In today’s software development space, you’ll come across two concepts frequently: ‘monolithic’ and ‘microservices’. For business leaders, the ‘next step’ for their companies’ growth may mean debating to move from a monolithic architecture to microservices.
In this post, we’ll offer some clarity on what monolithic and microservices-based applications actually are and, as importantly, their differences. You should come away from this article with a good idea of whether moving to microservices is the right next step.
Just as the name suggests, ‘monolithic’ applications are applications where all of the parts — e.g., code base, business logic, database layer etc — are in one system. Legacy monolithic applications are usually server-side applications, i.e., hosted on-premises.
Example of a Monolithic Applications
When the application requirements are small or minimal, some companies might opt to develop a monolithic application as it’s easier and more feasible. In the beginning, supporting it would’ve been comparatively easier because there weren’t many components in play.
However, as the years passed and more functionality was added, the monolithic application became exponentially bigger and more complicated. As a result, supporting it became more time consuming and expensive (the choice to go monolithic first resulted in technical debt).
For example, a bug in just one component or service could bring down the entire system. So if you had a faulty update, that update will cause a crash, which could result in dissatisfied users and a loss of revenue for your business. For some businesses, monoliths aren’t future proofed.
The basic idea behind microservices architecture is to break the monolith into smaller — and individually more manageable — components.
We look at this in more detail in another post, but a simple takeaway is that the application’s individual services basically function as ‘micro’-sized applications.
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Ultimately, you should decide based on your business requirements, developer resources, and desired functionality/capabilities. One architecture isn’t inherently better than the other, it simply depends on the context in which you intend you deploy your application.
Monolithic could work if your goal is to just create a small application for in-house functions, such as back-office tasks. It’d be quicker and easier to develop, and if you keep the app lite
or skim in terms of features, it’ll be easy to maintain as well. The latter point is especially key
if your company only has a small team of developers.
But if you expect your application to sustain lots of users and take on a growing set of new features and services, then start with microservices.
Yes, it could be costlier to develop for a start, but pushing it off would mean taking on technical debt. That debt will result in other costs down the line, rendering any upfront savings irrelevant.
As noted above, microservices based applications are costlier to develop upfront, but they come with many advantages suited for the needs of large-scale deployments.
With a microservices application, you can cut the time it takes to release new updates. You’re deploying multiple services independently of each other. This lets you update each separately without the need to wait on the others.
You can also scale individual features to meet demand. So if Netflix’s search service sees more use, Netflix can dedicate more resources to that service and its specific resources.
Finally, you can also avoid cascading failures with microservices. So if a specific service fails, only that one will fail, it won’t cause the entire application to fail.
Be it as a new application or a legacy modernization project, you should follow these best practices when implementing a microservices based application.
First, each microservice should be to one single data source (it should only control one table).
Second, each microservice should only do one thing, and do that one thing well. However, you should also stay away from nano-services (i.e., breaking each service into sub-components) — going too small becomes inefficient, maintain a balance.
Third, when you build microservices, they should be in a bounded context. So one microservice should handle each context, such as the sales context (e.g., order, cart, etc) and support context in an e-commerce application.
Fourth, with microservices, you should favor re-writing over re-usability. Let’s say you have two or more microservices with common elements, you should re-write them to be different than to try having them share the same logic across multiple applications.
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If you intend to transition to microservices — or develop a microservices application from scratch — then you must ensure you have sufficient development resources at-hand. This is a costly (but worthwhile) expense, so start by speaking with an experienced software development partner.
By speaking to an outside partner, you’ll get access to the tools and expertise needed to bring your application to fruition. Trying to build these competencies in-house will add to your costs and time-to-market.
At Techolution, we help businesses cut the time it takes to bring their applications to market by delivering market-ready solutions within weeks. Talk to us today to see how we can steer your company ahead of your competitors.