Choosing the Right Path: Microservices vs. Monolithic Architecture – What’s the Best Approach?

Choosing the Right Path: Microservices vs. Monolithic Architecture – What's the Best Approach?

Certain business goals can be achieved through various approaches. For instance, if a company aims to reduce costs, there are multiple strategies to consider. One approach involves identifying cost-incurring factors within the business operations and working to eliminate or optimize them. Another approach is to undertake a complete transformation of the production process, adopting more efficient and cost-effective technologies. Additionally, businesses can trim expenses that, while not directly related to production costs, contribute to the overall high-cost structure.

Similarly, in the realm of digital technology, two primary architectural approaches are commonly used to develop systems that benefit businesses: monolithic and microservices architecture. Both approaches have their own advantages and drawbacks. 

For instance, consider a clothing brand aiming to boost its sales by strengthening its online presence. To achieve this, they decided to develop a new e-commerce platform. Here, the decision between monolithic and microservices architecture plays a crucial role in shaping how the platform will be constructed and operated. The choice ultimately hinges on the company’s understanding of both architectural approaches and their respective advantages and disadvantages.

In this blog, we will delve into the specifics of each, outlining their pros and cons. This information will help you make an informed decision regarding which architectural approach is best suited for your business.

What is monolithic?

Before the advent of microservices, the prevalent approach for creating applications was monolithic architecture. A monolithic application, as the name suggests, operates as a single, unified piece of code.  This implies that the entire application is designed, deployed, and expanded as one interconnected unit.  In simpler terms, all the functions within the application are tightly woven together because there is only a single piece of code written for the entire application. Imagine it like a tightly woven fabric; making a change in one thread can unravel the entire pattern, impacting the whole structure.

Benefits of monolithic architecture

  1. Easy to develop: Developing an application using a monolithic architecture is a straightforward process, as all the code is centralized in one location. This simplifies the developer’s task, as there is no need to navigate through various repositories. Additionally, for smaller applications, the monolithic approach proves to be ideal due to its simplicity and speed of development. In fact, many applications begin as monoliths because of the ease it offers in the development phase.
  2. Easy Testing: When it comes to testing the application, developers or the company only need to focus on a single application. There’s no need to juggle multiple applications because everything is written in one cohesive code. This streamlines the testing process and ensures that all aspects are thoroughly examined within the same application, making it more efficient and manageable.
  3. Easy to deploy: Applications built using the monolithic architecture approach are relatively easy to deploy. This is because the company or developer responsible for creating the application only has one application to manage. With just one application, there’s a single CI/CD pipeline and one infrastructure to oversee.
  4. Simplified Debugging: Monolithic applications offer straightforward debugging. Whether a bug appears during development or in the future, you only need to search one place due to its monolithic nature. The real advantage becomes evident when you debug the application locally, making problem-solving more efficient.
  5. Performance: One advantage of the monolithic approach is that it typically has lower latency compared to the microservices approach, resulting in faster response times for users.

Disadvantages of monolithic architecture

  1. Become increasingly complex over time: As a monolithic application grows, more functionality is often added to it, making the codebase larger and more intricate. Developers aim to maintain clean code practices for easier maintenance, but even well-designed applications can seem chaotic as they expand. This complexity can be daunting for new developers unfamiliar with the application.
  2. Protracted Release Process: As an application grows in size and complexity, it accumulates a multitude of features that necessitate thorough testing before any release. Even minor changes may demand the entire application to be reevaluated each time. The duration of a release can significantly extend, particularly if you must account for green and blue services, as well as monitor the logs. The time it takes to complete a release depends on factors such as the application’s size and the maturity of the CI/CD pipeline.
  3. Scalability Challenges:  Imagine you want to make one part of your application work better. But here’s the catch – you can’t just tinker with that part alone. Instead, you end up having to change lots of other connected things in the app. Scalability in monolithic applications demands alterations across various components, as well as the need to upgrade APIs and boost server capacity. And when you want to make the whole app bigger and better, it gets tricky, expensive, and time-consuming

What are microservices?

