In today’s application development space, you’ll come across two concepts frequently: ‘monolithic’ and ‘microservices’. For business leaders, the ‘next step’ for their companies’ growth may mean legacy application modernization that moves from a monolithic architecture to microservices.
This page will offer some clarity on monolithic and microservices-based applications in terms of what they are, how they differ and how they can help you achieve your specific business outcomes.
The Differences Between Monolithic and Microservices Architecture
Just as the name suggests, ‘monolithic’ applications are applications where all the parts (code base, business logic, database layer etc.) are in one system. Legacy monolithic applications are usually server-side applications, i.e., hosted on-premises.
Example of a Monolithic Applications
Many companies start with a monolithic application because it’s easier to build and maintain in the beginning when their application requirements are small or minimal and there are few components in play. As you add more functionality to this monolithic application over time, it becomes exponentially bigger and more complicated.
As a result, supporting it becomes more time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to manage and update, which increases your technical debt. For example, a bug in just one component or service could bring down the entire system. A faulty update to the legacy monolithic application will cause a crash. In web application development, this could lead to dissatisfied users and a loss of revenue for your business. Monoliths have no future-proofing ability as you need to grow your business, provide more services to clients/customers, or increase back end operational agility.
The basic idea behind microservices architecture is to break the monolith into smaller — and individually more manageable components (services). This is something many businesses eventually face with monolithic applications, especially in industries like finance, healthcare, retail, and others where legacy mainframe use is prominent. Mainframe application modernization has historically been a complex, difficult, error prone, and expensive process. But there are now efficient ways to modernize and retire technical debt of these mainframe applications.
We look at this in more detail in another post, but a simple takeaway is that the application’s individual services basically function as ‘micro’-sized applications.
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Microservices vs. Monolithic: Which One’s Better?
Ultimately, you should decide based on your business requirements, developer resources, and desired functionality/capabilities. One architecture isn’t inherently better than the other, it simply depends on the context in which you intend to deploy your application.
Monolithic could work if your goal is to just create a small application for in-house functions, such as back-office tasks. It would be quicker and easier to develop, and if you keep the app light with limited features, it’ll be easy to maintain as well. The latter point is especially important if your company only has a small team of developers.
But if you expect your application to sustain lots of users and take on a growing set of new features and services, then start with microservices. While the initial development costs may be higher, you avoid the technical debt that limits your scalability, service and product offerings, and lost customer revenue or market share from being unable to compete. There are many costs of technical debt that will dwarf any savings from starting or staying with a monolithic application down the line.
Microservices based applications come with many advantages suited for the needs of large-scale deployments. The overall advantage of microservice architectures is that they enable the continuous delivery of large and complex applications in the cloud with a collection of services that are:
- Easy to maintain and test
- Faster to develop
- Loosely coupled
- Easier to scale
- Independently deployable
- Organized around business capabilities
- More supportive of development teams
Scalability is an enormous challenge for many companies with monolithic applications that are customer or client facing. They built Netflix on cloud native application development and microservices, so as user demands across countless services go up and down, they can scale the needed resources. Microservices also help Netflix and other companies avoid cascading failures, so if a specific service fails, it won’t cause the entire application to fail.
You don’t have to be operating on the scale of Netflix to make the most of microservices. Whether you’re looking at a cloud native approach to web application development or legacy application modernization, there are obvious benefits for businesses at all stages of digital transformation.
Changing From Monolithic Architecture to Microservices
Whether it’s a new application or a legacy modernization project, you should follow these four best practices when implementing a microservices-based application.
Best Practice #1: Dedicate each microservice to a single data source (it should only control one table).
Best Practice #2: Each microservice should only do one thing and do that one thing well. However, you should also stay away from nano-services (i.e., breaking each service into sub-components) — going too small becomes inefficient, maintain a balance.
Best Practice #3: When you build microservices, they should employ bounded context. This ensures that one microservice will handle each context, such as the sales context (e.g., order, cart, etc.), and support context in an e-commerce application.
Best Practice #4: Favor re-writing over re-usability, such as when you have two or more microservices with common elements. You should re-write them to be different rather than having them share the same logic across multiple applications.
Next Steps for Microservices Business Outcomes
If you intend to transition to microservices — or develop a microservices application from scratch — then you must ensure you have sufficient development resources at-hand. This is a costly (but worthwhile) expense, so start by speaking with an experienced application development and cloud managed services partner.
By speaking to an outside Cloud Managed Services partner, you’ll get access to the tools and expertise needed to bring your application to fruition. Trying to build these competencies in-house will add to your costs and time-to-market.
At Techolution, we help businesses cut the time it takes to bring their applications to market by delivering market-ready solutions within weeks. Contact us today to see how we can steer your company ahead of your competitors.