Having come into light in the late 2000s, microservices are still at the hearing these days—over the last five years, the number of Google searches for “microservices” has doubled. Indeed, the microservices approach offers tangible benefits including an increase in scalability, flexibility, agility, and other significant advantages. Netflix, Google, Amazon, and other tech leaders have successfully switched from a monolithic architecture to microservices. To leverage the benefits of this architecture to the fullest, they relied on the expertise of nearshore and offshore microservices specialists. Following into the footsteps of global market leaders, many companies consider partnering with microservices developers as the most efficient way for business growth.

On the contrary, the monolithic approach is still a default model for creating a software application. However, its trend is going down because building a monolithic application poses a number of challenges associated with handling a huge code base, adopting new technology, difficult scaling, deployment, implementing new changes and others.

Microservices vs monolith architecture

So is the monolithic approach outdated and should be left in the past? And is it worth shifting the whole application from a monolith to microservices? Will the development of a custom software with microservices architecture help you reach your business goals?

In this article, we are going to thoroughly compare both architectures, monolithic and microservices. What are the key strengths and weaknesses of both approaches? Let’s dig deeper into the differences between microservices vs monolithic architecture and find out which one will be the best fit for your business.

Microservices vs monolithic: pros, cons, and reasons for adoption

Monolithic architecture

Monolithic architecture is considered to be a traditional way of building applications. A monolithic application is built as a single and indivisible unit. Usually, such a solution comprises a client-side user interface, a server side-application, and a database. It is unified, and all the functions are managed and served in one place.

Normally, monolithic applications have one large code base and lack modularity. If developers want to update or change something, they access the same code base. So, they make changes in the whole stack at once.

Monolithic architecture: structure

Advantages of monolithic architecture

  • Less cross-cutting concerns. Cross-cutting concerns are the concerns that affect the whole application such as logging, handling, caching, and performance monitoring. In a monolithic application, this area of functionality concerns only one application, so it is easier to handle it.
  • Seamless debugging and testing. Comparing monolithic vs microservices architecture, single-tiered applications are much easier to debug and test. Since a monolithic app operates as one indivisible unit, you can run end-to-end testing much faster.
  • Prompt and simple deployment. Another advantage of a unified architecture in the juxtaposition of monolith vs microservices is fast and easy rollout. When it comes to monolithic applications, you do not have to handle many deployments – just one file or directory.
  • Easier development. As long as the monolithic approach is a standard way of building applications, most qualified engineers have the right knowledge and capabilities to develop a monolithic application.

Disadvantages of monolithic architecture

  • Code complexity. You can build a tower to a certain height with no trouble, but as it continues to grow, eventually the instability of the foundation will cause it to start shaking. The same thing is with a monolith. When a monolithic application scales up, it becomes too complicated to understand and segregate the ownership of the pieces. In addition, a large codebase within one application is harder to maintain.
  • Highly interdependent components. It might become a challenge to implement changes in such a large and complex application with high coupling. Any code change affects the whole system, so it poses more tech challenges and has to be thoroughly coordinated.
  • Limited scalability. While choosing between a monolithic architecture vs microservices, consider that you won’t be able to scale the software components independently, only the whole application.
  • New technology barriers. It is extremely problematic to apply cutting-edge technology in a monolithic application because then the entire software has to be rewritten. 

Microservices architecture

While a monolithic application is a single unified unit, a microservices architecture breaks it down into a collection of smaller independent units. These units carry out every application process as a separate service. So, all the services have their own logic and databases, as well as perform specific functions.

In short, the microservice architectural style is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API.
Martin Fowler

Within a microservices architecture, the entire functionality is split up into independently deployable modules which communicate with each other either through defined methods called APIs or message brokers. Each service covers its own scope and can be updated, deployed, and scaled independently.

