Software architecture is like the building’s footing: do it right — you save a lot of trouble in the future, you disregard it, and, as time goes by, spend a fortune to fix all the issues appearing all of a sudden.
Not a long time ago, monolithic architecture was basically the only option to consider during web app development, but now both entrepreneurs and software developers have an alternative represented by microservices, and the “monolithic architecture vs. microservices” dilemma is hotter than ever. This hot trend draws more supporters each day and has a great number of significant perks. So no wonder it may be hard for a business owner to “pick a side”.
For the choice to be more effortless, we’ve created this simple short comparison guide that will tell you all about the main perks along with the cons of both approaches.
- What is monolithic architecture?
- Pros of monolithic architecture
- Cons of monolithic architecture
- When to choose a monolithic app?
- What is microservices architecture?
- Pros of microservices
- Cons of microservices
- When to choose a microservices-based app?
What is monolithic architecture?
As the term implies, monolithic architecture describes a model in app development founded on assembling software as a single solid unit consisting of multiple interrelated elements. Monolith app consists of a sole codebase and a bunch of features/modules/components that may vary according to the desired functionality. An app is deployed at a time, and once it is over, all of the functionality is ready-to-use.
Now that you’re familiar with the idea, check the highs and lows of this path. But before that, you can try to find out which approach is for you in an easy and fun way. Try our Microservices vs. Monolith quiz that will help you reveal the perfect architecture model for your business.
Pros of monolithic architecture
Even though a huge part of the IT community claims the era of monolithic applications is over, it’s not actually true. Monolith-based apps come with a great number of advantages and may be more beneficial in some business-scenarios.
Easier development, high compatibility, and exploration degree
As mentioned before, the monolith can be named the groundbreaker of software architecture as it was eminent when microservices weren’t a thing. No wonder building a monolith app is a pure blessing for any dev team: it’s easy, it’s simple, plus it’s compatible with basically any technology you may choose.
When it comes to the monolithic approach, the keyword is simplicity. And that can be quite profitable for many reasons.
First of all, the development process is pretty straightforward, so the skill requirements for the tech experts are not that strict. From the business perspective, it means fewer expenditures on the dev team. You may hire staff that costs lower but will still deliver high-quality work because it’s easier to develop.
Secondly, monolith architecture usually means there’s only one team involved, so there will be fewer spendings.
Silos of data is non-existent
Another prominent feature of any monolith app is its unity and interconnectedness. Therefore, the silos of data are basically non-existent, which forms several advantages both for the developer and for the entrepreneur.
- smoother workflow and multitasking
- easier deployment & testing
- simplified communication and code sharing
Developing a monolithic application, the tech pro can effortlessly work on several items as all of them are interconnected and require similar tools.
On the other hand, the deployment process is very simple (there’s only one archive involved), and once it’s over, the QA team can test all of the features simultaneously, so a lot of time can be saved.
Another aspect is code sharing. As you remember, the monolith app has a sole codebase, so if at any stage of the development process, code sharing will be required, there will be no drawbacks.
Monolithic apps are faster. Microservices incorporate several groups of elements, and each of them is autonomous. Ergo, in order to function, microservices must exchange data via a network, which is time-consuming. Even though the latency rates aren’t so frightening, monolithic apps don’t have this problem at all, as all of the calls amongst the components are local.
Cons of monolithic architecture
Knowing that monoliths have an arsenal of very tempting advantages, it’s very important to know about the “dark side” as well. Here are the most vivid disadvantages of monoliths you shouldn’t disregard.
Monolith is a solid system, so even a single lapse or a minor bug may bring the entire app down. It just won’t work until the dev team finds out and fixes the issue. And this brings another problem: one code base is usually a large-scale base, so looking for the trouble spot and then fixing it may be quite time-consuming. And all of this time, the app will either be down or experience some major functionality restrictions.
Problems with scalability
This particular flaw is valid only for certain types of apps/businesses as not all business models imply fast growth. But if you’re an entrepreneur planning to get to new audiences or add numerous features in the future, monolith may not be for you.
Some say that tweaking or scaling a monolithic app is impossible, and you’re doomed to start from scratch repeatedly. It’s true, but only to a certain extent. You can both tweak and scale monoliths (e.g., by operating several instances with matching routing), but it will be both time-consuming and labor-consuming/expensive.
Lack of agility
As you may have understood, monoliths are not easy to change in any way. It’s also true for all types of updates. Monolithic apps do not tolerate functionality experiments that much, and any new element requires a separate redeployment of the whole app. So if you’re fond of state-of-the-art technology or you’d like to come up with brand new ideas almost every day and would prefer bringing them to life in the app, the monolithic approach shouldn’t be your first bet.
