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Overcoming Monolith-to-Microservices Migration Challenges

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6 min read

The transition from monolithic to microservice architecture is a journey filled with promise, but it’s not without its challenges. About 45% of companies said that they have had some or no success with microservices migration.

In the quest for improved scalability, flexibility, and efficiency, organizations often face complexities, such as team and cost management, that demand careful consideration and expert navigation. Keep reading this article to explore the main migrating monolith-to-microservices challenges and strategies to overcome them.

Table of contents:

Challenges When Moving from Monolith to Microservices Architecture

Team management

Monolith decomposition

System updates

Database distribution

Co-existence of microservices and monolithic versions

Cost management

Time assessment

Best Strategy to Migrate a Monolith to Microservices

What are the Challenges When Moving from Monolith to Microservices Architecture?

Here are some of the major monolithic-to-microservices challenges to be aware of:

  • team management;
  • monolith decomposition;
  • system updates;
  • database distribution;
  • co-existence of monolith and microservices versions;
  • cost management;
  • time assessment.
Monolithic to microservices challenges statistics - Overcoming Monolith-to-Microservices Migration Challenges
The success of microservices migration

Team management

To ensure a smooth transition, you’ll need a team with strong technical skills and prior expertise in strategic planning and migration. Your team should include specialists capable of working with diverse technologies, as each microservice can be built using different programming languages and frameworks. Additionally, you’ll require specialists who might not have been part of your team before, such as DevOps engineers.

Having worked on various projects where migration played a pivotal role, such as a financial platform for SMSF audit maintenance or a road-traffic safety system, developers at HQSoftware have gained vast practical experience. Beyond technical expertise, our specialists are adaptable, able to tailor the transition plan to your unique project requirements.

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Business Development Manager

Another management challenge involves allocating teams and establishing effective communication among them. Developers are typically arranged in such a way that each team is responsible for a specific service. While this accelerates the work by enabling teams to operate in parallel and focus on specific components, it has the potential to hinder integrations and the overall ecosystem if developers aren’t well coordinated.

To ensure smooth collaboration among teams, you might need to introduce additional team roles. But first, choose an experienced project manager well-versed in various project management approaches. For example, project managers at HQSoftware excel in managing both small and large, distributed teams, employing proven project management practices.

Monolith decomposition

In a monolith, separate modules or components are closely coupled, requiring careful analysis and resolution of dependencies to avoid breaking the application’s functionality during decomposition. This is a challenging task that requires the expertise of a DevOps engineer and technical team.

Also, while planning decomposition, your team should assess which components need code refactoring or migration to a new technology stack to improve system performance. These changes should be included in a microservices migration roadmap.

System updates

Throughout the microservices migration process, your monolithic application will remain operational. However, since the migration can take a long time, you may wish to improve your monolithic app in parallel to stay competitive in the market.

This is a great challenge when moving from monolith to microservice architecture, one that can result in a collapse of the migration, as the improvements will involve code modifications. So, your team will have to allocate additional time and resources to identifying and addressing these discrepancies to ensure consistency between microservices and the monolith.

To mitigate this particular monolithic-to-microservices challenge, consider freezing all system updates until the migration is fully completed and deployed.

Database distribution

The flexibility to select different databases for various microservices is a significant advantage of this architecture, offering numerous capabilities when managed effectively. The main challenge is to allocate all databases and data correctly and establish smooth data exchange.

Data distribution must be carefully executed to prevent duplications, ensuring each database handles its specific data type. To access particular data, one microservice should reference other microservices instead of their database.

This is the standard approach teams should follow when migrating. However, your business may have specific requirements or functionality that make such an approach impractical. For example, you may need to store the same data in multiple locations to ensure reliable and fast system performance, as was required on one of our projects on developing an e-learning system.

andrei kazakevich - Overcoming Monolith-to-Microservices Migration Challenges

Andrey Kazakevich
Head of Production
at HQSoftware

This approach is definitely denormalized, but it was chosen to address a specific business objective. Every business is unique and requires a unique perspective, especially when it comes to the system architecture. However, if a team opts for something unconventional, they should analyze the potential consequences of this decision and the ability to manage them.

Co-existence of microservices and monolithic versions

As the migration progresses, the monolithic application needs to continue functioning while microservices are developed and integrated. This poses several challenges:

  • data synchronization, as changes made in one system must be reflected in the other, causing temporary data duplication;
  • communication, especially if the monolith and microservices use different protocols or formats to communicate;
  • end-to-end testing, as it involves having the monolith and microservices running simultaneously.

To overcome these issues, consider implementing microservices gradually, by migrating one feature or module at a time. This minimizes disruption and allows for thorough testing at each stage.

Cost management

While the transition to microservices may entail significant initial costs, as each microservice requires its own team, data store, and infrastructure, this architecture is cost-effective in the long run.

With microservices, you open up numerous advantages that allow you to allocate resources and costs efficiently. This includes quick on-demand scaling of particular services, fast development cycles, advanced fault isolation, which reduces downtime and associated costs, and more.

Having a detailed migration plan will allow you to control costs, plan your budget, and manage risks effectively, so allow a proper amount of time to create it.

Time assessment

There is no exact or minimum period needed for monolith-to-microservices migration, as it all depends on the project’s complexity. For some, a year is enough, while others will be engaged in the transition for several years.

To speed up or at least not slow down the migration process, we suggest you choose an experienced team, stop new feature development, implement agile methodology, and establish transparent communication among all people involved in the migration, including stakeholders.

Also, consider starting with a small-scale prototype or pilot project. This allows you to test your migration approach, identify potential issues early, and refine your timeline estimates based on real-world experience.

Challenges when moving from monolith to microservices architecture - Overcoming Monolith-to-Microservices Migration Challenges
Monolithic-to-microservices challenges

What is the Best Strategy to Migrate a Monolith to Microservices?

There is no single strategy; each project is unique and its specifics may not correspond to a standard approach. The key is to assemble a skilled migration team. Relying on their expertise and technical intuition, they can choose and implement a strategy relevant to your project, successfully handling the most tricky challenges.

Apart from our developers’ expertise, the success of our projects at HQSoftware is also a result of our understanding that the migration process needs to be carried out accurately, gradually, and without rushing. A well-crafted architecture design, relevant skills, adaptable thinking, and attention to detail have consistently enabled us to overcome monolithic-to-microservices challenges.

Besides choosing the right team, you can ensure successful migration by:

  • setting clear goals and creating a comprehensive migration plan;
  • starting with a pilot project;
  • choosing appropriate technologies;
  • effective risk and change management;
  • and continuous performance monitoring.

In Conclusion

Despite all the benefits that you can get from migration, don’t underestimate the impact of complexities that can ruin the whole process if not handled properly.

That said, most migrating monolith-to-microservices challenges are purely technical and can be resolved by choosing an experienced team. We at HQSoftware are ready to provide you with a dedicated team with the necessary expertise, including developers, DevOps, QA engineers, a project manager, and other specialists upon request. Contact us to explore how our experience can lead your migration journey to success.

Igor Kunovskiy

Lead Software Engineer

An experienced developer with a passion for IoT. Having participated in more than 20 Internet of Things projects, shares tips and tricks on connected software development.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the challenges in monolithic applications?

What challenges and risks do organizations often face when switching from a monolithic system to microservices?

What are the difficulties encountered when modifying a monolithic program?

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