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Microservices vs Monolithic: Which Architecture is Better?

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In the realm of software development, monolithic architecture features a cohesive structure and unified codebase, while microservices give you more flexibility to scale and innovate. So, the question arises: “Monolithic vs Microservices?”

If you asked this question of HQSoftware’s developers and project managers, who have experience working with both types of architecture, the answer would be: “It depends on your business goals and project requirements.”

There are no tasks that can’t be tackled with a monolithic architecture. But there are many situations where microservices can significantly improve app performance.

Keep reading the article to find out which architecture to choose for your project to remain a winner in the battle of microservices vs monolith.

Table of contents:

What is Monolithic Architecture?

What is Microservice Architecture?

Why Organizations are Switching from Monolithic to Microservices Architecture

Conclusion

What is Monolithic Architecture?

Monolithic architecture is a software design approach in which an application is designed as a unified, interconnected, and integrated system.

You can visualize a solution built with monolithic architecture as a wall made of bricks. Each brick supports the others, and if you want to change or replace one brick, you may have to rebuild the entire wall.

In the context of monolithic architecture, the bricks symbolize the functional modules of an application, closely interlinked with one another. Therefore, changes or errors in one module can affect the whole system.

Microservices vs Monolithic monolithic infographics - Microservices vs Monolithic: Which Architecture is Better?
Monolithic architecture model

All features and functionalities of a monolithic app, including the user interface, business logic, and data access, share the same codebase and data stores and run within a single process. Thus there are both pros and cons of monolithic architecture.

Benefits of a monolithic architecture

Let’s begin by looking at some advantages to monolithic architecture:

  • Ease of development. Since the app is designed as a single unit and shares a single codebase, it simplifies project development, testing, and deployment. There is no need to manage multiple services, databases, or communication between different components.
  • Fast development. The simplicity of development allows you to create your solution faster compared to microservices. That’s why monolithic development is a suitable way to begin the project, especially under tight deadlines.
  • Performance optimization. Communication between components in a monolithic app is often faster, as they are all within the same process, whereas with distributed systems communication happens over a network.
  • Simplified performance monitoring. The fewer distributed components a system has, the easier it is for your team to monitor its performance and identify errors. The same goes for system testing, which can be performed faster compared to microservices.

With all these benefits of microservices vs monoliths, you can see that monolithic architecture is ideal for small projects or solutions with basic functionality. The problem arises when it’s time to scale.

Disadvantages of using monolithic architecture

The weak points of monolithic architecture are:

  • Scalability issues. With monolithic architecture, you can’t scale just a particular component, as all of them are related to each other. Even a minor change in one module will require an update of the whole system. Moreover, as the code base grows, the development environment eventually becomes overloaded, slowing down the development process.
  • Limited fault isolation. If one part of a monolithic app fails, it can ruin or negatively impact the performance of the entire application.
  • Lack of technology flexibility. Monolithic architectures often use a particular technology stack for the entire app. This limits your ability to add new technologies, potentially leading to suboptimal performance or development constraints.
  • Difficulties in team coordination. Team members responsible for different parts of a monolithic app need to coordinate closely to avoid conflicts, slowing down development.
  • Vendor lock-in. When using third-party libraries or services, changing one of them might require changing the entire dependency structure.
Microservices vs Monolithic monolithic pros and cons - Microservices vs Monolithic: Which Architecture is Better?
Pros and cons of a monolithic architecture

Now you see why many companies have been looking for something more advanced that would allow them to scale efficiently while avoiding these limitations. That’s how microservice architecture has come into the picture.

What is Microservice Architecture?

A microservices architecture, or simply microservices, is an approach in which complex applications are broken down into smaller, manageable components, known as microservices.

Each service is responsible for a specific set of features and can be developed and deployed independently. It has its own business logic and codebase and uses APIs to communicate with other microservices.

Microservices vs Monolithic microservices infographics 1 - Microservices vs Monolithic: Which Architecture is Better?
Microservices architecture model

Benefits of Microservices

The ability to manage each microservice independently is the main benefit of microservices vs monolithic architecture. Other advantages include:

  • Scalability. You can update and scale individual modules of your solution without affecting the operation of others. You can scale smoothly, improving performance during peak usage times.
  • Technology diversity. You can build each service with the technology stack that best suits its requirements. Also, you can adopt the latest tools, languages, and frameworks where required.
  • Flexibility. You can change your solution more rapidly and effortlessly, as you only need to work with several modules rather than the whole codebase.
  • Fault tolerance. In microservices, issues are contained within specific services without affecting the overall app functionality. This enhances system stability and maintains reliable user experiences.
  • Advanced security and compliance. Each microservice can implement its own security measures, improving data isolation. This advantage is particularly valuable for fintech solutions, as they have to handle sensitive data and adhere to strict regulatory compliance.

However, before being captivated by the pros of microservices architecture, pay attention to some cons as well.

