It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the type of app architecture you select for your future product can be a game changer. Your choice will define scalability, maintenance cost, and the speed of new feature implementation.
Two popular approaches have gained a lot of attention in recent years in the app development landscape. These are monolithic and microservices architectures.
In this article we’ll explore the key differences between monolithic and microservices architectures. We’ll also provide insights into how to make a choice that fits your business most.
What Is Monolithic Architecture?
When you think of traditional app development, you usually imply monolithic architecture — when the entire application is built as a single interconnected unit. The monolithic architecture has a single large network with one code base that brings together other components and handles all business flows.
When you want to update or change something, you’ve got to access the unified code base and make changes in the entire stack at once.
Pros of Monolithic Architecture
Monolithic architecture has become a traditional solution for a good reason. Usually, it is used at the early stages of a project’s life because of the distinctive benefits:
- More simple to develop. It’s much easier to develop an app with one code base. Also, it results in a lower development cost.
- Easy to test and debug. As all components are located in the same runtime environment and there is no need to test the interaction between different microservices, testing and debugging are usually simpler and more efficient.
- Prompt and simple to deploy. One executable file or directory significantly simplifies the deployment process.
- Good performance. Monolithic apps may be faster since all the components are in the same runtime environment and there are no network calls involved.
- Easy to manage cross-cutting concerns. Such things as logging, error handling, caching, and performance monitoring are easier to handle because all the code is located in one place.
Cons of Monolithic Architecture
Monolithic applications can be quite effective until they grow too large. Here are the things that do not make running and maintaining monolithic software any easier:
- Scaling. You won’t be able to scale the software components individually, only the entire app. A full application redeploy is required for each update.
- Changes are interconnected. Changes in one part of the application can have some unexpected effects on the entire project.
- Performance issues. If there is an error or bug in one module, it might accumulate over other servers and there might be a risk of shutting down an entire application.
- Lack of flexibility. Changing frameworks or languages will affect the entire app. Meaning that to implement better technology, you’ve got to completely rewrite the whole code base.
What Is Microservice Architecture?
A microservice architecture, also simply known as microservices, is a completely different story. Here, you assemble an app from a collection of small, independent services that communicate with each other through APIs or message brokers.
Each microservice is a small application that has its own architecture consisting of a separate business logic and database with a specific goal. So, each service is responsible for a distinct business capability and can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently.
Pros of Microservice Architecture
DevOps and microservices go hand in hand. In fact, these methods are the core of continuous delivery practices that enable the app to adapt quickly to the user’s needs and business goals. So, microservices offer a range of advantages your digital product may benefit from like:
- Easy to update. Each element can be scaled independently, making it easy to update every individual component.
- High reliability. You can make changes to one service without affecting another.
- Simple to troubleshoot bugs. It’s easy to isolate issues in individual services to fix them.
- Easy to maintain. You can roll out and roll back features without breaking the entire code base.
- Better agility and flexibility. This architecture promotes agile practices of working with small teams that deploy frequently.
- Flexible tech stack. Your team can choose the tech stack for every microservice individually.
Cons of Microservice Architecture
Microservices are by no means a silver bullet. There are cases when they may bring some difficulties to the project because of:
- Complex development and deployment. You’ve got to create more services and locate them in more places.
- Management overhead. When multiple teams are involved, this may add a certain level of complexity. This also makes communication more difficult.
- Higher cost. Every service may have its own cost for testing, deployment, infrastructure hosting, monitoring, etc.
- Harder to test. Here, you’ve got to test every microservice individually and also verify how the components work together.
Which Software Architecture Suits Your App and Business Best?
Choosing between monolithic and microservices architecture is not an easy task. But we want to make things simpler for you. In the chart below, we run down the key characteristics of these models to help you see the difference more clearly.
|Feature||Monolithic Architecture||Microservice Architecture|
|Design||All components form a single unit||Independent services that can be developed and deployed independently|
|Development||Easier to develop as all components are built together and share the same codebase||Development can be more complex due to the need to make multiple services work together|
|Testing||Easier since all components are located in the same environment and interact with each other||More complex as there are multiple services that need to be tested and integrated|
|Deployment||Simpler as the entire application is deployed as a single unit||Services can be deployed independently, but coordinating their deployment can be more challenging|
|Maintenance||Can be more difficult to maintain and update as the application grows in complexity||Easier to maintain and update as each service can be updated and deployed independently|
|Scalability||Scaling up the application requires scaling the entire system, even the components that don’t require additional resources||You can scale specific services on demand, allowing for more efficient use of resources|
|Fault tolerance||A single issue can take down the entire system||You can isolate a specific issue within a separate service to fix it without affecting the entire system|
|Tech stack||All app components use the same tech stack||Different services can use different tech stacks|
A Case to Stay with Monolithic Architecture
There are several scenarios where a monolithic architecture is a better choice for your project:
- Monolithic architecture is well-suited for smaller applications that have a limited set of functionalities and require less complexity.
- When you need to launch a new product fast (such as an MVP) to validate your business idea or switch from a legacy system to a modern app without delays.
- If you would like to provide your users with a fast app with zero to minimal latency, as there are no network calls involved between different components.
- You run a modular monolithic architecture, which allows you to segment the code into individual feature modules while preserving a unified structure.
When to Go with Microservices
These are the cases that better work for microservices:
- Microservices are a good choice for large and complex applications that have multiple functionalities and require a high level of scalability, reliability, and maintainability.
- As you plan to roll out new features often, microservice architecture allows adding new functionalities separately in each service without a need to redesign the whole software.
- In case you want your development team to be flexible in their flows, microservices is a good fit as with it they can use various tech stacks for different services within an app and work independently on different services.
- If you appreciate resilience, microservices are your choice to go since a single service failure does not affect the entire system.
At the early stages most projects typically start with monolithic architecture due to a relatively faster development time as well as lower infrastructure complexity. However as a product grows and new features are added, it might be harder to manage multiple developers working on a single codebase. This might result in code conflicts which might lead to increased likelihood of introducing errors in unrelated features. To avoid some of these issues, it might be more beneficial to move to microservices architecture.
Choosing the right architecture for your app ultimately depends on your specific needs and goals. However, it’s important to avoid overengineering and choosing an unnecessarily complex architecture. If your application does not require a microservices architecture, don’t force it. Similarly, if you anticipate that your software will eventually become more complex, don’t limit yourself to a monolithic approach. Striking a balance between practicality and scalability will ensure the longevity and success of your application.
If you would like to get a piece of advice on the best architecture option from experienced developers, just contact us. Together, we’ll work out a solution that will bring your business the best value within the desired budget and timeframe.