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Making the Move From a Monolithic Architecture to Microservices for Modern Applications

What do Google, Amazon, and Netflix have in common? Apart from all of them being tech giants, they are leaders who have successfully switched from a monolithic architecture to microservices, and for a good reason.

Monolithic architecture has been a standard of software development for decades. However, today’s enterprise applications are getting increasingly larger and more complex. The technology landscape is evolving fast, and customer demands are changing faster. With disruption becoming a constant, digital applications are becoming the backbone supporting enterprises across industries.

These shifts also demand applications to become easy to extend and scale. Applications have to be more agile and responsive to the needs of the enterprise and its customers. To keep up and maintain competitiveness, the monolithic model has had to make way for microservices.

Monolithic – The Way Things Were (and Can No Longer Be)

Traditional monolithic applications are single-tiered applications. Here the code for business activities that the application is expected to perform is contained on a single platform or ‘monolith.’ The challenge with monoliths is that these are not easy to scale. Additional feature and functionality development also add much complexity as it needs a great deal of refactoring. Application complexity also increases substantially as the functionalities and features grow.

The main challenges with monoliths can be listed as follows:

  • Limitations owing to application size and complexity
  • Complexity in testing as the application grows
  • Introduction of spaghetti code and challenging refactoring
  • Application size can impact startup time
  • The complexity of updates and upgrades
  • Difficulty in scaling when different modules have conflicting resource requirements
  • A bug in one module can potentially bring down the whole application

It is hard to miss why this approach does not serve enterprise needs today, especially since agility, scalability, and flexibility have become crucial for business survival.

The Move to Microservices

As VUCA dominates the world and digital transformation becomes imperative, development agility becomes essential for enterprise businesses across industries. Microservices are a response to this enterprise need and provide the agility and responsiveness required to navigate today’s business environment.

Microservices allow enterprises to develop a complete product from a collection of small, isolated services. Each of these services owns its data, is isolated from each other, independently scalable, and far more resilient towards failure. These services integrate seamlessly and deliver a system that is more flexible and easier to maintain, update, and scale than monolithic applications.

Along with this, microservices also render themselves well to APIs. APIs have become instrumental in helping enterprises drive product modernization opportunities and deliver robust, reliable, and scalable products into the market faster.

Microservices Architecture – The Backbone of Products Today 

Microservices demand an inherent change to application architecture. This architecture allows developers to increase development velocity and scale products faster. They can drive incremental product modernization as well as horizontal and granular scaling. Developers can also take advantage of the modern software development ecosystem made up of technologies such as containers, cloud, Serverless, DevOps, etc.

The microservices architecture splits the application into smaller, interconnected services instead of a large monolith. Each microservice can be considered a small application in itself and has its own hexagonal architecture that contains the business logic along with various adapters. Each service has its database schema and does not have to share its database schema with other services.

This architecture is very versatile and can be designed in different patterns according to the business needs, making it well-suited for today’s enterprise demands.

Considerations When Moving to Microservices

Microservices can be used for anything. Some might use it to build macro services or a well-defined system design. Others might use it to modernize business processes. Getting an understanding of the concept and how it can be of business use is essential to leverage its benefits.

Identifying the Technology Stack

Microservices can be exciting for developers since it gives them a lot of flexibility in choosing their tech stack. However, it is key to remember that this has to be done for each service within a microservices architecture. Standardization issues, for example, could occur if the services are heterogeneous.

There could be people contributing from different teams to develop individual microservices. It can be challenging to manage the tech stack if all the teams use different ones across the application.

Taking a balanced approach and selecting a tech stack that meets the current and future needs of the application is an important consideration point here. Identifying the business vertical, process, compliance, and industry-specific needs becomes crucial in selecting this process and hence requires tech expertise.

Degree of Independence

Microservices promise independence. But how independent do we want the services to be? The choice here has to be made between:

  • Each service is completely independent, with its own UI and database
  • Share some components between the services, such as the database

The first option is an instance of an extreme microservices architecture where services are entirely decoupled and share nothing. Each microservice chooses the database that best addresses its requirements. However, ensuring that all data stores are in sync and consistent is challenging.

The latter option makes it easier to enforce standards across all teams and ensure data consistency across all services. However, this also means that services are not entirely decoupled.

Choosing the right approach becomes critical here.

Managing Operational Complexity

Microservices introduces a little bit of operational complexity as it demands a close look at aspects such as the existing infrastructure and its need to be scaled up or down to meet the application needs.

Creating a load balancing and scaling strategy also are important consideration points. Determining whether to scale all services or just a subset when there is a spike in demand is essential.

It is important to define the growth scale of the microservices. Identifying the qualitative growth scale determines where the service fits into the overall microservice ecosystem and the key high-level business metrics its impacts.

Configuring and maintaining microservices monitoring and identifying automation opportunities are also essential to manage operational complexity.

Refactoring the Underlying Data Structures 

This is perhaps one of the most complex parts of migrating to microservices and needs careful consideration. Getting the data design right, identifying the data storage and management needs, and ensuring that all databases work together to support an application is essential during the move to microservices.

The Role of Expert Product Development Partners

Moving from a monolith to microservices architecture makes great sense today, especially as technology trends like serverless, cloud-native, APIs, etc., are becoming crucial to leverage. While there are a few complexities to navigate when moving to microservices, the journey becomes smooth when there is the support of expert product development partners.

Technology and domain expertise complemented with development and implementation experience can help enterprises make those key considerations and weigh the several pros and cons. With assistance from a reliable partner, enterprises can even shift hyper-complex monoliths to nimble, agile, and infinitely more flexible microservices without worries about the hiccups that can come along the way. Connect with us to learn more.