Microservices, in contrast to the previous monolithic architecture, represent a modern approach to application development. In a microservices architecture, an application is divided into smaller, independent services that function as separate entities. Each service or component of the application is responsible for a specific business functionality, with its own infrastructure and database. These individual services can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently, with each microservice having its own versions and separate release cycles. These services communicate with each other through APIs, message brokers, or service meshes, allowing for greater flexibility and agility in application development. Think of it as a collection of individual threads, each contributing to the overall fabric while permitting modifications without disrupting the entire structure.

Advantages of microservices

  1. Maintenance-Friendly: The breakdown of the entire application into individual microservices proves to be maintenance-friendly. In many cases, you may not need to touch or update some of the microservices at all. This is in stark contrast to monolithic applications where changes in one component might require updates across multiple components. When you modify and update a single microservice, it doesn’t impact the others.
  2. Enhanced Reliability: Imagine you’ve built a large application using the microservices approach, and an issue arises. In this scenario, the problem may be limited to one or a few specific microservices. If you identify the issue, you can quickly pinpoint which microservice is at fault, expediting the resolution process. Since one microservice’s problems do not affect others, the entire application remains more reliable, and complete system crashes are rare in microservices unless it is an infrastructure issue, such as DNS failure. For example, if a service responsible for providing product suggestions on an e-commerce website malfunctions, it won’t impact other functionalities on the web application.
  3. Multiple Technology Stacks: Another significant advantage of microservices is that each team responsible for different microservices or application components can choose their own technological stack. While this flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse, it’s essential to strike a balance. Some programming languages are better suited for specific tasks; for instance, Python excels in writing machine learning algorithms compared to C#. However, it’s advisable to use a consistent technological stack as much as possible to minimize future complications.
  4. Scalability: We understand that microservices collaborate as a team to operate a larger application, and this teamwork provides a distinct advantage. For instance, if you wish to enhance a specific function or microservice, you can do so without considering other microservices. You have the flexibility to make individual changes and updates to that particular microservice, a level of independence that’s typically unattainable in monolithic applications.
  5. Continuous development: In the world of microservices, the beauty lies in the fact that you don’t have to tinker with the entire application when you want to make a change to one specific component. This enables continuous development, where different teams can simultaneously work on different microservices. Once they’ve completed their work and tested it, they can deploy these changes without causing any disruptions to the other microservices.

Disadvantages of microservices

  1. Complex Local Setup: When a microservice relies heavily on other microservices, running your application locally for development purposes becomes exceedingly difficult.
  2. Debugging Complexity: Debugging can be a daunting task, particularly when dealing with a multitude of microservices in your application. Production problems may require sifting through multiple services to identify the source of the issue. This underscores the importance of robust monitoring procedures to pinpoint malfunctioning microservices.
  3. Increased Costs: While microservices are cost-effective for building or scaling larger applications, they can become costly when used for smaller projects. You may end up paying for infrastructure and services that you don’t actually need or utilize.
  4. Escalating Complexity: Managing and monitoring a handful of microservices is manageable, but as your application grows in size and the number of microservices multiplies into the hundreds, it can turn into an operational nightmare. Your focus shifts from just a few to hundreds of microservices, complicating overall management.

Choosing the Right Architecture

In conclusion, the choice between monolithic and microservices architectures hinges on the scale of your application and your growth aspirations. Developing a small, self-contained application can be achieved with the simplicity and speed of the monolithic approach. However, if your vision encompasses a substantial, multifaceted application with plans for future expansion, the microservices architecture stands out as the superior choice. It’s crucial to carefully evaluate your project’s size and future goals, considering all the pros and cons, to ensure you make an informed decision that aligns best with your digital aspirations and sets you on a path to success.

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