Microservices architecture: structure

Advantages of microservice architecture

  • Independent components. Comparing microservices vs monolithic architecture, the first architecture type offers much greater flexibility—all the services can be deployed and updated independently. Moreover, a bug in one microservice influences only a particular service rather than the entire application. Also, it is much easier to add new features to a microservice application than a monolithic one.
Business case: Streamlining operations and boosting efficiency for the German educational services company

Let’s take a look at how N-iX helped WBS TRAINING, a top German provider of professional training courses, optimize the performance of their learning software by designing a microservice architecture. The client has reached us with a request to boost their operational efficiency, since their legacy monolith learning management system required constant synchronization. Moreover, running the synchronization cycles was time-consuming and negatively affected the system’s performance. After analyzing the existing solution, our technology office decided to design and implement a brand new learning management system based on the microservices architecture. Since the solution was designed as an expanded system, N-iX specialists could seamlessly integrate additional components such as OpenID authentication to some of the services. As a result of cooperation, WBS TRAINING streamlined their operations, boosted the system’s performance and flexibility, and decreased the page response time.

  • Easier maintenance. Split up into smaller and simpler components, a microservice application is easier to understand and manage. You just concentrate on a specific service that is related to a business goal you have.
  • Better scalability. Another advantage of the microservices approach is that each element can be scaled independently. So the entire process is more cost- and time-effective than with monoliths when the whole application has to be scaled even if there is no need for it. In addition, every monolith has limits in terms of scalability, so the more users you acquire, the more problems you have with your monolith. Therefore, many companies end up moving to microservices.
Business case: Improving scalability and accelerating time-to-market for the top global fintech enterprise

For instance, our partner Currencycloud needed to migrate to microservices due to the growing number of transactions their platform processed. Since its foundation in 2012, the company has been delivering cross-border payments as a service to clients around the globe using a B2B payments platform. Initially, their monolithic software could handle the number of transactions they had. Yet with the company’s growing success, they needed a more efficient solution to scale it even further in the future. During the project, N-iX experts helped them switch to microservices, as well as to migrate all the services to the fully-managed Kubernetes cluster. As a result, the client increased the solution’s scalability and launched faster development cycles.

  • Flexibility in choosing the technology. The engineering teams are not limited by the technology chosen from the start. Once you face the choice of software architecture—monolithic vs microservices, keep in mind that with separated services you are free to apply various technologies and frameworks for each of them.
  • Isolation of services. Any fault in a microservices application affects only a particular service and not the whole solution. Therefore, all the changes and experiments are implemented with lower risks and fewer errors.

Disadvantages of microservice architecture

  • Extra complexity. Since a microservices architecture is a distributed system, you have to choose and set up the connections between all the modules and databases. Also, as long as such applications include self-sufficient services, all of them have to be deployed independently.
  • System distribution. A microservices architecture is a complex system of multiple modules and databases, so all the connections have to be handled carefully.
  • Cross-cutting concerns. When creating a microservices application, you will have to deal with a number of cross-cutting concerns. They include externalized configuration, logging, metrics, health checks, and others. 
  • Difficulties with testing. A multitude of independently deployable components makes the software testing much harder if to compare a monolithic vs microservice architecture.

Monolith vs microservices: discovering which software architecture suits your solution and business best

What if you learned about the pros and cons of both architecture types but still have some doubts about choosing between microservices vs monolithic architecture? Go through our checkpoints, compare them with where you stand at and your business goals to make a final decision:

4 reasons to stick up to a monolithic architecture

  1. Your application is simple. Small solutions which do not demand much business logic, superior scalability, and flexibility work better with a monolith.
  2. You need to launch it quickly. In case you want to develop your application and use it as soon as possible, a monolithic model is the best choice. It works well when you aim to spend less initially and validate your business idea or want to keep your legacy system without further plans for modernization.
  3. You strive for lower software latency. In monolith-based solutions, all communications are realized within a single instance of a deployed application. Since there are fewer network communications, it takes minimum time for a data packet to travel from one designated point to another. 
  4. Your monolith is modular. This architecture type stands for a code organization that is unified yet presupposes segmenting code into individual feature modules. If your code is well-organized and easy to observe within a monolith, there’s no need to switch to microservices.

