What you should know about a monolithic application Vs. microservices

If you have been interested in taking your company to the next level, You have probably heard about microservices and monolithic architecture. This type of technology allows several small independent services to work together through APIs. If you have deals with different companies or direct clients, this may be the solution you were looking for.

Microservices architectures make applications easier to scale and faster to develop because of their great connectivity. This enables innovation and speeds time to market for new features. Otherwise, in traditional monolithic architectures, all processes are closely associated and run from a single service. This means that if one process in an application experiences a spike in demand, the entire architecture must be scaled. Adding or enhancing features to a monolithic application becomes more complex as the code base grows. 

This complexity limits experimentation and makes it difficult to implement new ideas. Monolithic architectures increase the risk of application availability because many closely linked and dependent processes increase the impact of a process failure. However, they offer greater security and control to large companies. 

In microservices architecture, on the other hand, an application is built with separate components that run each application process as a service. These services communicate through a well-defined interface using lightweight APIs. Services are built for business capabilities, and each service performs a single function. Because they run independently, each service can be upgraded, deployed, and scaled to meet the demand for specific features of an application.

In fact, according to data provided by O'Reilly, a large majority of companies (54%) indicate that such adoption has been “mainly successful”, while a 10% indicates that it has been “absolutely successful”. But it is not only decision makers who understand the advantages of this phenomenon. The same employees show a clear tendency for this type of software development:

  • Almost a third of developer employees are migrating the majority of their systems (more than a 50%) to microservices architectures.
  • There is talk of a trend, as by the end of 2020, approximately 61% of respondents reported having been using microservices for more than a year.

Because of the above, you may wonder what is a monolithic application architecture vs microservices, and which one should be implemented in your development processes. If you want to know more, find out below.

microservices monolithic architecture
Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of monolithic architecture and microservices architecture can allow you to make the right decision for your company.

Importance of software architecture

Software architecture is the foundation of systems, whether it is a monolithic application architecture or microservices. Like other types of engineering, foundations have a profound effect on the quality of what is built and, accordingly, to large companies. As such, it is of great importance in terms of the successful and eventual development of a company.

Some of the first decisions come from the design of the architecture, and they have a high degree of importance because they affect all subsequent development. The larger the size and complexity of a software system, the more it will need a well thought-out architecture to be successful. Depending on the path you decide on, it gives you a series of benefits when done correctly, which greatly increases the chances of the software system being successful.

The importance of architecture in software development, and specifically in application development, it is undeniable:

  • A correct architecture allows better communication between stakeholders: decision makers, outsourcing companies, on-site developers, part-time collaborators, and even clients.
  • Software architecture is a reflection of how the organization works. For example, does your company have a rather flexible and adaptable vision to the environment, or absolutely rigid?
  • Architecture is key in the early stages of application design. What will be the most difficult thing to correct in the event of eventualities? Also, is the design consistent with the mission and vision of the company?

Knowing these essentials will help you better understand the differences between monolithic and microservices applications.

The differences between a monolithic application vs microservices:

While an app microservices It is made up of various modules and components that communicate with each other (but without losing their degree of independence), monolithic applications stand out for grouping all the functions in a single large code.

Which one should you choose? The answer depends on several factors. For example, Netflix struggled with growth in 2009. Its infrastructure couldn't keep up with rapidly growing demand for its streaming video services. This company decided migrate your IT infrastructure from your private data centers to a public cloud and replace the monolithic architecture with another of microservices. 

monolithic microservices
Choosing the perfect software architecture for your company, whether monolithic or microservices, is key to the best performance.

The speed with which it adapted allowed Netflix to become one of the first notable companies to migrate from a monolith to a cloud-based microservices architecture. Nowadays, Netflix has more than a thousand who manage and support independent parts of the platform, while your engineers deploy code frequently, sometimes thousands of times a day.

