Analysis on Microservices vs Monolith vs Serverless

Microservices vs Monolith vs Serverless

Is your new software worth the risk? To lessen the potential loss, choose the right architecture for the project. Check out our guide on microservices vs. monolith vs. serverless architecture to make the right decision.

Dramatic changes are seen in the software industry. Thanks to tech developments, writing code and deploying the product has now become easier. But does that mean all these advancements are right for your project? What are the benefits of various software architectures available?

Let’s try to compare microservices vs monolith vs serverless architecture. Here’s an itemized list of what they can do for you and what you should watch out for. 

Microservices

The main focus of microservices is to prioritize business goals and software functionality. The approach builds a series of autonomous components tied together by APIs. In a way, a complex system is broken down into multiple, smaller, and independent parts.

Many companies now adopt microservices in their projects. Among the popular ones are Amazon, PayPal, Netflix, eBay, and Twitter. Why is that?

According to Lucas Krause, author of Microservices: Patterns and Applications, the approach helps reduce duplication and increase cohesion. It also lessens coupling between components, so the system is scalable and easy to understand. But aside from these advantages, here are other points to consider.

Pros of Microservices

  • Easy development, testing, and deployment process—This is the biggest advantage of microservices vs. monolith and other architectures. Since a small service is developed, tested, and deployed independently, you can release the product faster. Moreover, every unit is not totally dependent on another component. So you can choose to release one component while others aren’t finished yet. Most importantly, there’s a reduction of deployment risks since your developers are deploying parts and not the entire software.
  • Efficient working style—Various teams can work on different tasks for a quick turnaround time. Remember that microservice components can be decoupled. So you can assign independent tasks to each team or developer to make development faster and more efficient.
  • Safer update deployment—Updates on system components don’t affect the entire software. Upgrades and changes on the tech stack of each service will not affect other services when using containers. And adding new features independently without redeploying the product becomes easier.
  • Automate horizontal scaling—The approach enables automation of creating additional services in the same pool. 
  • Easy to understand—Since components are divided into simplified parts, developers easily understand how an independent service works.
  • Quick problem-solving capabilities—Microservice architecture enables quick isolation of any service with service-breaking behavior. This means, even if there’s a problem with one service, the software can still be functional.

Cons of Microservices

  • Complex decoupling process—Although microservices simplify each component, splitting the software into smaller parts can be complex. It means managing more artifacts while increasing automation for testing and monitoring. Moreover, you have to allocate resources for consistency of data and transaction management for every service database.
  • Need for higher security measures—For the software to work, each service must communicate externally via an API. It may expose system vulnerability, so the need for proper security measures arises.
  • Issues with different programming languages—Since every service is detached, different teams may use different programming languages. So careful planning and collaboration are vital.
  • More resources are necessary—Microservices take a huge memory space to deploy and manage containers. 
  • Additional time and complexity for the distributed system—You need to design an inter-service communication system. Moreover, you need to plan for transactions and operations that encompass multiple distributed services. 
  • Debugging is a challenge—Since each service has its own set of logs, reading reports from one component to another can be complex and confusing.

Monolith

Everything is interconnected and interdependent in a single platform. That is what monolithic software engineering means. All functions are managed in a single environment while its parts are unified. 

Most startups use this approach because it only requires minimal resources. So small teams can efficiently handle the project. Software built using monolith has three components:

  • Central database
  • User interface (client-side)
  • Server-side application

Although most developers say that it’s outdated, monolithic architecture still has its advantages. Let’s find out what you need to know when using this methodology.

Comparing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Microservices vs Monolith vs Serverless

Pros of Monolith

  • Simple development and deployment process—With the use of software development and engineering tools, working on all tasks and update deployment is easier to do within one directory. This reduces the time and resources to deploy and upgrade the software. 
  • Less cross-cutting issues—Some software may rely on cross-cutting concerns, like audit trails, rate limiting, data transfer, and others. But when you build it on a monolithic core, managing these concerns is easier since it has a singular codebase.
  • Improved performance and uptime—Properly built monolith software allows faster communication between components because of its shared code and memory.

Cons of Monolith

  • The codebase is harder to manage over time—As the software increases its scope, the growing codebase becomes difficult to handle. Since it only has a single component, building more developments makes it cumbersome to understand and modify. Finding dependencies and side effects becomes more challenging. Most of all, the integrated development environment may suffer from overload.
  • Software built is not scalable—Adopting new technology or modifying your tech stack may be difficult. You need to rewrite the whole code and build the software from scratch.
  • Limitations in agility—Every software update, even minor ones, requires a full redeployment. And when several teams work on it, it may lead to lower agility and slower project completion.

Serverless

Just because it’s called serverless doesn’t mean it has “no server.” It’s an approach that takes advantage of cloud services to build and run services without requiring infrastructure management. A server handles software’s code execution. 

A third-party service provider, like AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions, IBM OpenWhisk, Iron Functions, Oracle Fn Project, Kubeless, also handles the servers. So during deployment, developers don’t have to worry about server maintenance and provision. This architecture reduces the need for software scaling, database and storage systems, and other extra resources. 

There are two main concepts for serverless software engineering. The first one is Function as a Service (FaaS), which enables developers to upload functionality fragments into the cloud. Once it’s uploaded, you can execute the components independently. 

The second concept is Backend as a Service (BaaS). It’s a cloud computing model that grants access to outsourced backend aspects while writing and maintaining only the frontend service.

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Pros of Serverless

  • Ease of deployment—Since infrastructure is not necessary, developers can focus on the code. This leads to spinning up software in a brief timeframe. And in the arena of microservices vs. monolith vs. serverless, the last one’s deployment may only take hours or days compared to other approaches. 
  • Reduced resources and costing—Without the need to manage databases and servers, you can create high-quality code at a lesser cost. The only things you need to worry about are the CPU cycles and memory that you need to use.
  • Increase in scalability—Do you want to make your software easily scalable? Serverless architecture says no problem at all. This methodology allows automation, which makes scaling more seamless and easier to do. For instance, your software can automatically scale as the user base increases without any effect on performance and uptime.

Cons of Serverless

  • Short-term tasks only—Serverless architecture only works on short real-time processes. If it’s a long-term operation, you may need to plan for additional FaaS functionality. 
  • Local and remote testing—Running your functions locally may become complex and time-consuming. Also, classic runtime debuggers in your local environment with line-by-line stepping may not be possible in some platforms. 
  • Limitations with vendor services—Giving full operational control to service providers may hinder progress and project turnaround time. Migration from one service provider to another is another issue that you need to consider. More importantly, there are limits to your options for customizing backend infrastructure according to what the service provider offers.

Microservices vs. Monolith vs. Serverless: Who’s the Winner?

The answer lies in your project requirements and the resources available. Serverless software architecture suits products that need to be highly scalable and client-heavy. 

On the other hand, the microservices pattern may simplify complex systems, but it may not be suitable for all software development projects.  Lastly, monolith may be the traditional way of software engineering, but it can still work its magic given the right environment. So, in making the decision among microservices vs. monolith vs. serverless, just choose whatever architecture best caters to your needs.

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