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Microservices vs Monolith: Which One Is Better for Your Business?

Last updated on
May 10, 2024


Microservices vs monolith: Key takeaways

  1. Microservices offer significant advantages in terms of flexibility and scalability. It enables rapid deployment and easier management of complex, large-scale applications.
  2. While microservices are advantageous for large applications, they introduce higher complexity and upfront costs. That fact makes them less suitable for smaller projects or startups.
  3. Monolithic architectures allow for quicker initial development and simpler deployment. It's beneficial for projects that need to hit the market swiftly and have less complex needs.
  4. Monoliths can become increasingly difficult to maintain and scale as they grow. It often leads to significant refactoring or even a switch to microservices.
  5. The choice between microservices and monolithic architectures depends largely on the specific requirements of the business, including project size, team capabilities, and long-term scalability needs.


Microservices vs Monolith: Which One Is Better for Your Business?


Ensuring application efficiency in a very competitive environment is something worth fighting for, and choosing the right architecture is the first step on the way to success. It’s not a trivial decision but one with grave consequences, so you need to tread carefully. 

In the microservices vs monolith opposition, it’s definitely the former that has been on the top lately. One of the main reasons is that composable architecture enables rapid deployment and high scalability – something very precious in the extremely dynamic times we live in. 

Transforming complex software programs into smaller chunks that are easier to handle – and that’s what migration from monolith to microservices is about – has many other advantages. If you’re struggling with application downtimes and want to ensure greater application efficiency, microservices can be just what you need. 

Of course, breaking a monolith into microservices is not for everybody, and monolithic architecture has its advantages and applications, too. Especially, if we talk about a modular monolith. You can speed up the software delivery process and expand your products faster with any of these solutions – provided you align them with your case perfectly. 

To make the right decision, you need to know the pros and cons of both solutions – and such a monolith vs microservices comparison will be provided.

Monolith vs microservices in brief

The monolith vs microservices opposition is something often discussed in the light of modernization. Monolithic architecture is usually dubbed obsolete and regarded as insufficient and not flexible enough in times of lightning-fast market changes. Shifting away from monolith to composable architecture may surely be seen as fighting technical debt – something detrimental for the whole company, on all organizational levels.

Legacy systems and applications affect all systems, processes, and employees, generating huge costs and making running every business unpredictable and difficult for everyone involved.What’s worse, legacy systems and failed promises to modernize make many experienced specialists leave the company which makes the burden of technical debt even heavier and harder to take. 

Hidden costs of maintaining legacy systems
State of Software Modernization 2024

Because monolithic architecture comes with sets of inseparable data, it may drag your system and your project down as things like accessing or updating data tend to be difficult. But the monolith isn’t as bad as it may seem. On the other hand, a unified codebase and interdependent software components enable fast development, deployment, and testing.

Microservices: pros, cons, use cases

In the case of microservices, the front-end and back-end are separated and independent services are only loosely coupled. The bottom line is greater flexibility and easier handling of complex applications and large-scale systems. 

Microservices’ modular approach to designing software lets many e-commerce businesses grow fast or even faster than before; Zalando, eBay, and Amazon are all on this list. Undoubtedly, shifting away from static to composable, headless solutions is the first step on the way to creating scalable e-commerce platforms and handy applications that are able to handle massive traffic. 

Of course, you don’t have to run an e-commerce company to benefit from microservices. They’re perfect for building various types of standalone applications your clients will want to use, just like in the case of Netflix, Uber, or Spotify – all made of small, independent services. 

Microservices – pros:

  • improved agility and scalability,
  • cross-cutting business functionality,
  • security breaches risk reduction,
  • maintenance ease and simplicity,
  • adaptability to dynamic market conditions,
  • ability to modify and update applications quickly,
  • application downtime and outage reduction.
Microservices potential drawbacks
On Microservice Analysis and Architecture Evolution: A Systematic Mapping Study

Microservices – cons:

  • slower development and longer kickoff times,
  • relatively high upfront costs,
  • infrastructure and deployment process complexities,
  • product performance issues,
  • troublesome debugging due to multiple sets of logs,
  • susceptibility to attacks as every service has its own access point.

Monolith architecture: pros, cons, use cases

If you don’t want to scale yet but need to create a totally new product or engage in a startup, then the traditional monolithic approach is probably a better option. That’s because monoliths let build applications as single units – with the opportunity to release steps such as deployment and code management at once. 

