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Microservices Architecture vs. Monolithic: How to Choose?

Microservices have strengths for big projects but aren’t right for everything. You should choose based on your case, because both microservices and monolithic architecture have challenges. In this article, we will help you decide what is best for your project.

When to Choose Microservices in Business

Enterprise platforms

Let’s think about constructing a complex healthcare platform or an ERP with multiple components. Rather than using a single tech stack for everything, choose the tech stacks that work best for each part.

Microservices architecture isn’t about one technology; it’s about using multiple tech strengths. Flexibility and performance optimization are the keys.

Microservices excel at rapidly delivering features and updates

Multiple teams can simultaneously develop distinct components without disruptions. For instance, when implementing three different updates, they can be rolled out independently, avoiding system-wide overhauls. That allows for experimentation without risking the entire system.

In microservices, developers operate within their own “piece” when adding new features. This code isolation prevents changes in one microservice from impacting the whole system. That is unlike monolithic systems, where human intervention is noticeable.

Usually, a smaller team of developers, not necessarily the original coders, handles new features and updates. They could encounter complex sections in the existing code and make small changes to simplify adding new features. But the challenge is their limited understanding of which parts of the code depend on what they’re altering. That often results in unintended problems and software functionality compromises.

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Services that demand 100% availability

Consider healthcare, where uptime directly affects patient care, and even brief downtime leads to trust and financial loss. In such sectors, choosing microservices is strategic. Each service operates independently, so one issue doesn’t affect the rest. That not only maintains system availability but also adds a robust layer of fault tolerance.

Software experiencing variable workloads

If your app has varying traffic needs for different parts, go for microservices. You can scale each service individually to save costs and boost performance.

Startups and SaaS platforms save money by paying for actual resource usage. Fintech apps, for instance, use microservices to scale high-traffic modules like transactions, saving on less-used ones like loans and promotions. Elearning platforms do the same with BI analytics separate from the core system.

When Companies Opt for Monolithic Architecture

Businesses with a tight initial budget

If you’re on a limited budget and want a simple development and deployment process, consider choosing a monolithic approach. It uses a single codebase, making development and testing easier. You won’t need to worry about coordinating between services, and developers can use specialized IDEs for monolithic apps.

If you want to cut deployment costs, a monolithic approach is ideal. You manage just one server, reducing networking hassles and optimizing memory and CPU use. Modern tools like Docker make it even simpler, making monolithic structures cost-effective.

Startups introducing a rapid MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Monolithic architectures are like all-in-one solutions. They have a single codebase, making development more unified and efficient. That saves time because you don’t have to coordinate between different services. For startups aiming to quickly launch an MVP, this is a game-changer.

In testing and deployment, the unified nature simplifies tasks. No need to simulate various external APIs. If there’s an initial surge in user traffic, monoliths can scale up directly.

Software handling vital data

For software that handles sensitive data like financial or healthcare records, a monolithic system is best. It ensures data consistency and security. Monoliths have fewer entry and exit points, reducing security threats. Audits and compliance checks are easier. While microservices offer flexibility and scalability, for strict data protection, I recommend a monolithic system.

Is It Possible to Combine or Transition Between Microservices and Monolith?

Amazon’s approach is an interesting example. They’re skillfully merging the benefits of the traditional monolithic architecture with advanced tech tools—a mix of old and new. Traditional monoliths had issues with scalability and maintenance, but by incorporating tools like Docker, CI/CD pipelines, Prometheus, and Grafana, they’re tackling these challenges.

Is it possible to transition between them?

Certainly, but migrating from monolith to microservices can be challenging. Here’s why. Picture monolithic architecture as a tightly woven fabric where each thread is interconnected, tugging on one may disrupt the whole cloth. In contrast, microservices are like separate patches—distinct and independent. It’s like skillfully dividing the fabric into these distinct patches, offering flexibility and scalability.

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However, moving from microservices to a monolith is relatively simple and can streamline overlapping functions.

What about using both of them?

The middle ground is the hybrid model, combining monolith and microservices. It beneficially matches a unified structure with modular adaptability.

In conclusion, the choice between monolithic and microservices architectures depends on project requirements and long-term vision. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and blending or transitioning between these styles can also be profitable.

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