responsibility of providing a well-focused interface for the frontend.
- Optimize the backend: In addition, if an application needs to develop an optimized backend for a specific frontend interface or if users need to consume data that requires significant aggregation on the backend, backend for frontend is a great option.
Benefits of using backend for frontend
If you heavily rely on microservices to build and update your software application, the backend for frontend patterns can greatly improve development outcomes.
Here are some benefits it brings:
- Easier application maintenance: Because backend for frontend helps in separating frontend requirements from backend concerns, it allows for easier maintenance of applications – while also making them more resilient to changes in APIs.
- Improved error handling: Backend for frontend pattern paves the way for improved error handling. Instead of displaying server errors to users every time, the pattern maps out errors that need to be presented to the user – thus avoiding returning every server error to the user and improving the overall experience.
- Better versioning and caching: For backends that are slow, caching across different clients is a great way to quicken response times. At the same time, instead of deploying multiple versions of the back-end API, using backend for frontend, developers can easily switch between payload versions based on requests from the front-end – within a single deployment – paving the way for tight coupling and code sharing between the frontend and backend. It also helps in easier deployment.
- Faster responses: Because backend for frontend is used for individual UIs, multiple devices can call the backend in parallel – it allows for quicker responses to be received from different services at the same time.
- Increased security: The backend for frontend pattern is also extremely useful in increasing the security of software applications. By hiding sensitive information, it avoids sending unnecessary data to the frontend, thus safeguarding the application from attackers.
- Shared ownership: Given the fact that different teams handle different parts of a microservices architecture, backend for frontend enables frontend teams to enjoy ownership of the client application along with its underlying resource consumption layer – leading to higher development speed.
Use the pattern wisely
Despite the many benefits the backend for frontend pattern offers, it needs to be adopted based on the architecture you plan to follow. If you have a monolithic application, the pattern will add little or no value. However, if your application uses microservices and requires several external APIs, the backend for frontend pattern can streamline the data flow between different components and services and pave the way for enhanced efficiency.
Avoid implementing the pattern with self-contained, all-inclusive APIs. Instead, use it as a translation layer between your client and the services. At the same time, to avoid logic duplication, ensure you use the pattern to cater to a specific user experience – and not a device type.
The above article is authored by Anurag Sinha, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Wissen Technology (Wissen.com)