Disadvantages of Microservices

The disadvantages of microservices include:

  • Complexity in performance management. The more independent units you have, the harder it is for your team to effectively manage their performance, interactions, and data consistency.
  • Network communication overhead. Communication between microservices usually occurs over a network, introducing a heightened possibility of latency and performance issues.
  • High development costs. To break down an application into microservices, you need to carefully design and plan the architecture and then put a lot of effort into building it. This requires skilled developers, including DevOps engineers, and significant time investment.
  • Testing challenges. While you can quickly find and fix issues in particular services, as the number of modules grows, the bugs grow as well. This complicates end-to-end test coverage.
Microservices vs Monolithic microservices pros and cons - Microservices vs Monolithic: Which Architecture is Better?
Pros and cons of of microservices

However, with proper planning and a skilled development team, you can overcome many of these challenges. So, carefully evaluate your business requirements and technical capabilities to decide whether to turn to microservice architecture.

Why Organizations are Switching from Monolithic to Microservices Architecture

As we mentioned earlier, every project can be built using proven monolithic architecture. But there are some reasons why you may choose to switch from monolithic to microservices:

  • scalability;
  • operating across a wide range of objectives;
  • stability and reliability;
  • access to modern technologies;
  • regular updates;
  • switching to cloud.

You need to scale

The first reason to choose microservices is obvious — your business is growing. So is the complexity of your application’s functionality, database demands, and incoming requests.

With microservices, you can allocate resources to the services that need to scale. Also, by scaling the relevant services, you can ensure efficient processing of data without overloading the entire system.

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Business Development Manager

That was the reason one of our clients — a provider of audit services for SMSF funds in Australia — turned to microservices architecture.

Smooth data handling is a crucial requirement for fintech solutions, especially when the database is growing. By implementing microservices, our team was able to migrate the solution from legacy to modern technologies and establish reliable performance with an extensive volume of financial documents. As a result, the customer increased the number of users and was able to sell the solution to other companies, thus opening a new revenue channel.

You operate across a wide range of objectives

If your solution covers a wide range of business aspects, delivering rich functionality, microservices can be a beneficial choice for you.

igor kunovsky - Microservices vs Monolithic: Which Architecture is Better?

Igor Kunovskiy
Lead Software Engineer
at HQSoftware

A complex system responsible for various business areas can definitely benefit from microservices. A part of the business, even during development, may require faster updates, support, or functionality development than other parts. Microservices ensure that these innovations are implemented quickly without destroying already existing modules.

You seek more reliable app performance

With microservices, you can achieve stability in your solution thanks to:

  • fault isolation;
  • fast diagnosing and fixing of issues;
  • modular updates that allow performance enhancements without system-wide downtime;
  • parallel development that accelerates development cycles and allows you to implement performance enhancements more swiftly.

You need access to modern technologies

With microservices, you’re not limited to a unified monolithic stack and can use the best technologies and frameworks for specific functionalities. This agility lets you stay at the forefront of innovation, providing enhanced features and smooth experiences to users.

That’s why we implemented a microservice architecture for our client’s real-time traffic safety system. The solution had performance issues and couldn’t handle the volume of required requests. This was mainly because it was built on outdated technologies.

To update the system and streamline its operations, our team decided to implement microservices. This enabled us to select the most suitable technology stack for each functional module and facilitated the development and maintenance processes. The upgraded solution gained a significant increase in performance, smoothly handling an increasing number of users.

You perform regular updates

Imagine that your app has specific functionality that needs to be updated, for example, once a week or two, while other features remain stable.

With a monolithic architecture, updates of one feature can affect or even destroy the whole application, requiring considerable resources for implementation. With microservices, you can change only one module without interrupting others.

igor kunovsky - Microservices vs Monolithic: Which Architecture is Better?

Igor Kunovskiy
Lead Software Engineer
at HQSoftware

One more advantage is that with microservices you can ensure backward compatibility with previous versions of the app, to prevent conflicts for users who might not immediately update.

You want to switch to the cloud

Switching to a cloud environment and adopting microservices architecture makes for a powerful combination. It enables you to build scalable and flexible applications while leveraging cloud benefits such as cost-effectiveness and ease of deployment.

An illustration of this synergy can be found in HQSoftware’s experience. By transitioning to microservices and leveraging cloud technology, we developed a robust e-learning and performance-tracking system. The outcome? Enhanced performance, expanded capabilities, and over 50,000 users across various industries.

Conclusion

As you see, there are many reasons to choose microservices over monolithic architecture. Both options have their pros and cons, so it’s your decision.

However, if you struggle to understand technical details or can’t evaluate your technical capabilities to select monolithic vs microservices, feel free to contact us! Relying on our extensive experience in app redesign and development, we will help you choose the best architecture according to your unique business needs.

Andrei Kazakevich

Head of Production

To ensure the outstanding quality of HQSoftware’s solutions and services, I took the position of Head of Production and manager of the Quality Assurance department. Turn to me with any questions regarding our tech expertise.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between microservices and monolithic architecture?

Why monolith over microservices?

Why is monolithic not scalable?

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