Now, to better understand what a monolithic application is, it is worth dwelling on some of the key concepts that differentiate one from the other:

  • Efficiency. At the beginning, it was said that monolithic applications tended to be more efficient, since everything was agglomerated in the same code. However, advances in information technologies, and the speed of cloud and internet architectures (such as fiber optics), have allowed microservices codes to be deployed equally effectively.
  • Probability of errors. Being a linear development process, monolithic architecture tended to immediately show the possible bugs, which is why it was often preferred over microservices, which were supposedly more prone to code failures as they were more complex structures. But today, thanks to more agile methodologies and more elaborate QA Testing processes, it has been possible to considerably reduce errors between connected microservices.
  • Stiffness and flexibility. Regardless of the advancement in technology, stiffness is one of the main characteristics of monolithic applications, making them more difficult to upgrade. A microservices application tends to be more flexible, adaptable and multifunctional in front of all types of environments, also offering some autonomy to each of the development teams.

Which software architecture should you choose?

The drawback of monolithic application architecture with respect to microservices appears when the application grows and needs to scale. If the entire application scales, it's really not a problem. Still, in most cases, only a few elements of the application are the bottlenecks that need to be scaled, while other components are used less.

However, the monolithic approach is common, and many organizations develop using this design method. Many enjoy fairly good results, while others face some limits. Many designed their applications with this model, since creating service-oriented architectures (SOA) with infrastructure and tools was too difficult, and they didn't see the need until the application grew.

monolithic microservices
Monolithic architecture has a couple of benefits over microservices that might make it your ideal choice.

Lastly, from an availability perspective, monolithic applications should be deployed as a whole. This means that if you need to stop and start, all functionality and all users will be affected during the implementation period. In certain situations, the use of Azure and containerization can minimize these situations and reduce the likelihood of application downtime. Monolithic applications can be deployed and scaled on Azure with dedicated virtual machines for each instance. 

In addition, it is worth noting some advantages of a monolithic architecture over microservices:

  • easy implementation: A single executable file or directory makes deployment easy.
  • Developing: Developing an application built with a single code base is easier.
  • Performance: in a centralized code base and repository, one API typically performs the same function as many APIs in the case of microservices.
  • Simplified tests: A monolithic application is a single, centralized unit, so end-to-end testing can be done faster than with a distributed application.
  • easy debugging: with all the code located in one place, it is easier to track requests and locate issues.

Amazon Lambda: Achieve Application Modernization with Microservices

In conclusion, it is possible to achieve a better application modernization by implementing architectures that allow you to be adaptable in the face of a changing environment, as are those of microservices. For example, Amazon Lambda, which is part of AWS (Amazon Web Services), is a cloud service that allows you to run microservices code and architectures without the need to manage on-premises servers. That is to say, it is a serverless technology that can positively impact the culture of your company.

This technology can help you solve some eventualities, a microservices environment can present difficulties such as: repeated overhead to create each new element, problems with optimizing server density and utilization, complexity of running multiple versions of multiple microservices simultaneously, and proliferation of client-side code requirements to integrate with many separate services.

monolithic application microservices
If you decide to opt for a microservices architecture over a monolithic application, AWS Lambda may be your best tool for troubleshooting potential errors that may arise.

When you build microservices using serverless resources like AWS Lambda, these issues become less difficult to solve, and in some cases simply go away. The serverless microservices pattern lowers the barrier to creating each one (API Gateway even allows cloning of existing APIs and use of Lambda functions in other accounts). Optimizing server utilization is no longer relevant with this pattern. Finally, Amazon API Gateway provides programmatically generated client SDKs in a number of popular languages to reduce integration overhead.

In fact, on the back end of application development, Amazon Lambda helps you integrate your processes with other cloud services, such as API Gateway and RDS, all without having to worry about managing servers. In Codster we are an official AWS partner and experts in the implementation of serverless technologies, helping you develop a more agile culture through microservices architectures.

Alejandra Correa

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