Continuous development is a no
The main rule of the continuous approach (either for development or deployment) is graduality. Software is developed step-by-step and updated accordingly (may require even multiple updates every day), and that is unachievable with a monolithic architecture.
When to choose a monolithic app?
Let’s sum it up! Monoliths are cheaper to develop, require a smaller team, and are super easy to test and deploy. At the same time, these apps are less agile, not that fail-safe, and are difficult to scale. Are there any cases in which monolith works better than microservices or SOA? There sure are!
- Small local businesses
- Apps with simple functionality
- Apps to test out an idea or an MVP
If you don’t plan to “take over the world” and build a multi-billion company in a couple of years, monolith may be for you. You know your target audience, and it’s limited? You want to test out an idea and find out if it’s worth your time? You’re happy with how everything is going and do not plan to introduce drastic changes? Select monolith, it will do the job.
What is microservices architecture?
Unlike monolith, which represents a solid entity, microservices architecture implies utilizing several independent and sustainable modules that create a cohesive app while intercommunicating. Each element (microservice) is 100% autonomous. It can be developed, updated, maintained, and tweaked separately.
Microservices are not interdependent, which means a glitch in one of the modules will not affect the whole app, only a specific element of the functionality.
Microservices architecture is often considered to be a “modern” approach allowing entrepreneurs to keep up with the imperative of our time. The reason behind it is that the main advantages of this model cover most of the business needs of the market giants, which are both famous and influential.
Pros of microservices
The number of assets associated with microservices is really impressive. And what’s great, different businesses may find a number of assets that work specifically for them. Here we’ll specify the most important benefits you should know about.
Turning complex solutions into easy ones
The “magic” of microservices is the capacity to decompose a complex product and turn it into a number of simple solutions that are way easier to manage.
When working with a microservices-based app, the dev team doesn’t have to spend hours searching for a specific line of code hidden amongst the tons of “spaghetti”. Independent services are coherent (which makes onboarding smoother) and to work with as they are not as complex as a monolith.
The app is always up and running
As every microservice represents only a certain feature but not an app as a whole, it’s almost impossible for a microservices-based solution to shut down completely. Yes, a part of it may be unavailable at some point (e.g., when some kind of malfunction appears), but the audience still will be able to use the app to a certain extent.
Effortless scalabilityMicroservices go hand in hand with cloud solutions. In fact, as a report by Marketsandmarkets claims, the cloud microservices market is expected to reach 1,880.0 million USD by 2023.
And there’s a reason for such a boost: microservices-based solutions are known for being easily scalable both horizontally and vertically. At the same time, scaling requires fewer resources and can be way more precise, which leads to less spendings in the future.
Monolithic apps are rigid, microservices-based apps are flexible. That’s the truth. And we’re talking not only about the ability to easily add/remove pieces of functionality. If you desire, you may experiment with the technology stack as the final product doesn’t have to be solid. At the same time, you may explore various types of software development teams plus pick the structure that works for your project. No boundaries whatsoever! In fact, both agility and flexibility are considered to be amongst the primary intentions for utilizing microservice architecture.
Of course, the list of assets that microservices bring for your business is not over. There are some other amazing perks, and if you want to know more about it, check one of our latest articles about the benefits of microservices. If you want to know what the flaws are, just keep reading!
Cons of microservices
It’s true that the microservices model is reliable, easy to manage, scalable, flexible, and consistent. But don’t be deceived! Microservices have their complications as well.
Testing can be tricky
Each entity in the microservice-based app is developed separately, so testing the app as a whole when all the units come together can be challenging. The process is more time-consuming and usually less efficient compared to testing a monolithic app.
Complexity is still there
Even if you’re decomposing a complex solution and turn it into a bunch of smaller pieces, you still have some work to do and some challenges to overcome. You’ll have to orchestrate all of those independent modules and make sure they’re forming one elegant solution.
Manipulating multiple databases, libraries, and transactions requires a lot of skill and experience. It’s not an easy job, so the staffing problem remains relevant.
Intimidating entry cost
State-of-the-art know-how, multiple skilled teams, complex modern functionality meeting the market demands. All of this sounds tempting, however, at the same time implies a dear initial cost.
Microservices development is not cheap (especially in comparison to the monolithic apps, which are usually simple), and you need to be ready for it.
When to choose a microservices-based app?
Long story short, microservices may seem like a silver bullet, but this type of architecture brings out the best in it only in certain cases.
- Projects with robust functionality
- Rapidly growing businesses
- The apps requiring 24/7 availability
If you want to be one step ahead, if being “mediocre but consistent” isn’t your plan, if you want to build a large team that will work on a well-known product, choose microservices.