And what about the monolithic architecture vs microservices dilemma? In the project’s initial phase, the monolith is easier and more convenient to use. Another instance when the monolith architecture is a perfect match is small, simple applications that aren’t changed very often.

Monolithic architecture potential drawbacks.
From Monolithic Systems to Microservices: A Comparative Study of Performance

Monolith architecture – pros:

  • straightforward development,
  • easy deployment,
  • simplicity of testing and debugging,
  • less latency,
  • limited number of cross-cutting concerns.

Monolith architecture – cons: 

  • code complexity,
  • scalability constraints,
  • reusability limitations,
  • no fault tolerance. 

The latter means that if only one component fails, the entire application may stop working, which is not the case in microservices. On top of that, a single but large codebase can be difficult to comprehend, development time gets longer, and the risk of errors increases when such an application grows. 

Should you migrate to microservices? A checklist

Microservices are gaining momentum, but are not a perfect solution for every company and every product, at least not on every stage of their development. If you’re on the fence about to give them a try, here’s how you can assess whether your business is ready for the switch. 

You can go for it if your project is big or mature enough so that it will likely benefit from the greater modularity microservices represent. As such, it may take advantage of the scalability potential and independent deployments that this kind of architecture entails. In the long run, such a system is easier to navigate because a change to one microservice doesn’t affect others.

Sounds interesting? 

Before you set off, you should take into account factors such as:

  • budget,
  • team structure and experience,
  • user base,
  • application size,
  • domain complexity,
  • expected traffic,
  • possible future growth.

The vision of boosting business results with microservices may be tempting but remember that choosing the modular approach may not be the best option to start with. With microservices on board, your application is going to get way more complex – and maybe it’s not what you want it to be. In that case, the monolithic architecture vs microservices dilemma shouldn’t really concern you.

Choosing microservices – and this operational complexity – at the beginning of a project (e.g. a startup) may result in wasting a lot of time, money, and other resources. However, if your app is medium-sized or large, the number of functionalities grows and you want the project to scale even faster, this kind of architecture may be just what you need.

Migrating to microservices – challenges

Crucial system modernization considerations

Of course, there are certain challenges you need to prepare for when migrating to microservices. First of all, keep in mind that it is a complex and demanding process, so you need to have the right – competent and experienced – people on board. 

It’s not only about engineers and technical staff per se. Shifting away from monolith to composable architecture implies technical but also cultural change – and organizations that decide to take this step have to become entirely more flexible and agile.

When extracting independent services from a monolith, you need to stick to clear service boundaries, with one service performing exactly one business function. Otherwise, you may end up with a plethora of services, each with a different access point, which, of course, may pose serious security threats. 

Also, remember that switching from monolith to microservices is a journey that never ends. Further improvements and enhancements are inevitable and you should always keep track of the newest solutions to make your system stay ahead of the curve. And that means costs.

Of course, you may reduce the risk of a flop by preparing well in advance. It’s essential to know and carefully plan all the phases of migration from one solution to another to smoothly replace monolith piece by piece.

Monolithic architecture vs microservices wrapped up

Microservices have been in the spotlight for quite some time, and there’s a good reason for their growing popularity. It can be attributed to improved scalability, maintenance simplicity, and greater system functionality they offer. More and more companies, disappointed with the traditional monolith’s limitations, turn to containerized infrastructure, modular monolith architecture, and composable microservices. Such customized solutions are more flexible and make it easier for companies to grow faster.

That said, should you migrate to microservices at all costs? The transition may be very demanding, and data migration issues or service failures can make you wonder if it’s worth it. In the majority of instances – yes, because the benefits of such a migration outweigh the challenges greatly. Each day of obsolete development, using legacy code, and making quick fixes, makes the technical debt bigger and bigger. Getting out of the vicious cycle of makeshift patches and unstable workarounds may not be that easy, but it’s definitely the only way to move forward.

Sounds impressive and inspiring? Want to switch to microservices but don’t know what to start with? If you’d like to make the most of this powerful solution, contact Brainhub today. 

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Olga Gierszal
IT Outsourcing Market Analyst & Software Engineering Editor

Software development enthusiast with 6 years of professional experience in the tech industry. Experienced in outsourcing and nearshoring market analysis. Our expert in presenting tech, business, and digital topics in an accessible way.

Leszek Knoll
CEO (Chief Engineering Officer)

With over 12 years of professional experience in the tech industry. Technology passionate, geek, and the co-founder of Brainhub. Combines his tech expertise with business knowledge.

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