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Microservices vs. Monolith: Is Microservices better than Monolithic?

Ever since software architects first used microservices in May 2011, the concept has gained tremendous popularity. Microservices offer tangible benefits and are one of the crucial reasons you binge-watch your favorite shows on Netflix or enjoy a glitch-free online shopping experience at Amazon. A recent IMB survey reveals that a staggering 56% of companies plan to adopt a microservices approach by 2024. And 84% are willing to invest more in microservices. However, this shift from the conventional ways has started a discourse on microservices architecture versus monolithic architecture in the software world. This article throws some light on the Microservices vs Monolith debate.

Let’s begin with understanding the difference at its root level- the definitions.

Microservices vs Monolith – Definition

What is monolithic architecture?

Monolithic architecture is a software architecture that encompasses all the modules of an application in one large code- Similar to how our ancestors would scribble down wordings on a single huge rock to communicate.

Here the modules are tightly coupled. It has a three-tier architecture that includes- User interface, data layer, and business logic. It means even the tiniest discrepancy in any of the modules would result in a domino effect.

What is microservices architecture?

Microservice architecture is a software architecture where you can independently deploy modules with an individual code set. You may imagine it like a collection of different small services modeled to create a complex application.

It leverages various business or technical capabilities of the application through multiple small services that communicate via API or HTTP protocols.

For example, Amazon’s application runs various processes like the checkout process as an independent module. This helps the software developers to create a better user-friendly checkout experience, even when there is a glitch in the marketplace processes.

 

Microservices vs Monolith – Pros and Cons

The conventional software development processes drive teams that work on a monolithic architecture. Advantages of monolithic architecture mainly reflect in deploying simple, small-scale software projects-specially the ones at their early stages.

  • Easy to develop:  Software developers have been using this architecture for a long. Therefore, there is a multitude of tools and knowledge sources that help in developing and deploying it.
  • Centralized Core:  The centralized core contributes to the overall efficiency of the application, especially, if it does not involve any complex, code-heavy applications. Typically, these are perfect for projects at their early stages.
  • Stress-free management:  A single code unit means fewer distributed services to manage. It becomes a boon when adding a new feature to an existing simple application.

 

As applications and processes scale-up, monolithic architecture starts losing its charm and showcases the following disadvantages:

  • Inability to comprehend the code: Complex applications require a large codebase. It can turn out to be hard to understand with its increasing complexities.
  • Slow startup time:  The single code can become overloaded as the number of modules increases. It may result in slow startup time.
  • Prone to a domino effect:  As each module is tightly coupled, a change or technological advancement in any modules can start a relay of the same. It can make the whole updating process cumbersome.

An example of a monolith architecture failure is when Netflix’s database got corrupted in August 2008. It took around four days to sort the issue as every service is interdependent.

Microservices addresses these lurking issues of monolithic architecture. It is the reason why most of the mainstay companies including, Google, Amazon, Uber, and NetFlix shifted from the latter to the former architecture.

Some of the key advantages of microservices are:

  • Service-Oriented Architecture(SOA): Microservices are born out of the idea of SOA, where a large project is divided into smaller, autonomous units for better management of API to optimally perform tasks.
  • Lower Workload: Developers can focus on a part of a large project, with fewer crucial tasks. It improves the overall productivity with the best results.
  • Increased Agility: Microservices empower companies with technologies and processes that add agility to their business process without limiting their aim and capabilities.

 

Microservices- Best Practices

To reap full-fledged benefits from microservices architecture, you first need to look into some successful microservices use cases like that of Uber that implemented the architecture to improve its scalability.

The key takeaways regarding the best practices from such microservice use cases are:

The two-pizza rule: Amazon came up with this unique idea to reduce the microservice team members to less than 10. This helped them to achieve productivity and create clarity in developmental processes.

Implementing DevOps: Developers are usually responsible for developing and operating the functionalities through a streamlined DevOps practice.

Asynchronous Communication: Asynchronous communication between microservices helps achieve loose coupling without creating confusion.

Domain-based design: Creating a domain design helps in successfully splitting the large monolith into small, independently deployable modules.

 

Conclusion

If you are working on large projects with complex structures, microservices offer exceptional benefits over monolith. However, mitigating or adopting microservices is not an easy task. It involves meticulous planning and technological expertise. The cloud-based microservice architecture helps companies scale up faster and deliver glitch-free services, especially in today’s digital era.

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