Microservices is one of those software architecture trends that has not only changed the enterprise IT landscape, but has also ushered in an era of digital transformation. Microservices vs. monolithic architecture is an interesting debate considering that successful organizations like Netflix, Google, Amazon, and others are adopting these approaches to their software development. What are the advantages of microservices over monolithic architecture?

Microservices architecture vs. monolithic architecture

Let us begin with a comparison between microservices and monolithic architecture.

  • Monolithic applications are traditionally built as a single unit. Enterprise Applications are built in three tiers: a database, a client-side user interface, and a server-side application. The server-side application will handle HTTP requests, execute business logic, retrieve and update data from the database, and output an HTML view for the browser. Since it works as a single logical executable unit, it becomes difficult to make alterations or updates to the system. In the case of monolithic architecture, the developers must build and deploy an updated version of the server-side application.
  • Microservices are developed as individual modules and the core implementation of the service is completely veiled. These APIs are used in a way that gives consumers the freedom to modify the systems of record or service compositions that may lie underneath the interface.

Software development processes with microservices vs. monolithic architecture

Software development such as waterfall, agile, etc. usually results in large teams working on a single monolithic deployment artifact. Generally, there isn’t an issue with these kinds of development cycles, however, there are some drawbacks which tend to occur during the development of monolithic products:

  • Monolithic applications tend to be so large that sometimes the bigger picture is lost by individual developers.
  • Limited reuse can occur across monolithic applications.
  • Scaling monolithic applications can be a challenge.
  • Traditionally single development stacks are used for Monolithic applications, which can limit the choice of development tools.

Microservice architecture in tandem with cloud deployment technologies, API management, and integration technologies paves the way to new approaches in software development. In this case, the monolith is disassembled into a set of independent services that are developed, deployed and maintained separately. Microservice architecture has the following advantages:

  • Services are developed in a modular fashion, ideally by a small team of developers working on each service.Services are developed in a modular fashion, ideally by a small team of developers working on each service.
  • Services exist as independent deployed entities that can be scaled independently of other services.
  • If microservices’ interfaces are exposed with a standard protocol, such as a REST-ful API, they can be consumed and reused by other services and applications without direct coupling through language bindings or shared libraries.
  • All this freedom of developing services discretely allows developers to use their choice of the development framework.

However, there are certain trade-offs – with flexibility comes complexity. Managing a complex number of distributed services at scale is difficult for the following reasons:

  • Proper documentation for each service must be made available so that project teams can easily discover services as potential reusable components.
  • Interdependency between services needs to be closely monitored. Downtime of services can potentially break multiple systems.

Benefits of microservices vs. monolithic architecture

The business benefits of microservices architecture over monolithic architecture are quite significant. This significance can be realized and measured in the form of technical debt. In monolithic applications, segregated components share the same memory, taking away some of the flexibility that should be available in an agile development process. Monolithic codebases are more time consuming to work with and more expensive to maintain which in turn increases technical debt.

However, microservices architecture reduces technical debt and brings other benefits to the business which can reduce costs and impact the bottom line:

  • Agility: Microservices speed up development and allow DevOps to focus on updating relevant pieces of an application. In turn, this is great for agile teams looking to accomplish tasks in shorter timeframes.
  • Efficiency: Microservices architecture is known to offer significant cost savings to the tune of 50%, by reducing the need for computing infrastructure required to run a given application as compared to monolithic architecture.
  • Resiliency: Since multiple services are handling multiple tasks, susceptibility to a single point of failure is minimized. Maintenance becomes a lot easier, and scalability is a lot more viable.
  • Revenue: Faster updates, decreased downtime definitely affect the bottom line and lead to an increase in revenue. User retention and engagement will improve if a microservices-based application is constantly enhanced.