The use of microservices architecture is already widespread among global companies. For instance, Amazon, Coca-Cola, and Netflix started out as monolithic apps but have evolved into larger infrastructures. Such a choice benefited businesses and drew in even more customers.
The monolithic approach, in turn, is the typical strategy for developing software applications. At the same time, building a monolithic application brings a variety of issues, including managing a large codebase, adopting new technology, scalability, deployment, and applying new changes, among others. The tendency of transition to microservices architecture, however, does not imply that the monolith is obsolete. Following newfangled trends naively does not mean making the best business decision. Therefore, it is critical to consider which architecture is most effective for your solution and how switching to it is safer. This article will compare monolithic and microservices architecture to help you choose the one that is best for your needs.
What is monolithic architecture?
Monolithic architecture is regarded as a conventional method of developing apps. A monolithic application is made up of a single, indivisible piece of software. This type of solution usually involves a client-side application, a server-side application, and a database. It is unified, with all functions handled and served from a single location.
Monolithic applications are characterized by a single big code base and a lack of modularity. Developers use the same code base when they have to update or modify something. As a result, they make changes to the entire stack at the same time.
Advantages of monolithic architecture
- Less cross-cutting concerns like login, caching, memory management, and others with a single application.
- Easy to debug and test since automated testing can be performed without considering various run-time environments.
- Simple to deploy, since it’s a matter of a script that loads your module and launches the application.
- Easily development. Because monolithic applications have long been a standard way of building applications, any engineering team can create such a program. Therefore, this approach requires less time and budget.
Drawbacks of monolithic architecture
- Difficult to maintain. A monolithic application becomes difficult to understand and manage as it scales up, and a complex system of codes within one application is hard to manage.
- Low adaptability. Because one element is interdependent with the others, each change has an impact on the entire network. As a result, changes take time and must be carefully organized. Each minor upgrade also necessitates redeployment.
- Scaling limitations. Monolithic apps can only scale in aggregate and it is impossible to scale individual components.
What is microservices architecture?
A monolithic application is a single cohesive unit, but a microservices architecture divides it into smaller autonomous components. Every application process is handled by these units as a separate service. As a result, each service has its own logic and database, as well as the ability to perform specialized operations.
The functionality of a microservices architecture consists of independent modules that communicate with each other through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).
Advantages of microservices architecture
- Autonomy. All of the services can be installed and upgraded independently, allowing for better flexibility. Also, a problem in a single microservice affects only that service and does not affect the entire application. And finally, adding new features to a microservice application is significantly easier than adding them to a monolithic program.
- Simple to maintain. Microservice applications are easier to comprehend and manage since the components are smaller and simpler, and you can focus solely on one specific service that is related to your business goals.
- Increased scalability. The entire process is less expensive and time-consuming than with monoliths, where the entire program must be scaled even if it is not required.
- Technology selection flexibility. The technical teams aren’t constrained by the technology that was picked at the outset. For each microservice, they can use a variety of technologies and frameworks.
- Agility. Because faults in microservices only affect a specific service and not the entire solution, all changes and experiments are easier to implement, and the risks are lower.
Drawbacks of microservices architecture
- Additional complexity. Due to the distributed nature of a microservices architecture, you must choose and configure the connections between all modules and databases. Additionally, as long as such an application has self-contained services, each one must be deployed independently.
- System distribution. Because a microservices architecture is a complicated system comprised of various modules and databases, all connections must be properly managed.
- Cross-cutting issues. When developing a microservices application, you will encounter a variety of cross-cutting issues like externalized settings, logging, metrics, and health checks
- Testing. Testing a microservices-based solution becomes significantly more difficult due to a large number of separately deployable components.
What’s the right architecture for your software?
Here are a few pointers to help you choose the right software architecture for your needs.
- If you are a tiny startup, you may not need to cope with the intricacy of microservices. A monolith can suit all business demands, so there’s no need to jump on the microservices bandwagon.
- Monolithic architecture is better suited for small applications that do not require extensive business logic, improved scalability, or flexibility.
- If you want to develop and launch your application quickly, a monolithic approach is an ideal option. It works effectively when your initial goal is to spend less and validate your business idea.
- Microservice applications are extremely risky to build without the right skills and knowledge. Even yet, having a basic understanding of architecture is insufficient. Because DevOps and Containers are so closely linked to microservices, you’ll require professionals in both. Domain modeling expertise is also essential since microservices mean separating functionality and responsibilities within a system.
- Scaling and adding new functionalities to your program will be significantly easier with the microservices architecture. Therefore, if you intend to design a large application with several modules and user journeys, the microservice pattern is the optimal approach.
- Since a microservice project entails many teams each accountable for a different service, you must have sufficient resources to manage all the processes.
Which architecture to choose?
In our practice, we have applied both approaches for our clients. We decided on the architecture of the upcoming project throughout the process of collecting functional and non-functional requirements.
We have successfully designed a variety of microservices for financial transaction processing, data standardization, and different data collectors. These solutions facilitated the resources management and monitoring, as well as the load decomposition.
We used a monolithic approach to build a large e-commerce website. This approach simplified the deployment of a scalable application, which effectively closes all business phases. Thus, we enabled the system administrator to configure and manage the complete infrastructure in a few simple steps.
When choosing architecture, you shouldn’t stick to one option. It is quite common to have ready-made monolithic solutions and need to adjust their functionality. This is fairly difficult within the existing application due to technology constraints (tech stack, technical process) or organizational constraints (resources, skills). In such cases, it’s worth considering the hybrid approach: you create an entirely abstracted application using a microservices architecture that is totally independent of a monolithic service, which is one of the prerequisites of microservices architecture in general. Following that, you connect your new microservice as a third party to the monolithic application. Therefore, you retain the benefits of a monolithic architecture while extending the functionality of the program as a whole via the usage of microservices. Oftentimes, such microservices can be used by several applications; for instance, we used our image processing service in multiple applications. Although neither the service nor the apps are not connected to one another, they both benefit from the potential to enhance functionality through integrations.
As with any other solution, microservices architecture cannot be applied to all applications. Microservices architecture adoption is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Despite its decreasing popularity, a monolith provides a number of strong and persistent advantages that make it superior in a variety of use situations.
If you have a fresh idea and wish to validate it, you should begin with a monolith. Microservices are unnecessary when a small technical team is tasked with developing a simple and lightweight application. This way, a monolithic application will be far easier to build, modify, deploy, and test.
Microservices are more advantageous for complicated and changing systems. It provides efficient solutions for managing a complex system of distinct tasks and services contained within a single application. Microservices are great for platforms that span several user journeys and workflows. However, without sufficient microservices skills, this paradigm would be impossible to implement.
No solution works for everyone
Always remember to consider your specific business environment in addition to the above advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether to begin with a monolith or microservices architecture. Try to also focus on your business’s unique demands, not just the architectural approach.
Can’t decide which type of architecture is best for your project? Contact us, and we will provide you with a solution based on an approach matching your business needs.