Microservices Architecture vs Monolithic Architecture

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

Are you weighing between microservices architecture vs monolithic architecture for implementing your important business idea? Read on, as we compare the two architectural patterns.

1. Differences in architectural design microservices architecture vs monolithic architecture

You use one code base in the monolithic architecture. The entire application has the same code base. Irrespective of all the functionalities that you offer, the whole system is one large application.

A monolithic application is a single and indivisible unit. When you add a new feature, you might touch upon several parts of the code. You might modify several pieces of code in different places for enhancements. However, you are still modifying a single unit only.

Microservices architecture varies fundamentally from monolithic architecture here. You can think of a microservices application as a collection of multiple small services. One service is just like one application. You develop them separately, and they are deployed independently.

All the services are independent. One service might communicate with another. However, the entire process of communication is via APIs (application programming interfaces). You can modify individual services without impacting other services.

2. The speed of software development in microservice architecture vs monolithic application

Building applications takes less time when you use microservice architecture. Each microservice in this software architecture pattern is typically small. Microservices have well-defined boundaries and their own logic.

One microservice doesn’t have a tight coupling with the other services. Each microservice contains functionalities that are changed together. If you modify one microservice, then you don’t need to modify anything in other services.

Developing independent services in this manner amounts to developing small applications. You can engage separate development teams simultaneously to develop multiple services.

Microservices architecture contains two key components in addition to services. One is the orchestration component. You typically use an off-the-shelf orchestration solution for this. The other component is the API gateway.


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All of these put together can take considerably less time than developing a large and complex monolithic application. You can’t develop different parts of a monolithic app simultaneously either. You get a faster time-to-market with microservices architecture.

3. Database management in microservices application vs monolithic applications

In the microservices architecture, every microservice has its own business logic. Accordingly, it has its own persistent data. You need to provide separate database management in every microservice.

One microservice can’t use the data storage solution used by another microservice. Different microservices must have their own data schema too. You can use different DBMSs (database management systems) in all the microservices according to their requirement.

Monolithic architecture is a single unified unit. You can only have one data storage solution for it. Furthermore, you can have only one set of DBMS for one indivisible unit. The data model for a monolithic app caters to all the functionalities offered by it.

4. Testing in microservices architecture vs monolithic architecture

You develop and test each microservice separately in the case of microservices architecture. This applies when you enhance a microservice.

Every microservice should be independent of other microservices. The development of one microservice should have no bearing on other microservices. This holds when you enhance microservices too.

Inter-process communication among microservices happens via APIs. Therefore, you test one microservice and this inter-service communication.

You don’t need to test other microservices. You don’t need to test the entire microservices app either. This expedites the entire CI (continuous integration)/CD (continuous delivery) process.

However, you need to test the entire app in the case of monolithic architecture. You need to do that when you add a new feature. Enhancements also require end-to-end testing of the entire monolithic app. You need to allocate more time and resources to test monolithic apps.

5. Deployment in microservices approach vs monolithic approach

You deploy each microservice separately in the microservices architecture. Since you develop and test each microservice separately, separate deployment is logical.

You can achieve continuous deployment this way. That’s one of the key tangible benefits of microservice architecture. You can iterate quicker.

This brings complexity too. You need to design microservices carefully. You should package all functionalities that change together into one microservice. This way you can develop, test, and deploy them together.

You need to deploy the entire system each time you develop or enhance a monolithic app. That’s true even if you just add one new feature or enhance one functionality.

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You might experience a slow development process in the case of complex applications built using monolithic architecture. Organizations experience this in the case of deployment too.

6. Technology stack used in building microservices vs monolithic apps

You develop each microservice separately in the microservices architecture. Microservices communicate with each other via an API gateway. You can’t have any tight coupling between microservices.

Therefore, the development of one microservice doesn’t have any dependencies on the development of other microservices. You can even separate small teams for developing different microservices.

Naturally, you can use completely different tech stacks for developing different microservices. You can choose programming languages that are suitable for respective microservices.

Monolithic architecture doesn’t allow this flexibility. It uses one code base in one code repository. You can use one technology stack only.

7. Adding new features in microservices architecture vs monolithic architecture

You design microservices around business domains. Each microservices should cater to one set of functionalities. You need to avoid cross-cutting concerns when designing microservices.

It naturally follows that you will add a new feature to one microservice only. You need the involvement of developers working on that microservice only. Development, testing, and deployment efforts should concentrate on that service alone.

However, a monolithic app is a single unified unit. It has one code base in one code repository. Each new feature addition requires changes to that code base. You need to test and deploy the entire app, which can slow down iterations.

8. Maintaining microservices applications vs monolithic applications

You maintain individual microservices separately in the microservices architecture. That amounts to maintaining multiple small applications. You can find issues easily, furthermore, fault isolation is easier.

Maintaining monolithic applications is harder. You have to detect bugs for all functionalities in one large code base. If the application fails in one functionality, then it fails in its entirety. You can’t isolate faults.

9. Skills and experience needed in development teams for microservices vs monolithic architecture

In the case of monolithic architecture, you have one software development team only. You have one skill set requirement. Your development team can have equal or more mid-level and junior developers than experienced programmers.

You can have fully separate development teams in the case of microservices architecture. Your skill requirements can vary since you can use different tech stacks for different microservices.

Monolithic applications can become very complex as you keep adding new features. When you started developing it, it might not have been a complex application.

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On the other hand, each microservice isn’t complex. That’s because you design a microservice around one business domain.

However, the design process is complex in the microservices architecture. You need a more experienced team for such projects.

10. Complexities in adopting microservices vs monolithic approach

Monolithic applications become more complex as you add more features to them. You find one large code base harder to handle. Further enhancements become harder, furthermore, maintenance and scaling are harder.

You face different complexities in the microservices architecture. A few examples are as follows:

  • You need to design microservices smartly. Microservices shouldn’t have tight coupling.
  • Microservice apps are distributed systems. You need the relevant skills and experience in your team.
  • You need to implement robust DevOps processes, methods, and tools to realize the advantage of microservices architecture. That can be complex.
  • You can use different tech stacks in microservices architecture, however, you need robust governance. The technology landscape in your organization can become chaotic otherwise.

You need to manage the design, planning, and management-related complexities in the microservices architecture. Manage them early in the project lifecycle.

11. Scaling in microservices architecture vs monolithic architecture

You can take separate scalability measures for each microservice since they can be scaled independently. Different microservices can have different demand profiles and resource requirements. Microservices architecture allows you to plan their scalability requirements separately.

You need to plan for the scalability of the entire system in the case of monolithic architecture. The resource requirements for the application might change due to different demand profiles of different functionalities. It’s still a single and indivisible unit, therefore, you can’t plan scalability measures for individual functionalities.

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1. Should I adopt the microservices architecture due to its popularity?

Microservices architecture is popular. However, you shouldn’t adopt it just for that. Analyze your project requirements. Assess whether you can clearly define independent services. Evaluate whether you can manage the complexities of microservices architecture.

2. Which orchestration tool do organizations commonly use in microservices architecture?

Many organizations developing microservices applications use Kubernetes, a very popular orchestration solution.

3. Microservices architecture allows flexibility of tech stack. Should I use it for this reason?

Technology should solve your business needs. If you need to use different programming languages, then that should be driven by business requirements. Your primary objective can’t be just using different technologies. Use microservices architecture if it caters to your business needs.


Alexey Semeney

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