Orchestration vs. Choreography: Choosing the Best Approach for Microservices

Victor Magalhães
4 min readAug 15, 2023

When designing how microservices will communicate, you have to choose between two approaches: one where a centralized service controls the flow, known as orchestration, or another where each service reacts to events and collaborates, known as choreography.

Orchestration

Orchestration

Orchestration is a model in which a centralized service, often referred to as an “orchestrator,” is responsible for coordinating and controlling interactions among various microservices. The orchestrator defines the sequence of steps to be executed and coordinates communication between the services. Each service is invoked at specific moments, according to the plan set by the orchestrator.

Key characteristics of orchestration:

  • Centralization: A centralized service (orchestrator) is responsible for coordinating and controlling the workflow.
  • Control: The orchestrator determines the sequence of operations and how services interact.
  • Clarity: The logic of the workflow is usually more visible since it’s centralized in the orchestrator.
  • Higher Coupling: Services might depend more on the orchestrator, potentially increasing coupling between microservices.
  • Monitoring Ease: As the workflow is centralized, tracking and monitoring the progress of the process is easier.

Choreography

Choreography

Choreography is a model in which microservices interact directly with each other to achieve a goal. Each service is autonomous and responds to events or actions occurring in the system. Instead of an orchestrator controlling the flow, services collaborate in response to events, allowing each service to be responsible for its own actions and communications.

Key characteristics of choreography:

  • Decentralization: There is no central service controlling the flow; instead, microservices collaborate with each other.
  • Autonomy: Each microservice is autonomous and makes decisions based on events and interactions.
  • Distributed Complexity: The workflow can be harder to track, as it’s distributed among microservices.
  • Scalability: Microservices can be scaled individually, offering greater flexibility in resource management.

Synchronous Choreography

In synchronous choreography, microservices interact in a sequential and rigid workflow, where one service directly and synchronously invokes another to perform a specific task. Each service is aware of the sequence of steps and waits for the completion of one step before moving on to the next.

Key characteristics of synchronous choreography:

  • Direct Communication: Each microservice communicates directly with other microservices in a predefined order.
  • Explicit Coordination: Coordination of steps is explicit, as microservices know exactly which other microservices need to be triggered in sequence.
  • Temporary Blocking: If one microservice is unavailable or slower than others, it can cause temporary blocking in the workflow.

Asynchronous Choreography

In asynchronous choreography, microservices interact more flexibly and collaboratively, responding to events and actions as they occur, without relying on a rigid sequence. Each service is autonomous and decides how to react to specific events, without necessarily knowing which other services are involved.

Key characteristics of asynchronous choreography:

  • Event-Driven Communication: Microservices communicate through emitting and listening to events. A service can emit an event when something happens, and other services can react to this event.
  • Greater Decoupling: Microservices have greater decoupling, as they don’t need to know the complete structure or sequence of the workflow.
  • Scalability and Resilience: Asynchronous choreography can be more fault-tolerant, as services can continue operating even if a specific service is temporarily unavailable.
  • Dynamic Flow: The workflow can be more dynamic and adaptable, as each service decides its actions based on events occurring in the system.

Comparison

Synchronous choreography is more suitable for scenarios with a predictable sequence of steps and explicit coordination. Asynchronous choreography is more appropriate for situations where flexibility, decoupling, and responsiveness to events are prioritized, allowing for a more resilient and adaptable architecture.

Both approaches have their pros and cons, and the choice between them should be based on the specific needs of the system and the desired characteristics for the microservices architecture.

Conclusion

The decision between these models should be based on the specific characteristics of the system at hand. Orchestration is more suitable for structured and controlled workflows, while choreography is valuable for dynamic and adaptable scenarios. It’s important to consider factors such as scalability, resilience, decoupling, and distributed complexity when choosing between these approaches.

--

--