4 reasons to go for a microservices architecture

  1. You need to develop a complex and scalable application. The microservices architecture will make scaling and adding new capabilities to your application much easier. So, if you plan to develop a large application with multiple modules and user journeys, a microservice pattern would be the best way to handle it. 
  2. You plan to release new features often. Using microservices allows you to considerably accelerate your time-to-market. Within this architecture type, engineering teams can build and deploy new functionalities separately in each service without a need to redesign the whole solution.
  3. You aim at increasing fault tolerance. In microservice software, individual modules are isolated from one another. Therefore, if one system component fails, the other application parts won’t stop working properly.
  4. You want to use several technologies within one software. The isolation of modules enables you to choose the most appropriate technology for each service—and they won’t contradict.
Business case: Improving logistics efficiency for the Fortune 100 manufacturing vendor

Whether you’ve decided to stick to monolith architecture or pursue with microservices, our engineers will help you build need-based and robust custom software. For example, one of our clients, a Fortune 100 company, partnered with N-iX to scale their solution. They built the logistics platform to improve the logistics between its 400+ warehouses in over 60 countries. Yet, after the solution was used for several months, it appeared to be ineffective. It was hard for them to add new functionality and scale the monolithic platform. And scaling was essential as our client has many factories, warehouses, and suppliers, as well as a lot of raw materials and finished goods, which circulate among them. Although our partner had a vision that they needed to migrate to microservices, they did not have the comprehensive in-house expertise to address multiple technical issues and make the platform more efficient and scalable. The core reason why the platform was not scalable and inefficient was its monolithic nature. Therefore, our Solution Architect designed and presented a new cloud-native infrastructure of the platform based on Azure Kubernetes Service, along with the suggested tech stack and the most efficient roadmap.

Migrating to microservices allows the smooth adding of new SaaS services: anomaly detection, delivery prediction, route recommendations, object detection in logistics, OCR (optical character recognition) of labels on boxes, Natural Language Processing for document verification, data mining, and sensor data processing.

Reach to N-iX experts to adopt a scalable microservices architecture

Wrap-up

Think twice when choosing between monolithic vs microservices architecture, since just adopting a trendy microservices architecture is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Despite being less and less popular, a monolith has its strong and durable advantages which work better for many use cases.

If your business idea is fresh and you want to validate it, you should start with a monolith. With a small engineering team aiming to develop a simple and lightweight application, there is no need to implement microservices. This way, a monolithic application will be much easier to build, make changes, deploy, and provide testing.

The microservices architecture is more beneficial for complex and evolving applications. It offers effective solutions for handling a complicated system of different functions and services within one application. Microservices are ideal when it comes to platforms covering many user journeys and workflows. But without proper microservices expertise, applying this model would be impossible. 

If your development team does not have the microservices expertise, you can find a software development partner with hands-on experience in building microservices architecture. Many successful tech companies already outsource their microservices development to foreign IT vendors. If you consider following their strategy, contact our experts: they will guide you throughout the full-cycle of microservices adoption, from technology consulting to system management.

Why should you partner with N-iX experts to reap business benefits from microservices?

  • N-iX is a global tech consulting and software development company with 20+ years of market experience and over 2,000 qualified IT professionals on board;
  • Our specialists are well-versed in adopting scalable and secure microservices architecture for fintech, telecommunications, healthcare, education, marketing, and other domains;
  • N-iX has a strong engineering and architecture community with over 20 solution and software architects;
  • We have extensive expertise in DevOps services, including Cloud adoption (architecture, migration, optimization),  building and streamlining CI/CD processes, and more;
  • The company’s Cloud team consists of 400+ experts with strong expertise in Cloud migration and implementation of Cloud-native solutions;
  • N-iX complies with international regulations and compliances, including ISO 27001:2013, PCI DSS, ISO 9001:2015, GDPR, and HIPAA;
  • The vendor has been repeatedly recognized by CRN among the leading solution providers in North America in their ratings, including Solution Provider 500 and CRN Fast Growth 150.

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