Monolithic vs microservices

Two important architecture types in software development are monolithic and microservice architecture. They are two separate approaches with two significantly different end results. To understand exactly what kind of architecture you want for a software development project and what that will look like, it is key to have a good understanding of these two concepts. 

Microservice architecture is a method of building loosely coupled, independently deployable components that eventually make up a complete service. Microservice architecture enables developers to build independent parts of a complete product that won’t conflict or interfere with each other instead of building one monolithic product. Examples are Google and AWS services, Google Docs is a separate service from Google Sheets for example, but they come under the same microservices infrastructure.

Monolithic architecture, on the other hand, is a more traditional approach to software development, in which one static, unified product is created.  This product is self-contained with one code base. A monolithic software product is simply a single unit that encompasses the entire program, rather than a network of features. 

So, which one is better? And which one should you choose for your project?

Let’s compare and contrast.

The pros and cons of microservices

First up, let’s look at the pros and cons of microservices to help you figure out whether this might be the right path of software development for your project. 

Microservices are…

Fault-isolating: Microservices products are fault-isolating due to their autonomous structure, which means that any faults or bugs in one component are isolated. It simplifies testing and fixing for the software development company concerned. And less disruption occurs for users too. In a monolithic product, bugs and faults can bring down the whole service in one go. In a network of microservices, one feature can fail and the rest stay live, meaning fewer overall problems for everyone. 

Fast to develop: Small independent teams work on the individual components of a microservices product throughout its development lifecycle. Lots of experts can work on different parts of a project at one time rather than having to collaborate at each and every stage, which means that the project’s progress can move more quickly and efficiently than with large complicated teams working with monolithic products. 

Scalable: Microservice architecture allows a product to be easily adapted and advanced as the business changes and grows, i.e. it is a very scalable structure. You can also do so without disrupting existing services, thanks to the autonomous service structure. In our ever-changing, ever-upgrading digital world, such ease of scalability is a big benefit. 

Easy to fix: As faults can be isolated and errors can stay within their own microservice, it is easier for the software development company testing and maintaining a microservices product to fix any issues. Issues can be cordoned off and dealt with easily without having to disrupt any other services. This means less downtime and disruption for users and improved service for clients.

Easy to deploy and integrate: Microservices allow continuous deployment and integration. In a microservice environment, improvements can be rolled out frequently and deployment is much easier. Using this architecture, the development team can react to the product’s live usage and fix any issues as they arise without rolling back the entire product. Compared to monolithic products, this allows much faster processes of deployment and integration and provides a more seamless service for everyone involved. 

On the flip side, the cons of building a microservices product include:

High costs: As microservices involve complex development processes, they can accrue higher costs throughout development projects. A specialist development team with a variety of members is often needed during the development and later on in the operations and maintenance stage. This means that your budget will need to be large enough to take on such a project before you begin.

Inconsistencies: Due to the structure of microservice architecture and the fact that different teams may work on different services, there is the potential for inconsistencies across the platform. 

Pros and cons of monolithic products

On the other hand, the pros of monolithic software can include:

Easy development: As monolithic software is much more straightforward and static, it can be easier for a software development company to create. There can be shorter project times and lower fees too.

Higher performance of one code base: Monolithic services offer a less complex and nuanced experience than microservices, which means that the one code base they do use can run a higher level of performance due to its simplicity. If you want something simple but fast, monolithic architecture is a great option. 

Easy to test and find problems: Everything is in one place on a monolithic platform, which means that it is easier for developers and testers to test and find problems on that platform. Rather than looking through the entire network of microservices, the team working with the platform only have to look at one place and one code base. Which makes fixing problems a lot quicker. 

Easy to debug: On a similar note to our previous point, bugs within monolithic services are easier to fix as they are in one place. However, it is important to note that one major bug or fault on a monolithic platform can bring down the entire service, so this can fall into a hybrid positive/negative category.

Cons of this type of software development include:

Lack of scalability: It is not as easy to add new features or roll back defunct features on a monolithic product. Due to its nature, the whole project needs to be rolled back to scale in either direction, which can mean downtime for users and overall inconvenience. Microservices are much easier to scale up or down. 

Hard to change: For a similar reason, monolithic services are hard to change. This means that development and business teams can’t respond easily to user demand and behaviour, making the service better and more bespoke for anyone involved. Changes are much more complex, time-consuming, and expensive. This means the development team will have to get as much right as possible the first time around.

Monolithic vs microservices – which is right for you?

With all of this in mind, which service is right for you?

There is never an easy answer, and what is right for you will depend on each individual project and team behind it. In thinking about all the pros and cons of each service we have listed above, if you still can’t decide which option is best, it may be time to talk to a professional software development company about your project. A software development company that offers consultancy will be able to point you in the right direction and help develop the product that answers your hopes and dreams. 

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