When building a small piece of software for a simple and particular purpose, you may not have to think much about its architecture. One function, housed in one piece, is pretty straightforward. But with more ambitions for a software product that serves various purposes and is globally accessible, things could get trickier.
Certain features and functionality may have to be delivered in different ways to varying audiences, there are different versions of data needed for different groups of users, and the list goes on. And don’t forget that the users’ needs keep evolving, and therefore the software has to evolve too. All this will have you questioning the architecture to go with.
Lately, many big tech players are gravitating towards the microservices approach instead of a monolithic architecture. Let’s dissect both options and understand why there’s contention over which one to go with:
What is Monolithic Architecture?
Think of monolithic architecture as “everything together as one.” A monolithic application is built from scratch as a single unit. In the case of an enterprise application, there will be a database, a user interface that the client interacts with, and an application on a server that runs the entire show.
This means that if there are any changes to be made, they can’t simply be made on one relevant part. You have to create a whole new version of the full application since there’s only a single executable. You don’t have disparate sets of instructions that each run in their way and at their own time.
Pros and cons of a monolithic architecture
While monolithic architecture might sound like a dated approach, in theory, it does have several practical advantages such as:
Easier continuous development
For starters, a monolithic architecture can make development and monitoring much easier. You don’t have multiple pieces to deal with, so whenever there are advancements to be made, there are no worries that one piece has remained behind development-wise.
Secondly, a monolithic architecture usually comes with lower latency. Having multiple services communicating with each other can increase the time from taking an action to receiving a result.
In a non-monolithic approach, those building and delivering software would have to apply various techniques in different areas to reduce this time. But with a monolithic architecture, the path to the relevant instructions related to a specific request is much leaner.
Simplifying cross-cutting concerns
Additionally, a monolithic approach reduces the confusion that could arise from cross-cutting concerns. Say you have a workflow that triggers the use of different components of an application. This can be a scenario that kicks off many actions like a purchase where a tracking code is generated, the customer’s order history is updated, loyalty points are awarded, and a lot more.
Such a flow is easier to structure and execute since all the relevant data is in one place.
That being said, monolithic architecture also has a downside. Its disadvantages include:
Difficulty in scaling
If the software you’re offering starts attracting more customers who want it for a particular feature/function, you could run into some problems. A monolithic architecture won’t allow you to just scale a few elements about those customers’ needs.
You have to rebuild the software as a whole, factoring in the new scale at which you want it to be able to operate as you go over every part of it.
Incoherent code base
The first version of a software product with a monolithic application may be quite simple. But as it spends more time on the market and changes are made continuously, the singular unit can become more complex.
All the developers who contribute to it may do so in their way with minimal standardization in how they work. This can create a situation where a new developer contributing has to sift through a lot of code and other information just to make sense of how the application was built.
An application with a monolithic structure is implemented using one development stack. This can create a scenario where you’re not able to apply changes in the way you’d prefer since you’d need a costly and lengthy framework or language overhaul.
Monolithic applications also have limited reuse and offer little flexibility in the deployment of artifacts.
What is Microservices architecture?
In the case of microservices architecture, there are multiple executable units, with each encapsulating a whole business capability, able to run its logic independently and rely on its database. These individual services are designed to be able to communicate with each other during processes that require two or more of them.
In that respect, an application is built in such a way that it can depend on various microservices in the background as the client interacts with an interface that presents everything in simple business terms (the actions they want to take).
Advantages of microservices
· Microservices can help to improve productivity since a team can break up into units specializing on a particular service, and focus on making sure it works well with the other elements.
· Microservices architecture also offers greater stability since it is easier to detect the source of an issue and make changes to that part without disrupting the rest of the application. Additionally, changes can be rolled back easily, with no need to tinker with the entire application, which reduces downtime.
· This architecture also simplifies scalability since the necessary additions can be made to the respective microservices that need them, and developers can rely on different languages to achieve the best results.
Other considerations when choosing architectures
Since microservices architecture makes it easier to understand the code base, developers can quickly get to the issues related to the application, even more so by zooming in on the affected microservices. However, not every problem is that straightforward. Some are a bit of a web, affecting groups of microservices, and even the communication between multiple microservices.
So whichever architecture you go with, you still need a proper strategy for dealing with bugs, latency issues, and other problems that dampen the user experience, especially for the larger applications where user demands keep changing.
Fortunately, with record and replay technology added to the mix, you can find and fix bugs much faster, especially those that are hard to reproduce. To learn more about how to speed up software development using this approach, you can book a demo with the RevDeBug team.