Monolithic architecture is the traditional structure for software applications. Analysts often compare it to microservices, a newer model for application development. Although monolithic architecture has a long history, it is sometimes still superior to the microservices model.
Monolithic is an all-in-one architecture, wherein all aspects of the software operate as a single unit. In the microservices model, components are modular, functioning independently, and coupled together as needed for optimal functionality.
When choosing between monolithic architecture and microservices, businesses evaluate factors such as agile integration, rapid testing, debugging, and scalability.
Defining Monolithic Architecture
Monolithic architecture is a unified development model for software applications. It has three components:
- Client-side user interface
- Server-side application
- Data interface
All three parts interact with a single database. Software built on this model operates with one base of code. As a result, whenever stakeholders want to make updates or changes, they access the same set of code. This can have ripple effects that impact user-side performance.
This model can also streamline the ETL pipeline, as data flows to a single database through the monolith. As you'll see, however, even if you implement a microservices model, you can simplify your ETL significantly with a no-code solution like Xplenty.
Pros and Cons of Monolithic Architecture
Monolithic architecture is the tried-and-true method of building applications. It has an integrated development environment (IDE), which closely links all parts of the code. Because it relies on that one set of code and does not create ad hoc linkages or loose coupling between tasks as microservices do, it is impossible to segment one particular task and integrate improvements without affecting the entire application.
Pros of Monolithic Architecture
The upsides to this structure include:
It's easier to take care of issues that affect the whole application. Developers sometimes call these "cross-cutting concerns." They include caching, logging, performance monitoring, and handling. Since everything is in one place and not dispersed between microservices, these are easier to manage.
It's easier to test and debug. The monolithic architecture simplifies end-to-end testing, which is essential to implementing and monitoring fixes and upgrades.
It's easier to deploy and develop. The monolithic architecture only requires a single file or directory to set it in motion. Its long history in the development industry means most engineers have the requisite skills to get a monolithic architecture to do what they want. In contrast, a microservices structure might call for a more specialized skill set.
Cons of Monolithic Architecture
Despite its benefits, there are some potential downsides to monolithic architecture. These downsides arise because of the monolith's defining feature — the all-in-one structure. They include:
It's hard to scale or change. Since the monolith operates on a single base of code, any changes must involve the entire architecture. That includes scaling the application. It's impossible to scale only one segment. The entire application must scale all at once.
The code becomes complicated. Since there's only one base of code, it becomes increasingly complex as the application grows and changes. Those changes require coordination across the entire application; users cannot restrict them to a single segment or portion.
It's challenging to integrate with new technology. New integrations pose a challenge, as the whole architecture must undergo a code rewrite in order to accommodate them.
Is monolithic architecture still the "gold standard" of software application development? The jury is out. Its major challenger is the microservices model.
Monolithic vs. Microservices
Microservices are distinct from monolithic architecture because they operate as a loose collection of functionalities that work together under the basket of a single application. Each service under an application may have its own home in a cloud-based environment and a single team dedicated to working on it. While a monolith connects to a single database, each service in the microservices structure connects to its own database.
Microservices are beneficial for large applications that serve many users through a wide range of functionalities.
Here are some practical examples:
A monolithic software application may be a simple office suite software program for individual users. An individual may download the entire application at one time.
A microservices software application may be an online streaming platform. There may be one microservice for onboarding new users, an additional microservice for maintaining platform content, and still another service to recall user preferences and recommend offerings at the point of login, and so on.
Seen from this perspective, the benefits for microservices become clearer. It is easier to handle each component individually. Developers can implement new innovations into one particular service without involving the entire architecture. It is easier to scale and more agile.
There are downsides to microservices. These can include:
- Greater complexity
- Learning curve for developers and users
- Security risks
- Interactivity with several databases instead of one unified database
There is not an automatic connection between databases with a microservice structure.
How Xplenty Helps
Monolithic architecture and microservices both involve the movement of data. This includes input, transformation, and transfer to a holding database for eventual use. This extract, transform, load (ETL) process is what Xplenty is all about. With our no-code, easy-to-use interface, anyone can work with the Xplenty platform to create data pipelines between connectors. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today to experience a 14-day demo.