04Nov 2022

Monolith vs Microservices vs Serverless: Which Software Architecture to Choose for Back-End Application Development

The field of software development is ever-changing. By 2024, it is estimated that there will be 28.7 million developers worldwide, an increase of 3.2 million from the figure recorded in 2020.

Technology advancements have made it simpler to write code and distribute products. But does it imply that your organization can benefit from all of these developments? 

What advantages do the different software architectures have? Why is the debate over software architecture—monolith vs microservices vs serverless —critical in these particular moments? 

Why should the organization worry when this seems to be a technical problem with software architectures?

The pressing need for businesses of all sizes to develop more flexibility and agility, develop and test innovative technology solutions, expand into new markets, combine revenue sources, optimize, and lower operating expenses. Every company has to be ready to adapt and adjust!

Therefore, this article will assist you in selecting the best architecture for your needs from among monolith, microservice, and serverless.

However, before we dive into the details, let’s first set a common ground and clarify the basics.

What Is Software Architecture?

Software Architecture

Software Architecture – Image Source: Tutorials Point

The software architecture of the devices you use determines the amount of work you do daily—from using a mobile phone to communicating via email to checking into work—and how quickly. 

Innovation inside a company is made feasible by software architecture. 

Therefore, the software’s architecture should be of the highest caliber, able to handle the workload, available when required, and economical.

Unfortunately, software architecture is often taken for granted, and many individuals aren’t even aware of what it is or how to utilize it. A significant portion of what we understand and use today wouldn’t be feasible without software architecture, so what is it exactly?

A system’s architecture outlines its main components, their connections (structures), and how they work together. As seen in the figure above, there are a number of contributing variables to software architecture and design.

Why Is It Crucial in Software Development?

Software architecture facilitates the examination of system attributes while teams make system decisions as opposed to after development, integration, or distribution. 

This timely analysis helps teams decide if the methods they’ve selected will provide an amicable alternative, whether creating a new system, improving a current system, or updating an old one.

Each step of the project is conceptually held together across all its stakeholders by an efficient architecture, which also promotes agility, time and money savings, and early design risk detection.

It might be difficult to create an efficient system that supports both long-term objectives and quick product production for today’s demands. 

Project delays, expensive rework, or worse, might result from failing to properly evaluate, prioritize, and handle trade-offs between architecturally relevant attributes.

This is why selecting the appropriate software architecture for back-end application development is critical to achieving success.

What Is Back-End Application Development?

Working on server-side software, or what users can’t see when browsing a website, is what back-end development entails.

By concentrating on databases, back-end logic, application programming interfaces (APIs), architecture, and servers, back-end developers make sure the website functions properly. 

They use programming that facilitates database communication, data storage, comprehension, and deletion for browsers.

To create the framework of a website or application, back-end developers work in tandem with front-end developers, product managers, primary architects, web inspectors, and testers.

Back-end application developers need to be knowledgeable about a wide range of frameworks and technologies, including Python, Ruby, PHP, Java, and JavaScript. They guarantee that the back end responds promptly and effectively to user queries on the front end.

Back-End Development Illustration - Image Source: Upwork
Back-End Development Illustration – Image Source: Upwork

Back-End Development Illustration – Image Source: Upwork

You also require additional back-end skills unrelated to programming languages when you begin to master back-end development, such as API (REST & SOAP).

APIs enable two different apps to communicate with one another. As a result, they contribute to the development of the majority of server-side software architectures.

Monolith vs Microservices vs Serverless

Monolith, Microservices, and Serverless are the three most widely utilized architectural patterns in the IT industry. Each one has benefits that might help you develop the ideal solution for your consumers and provide them with the most satisfactory experience. 

Let’s look at each architecture, in turn, to see how it works and discover any possible advantages of each software architecture for back-end application development.

  • Monolith architecture: In this kind of architecture, an application consists of a single, inseparable unit that typically consists of one executable for the server and a second for the client.
  • Microservices architecture: This service-oriented architecture comprises several services that are separated into distinct categories according to responsibilities.
  • Serverless architecture: In this architecture, the application is composed of several separate functions that are carried out in response to triggers. Allocating resources and scalability are handled by the cloud service.

Monolith Architecture

Monolith Architecture Diagram
Monolith Architecture Diagram

Monolith Architecture Diagram – Image Source: N-iX

An enormous solitary block of stone is referred to as a monolith in ancient languages. Despite the fact that this phrase is now widely used, all fields still conjure up the same picture.

A monolith architecture in software development denotes a single, unbreakable entity. Monolith software refers to the idea of combining several application components into a unified program on a single system.

This strategy is used by the majority of companies since it uses fewer resources. Small teams may complete the job effectively as a result.

There are 3 components to software created using monolith:

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

Each component of the software is integrated, and each function is controlled in a single location. 

Furthermore, Monolith software’s interdependent and interrelated components aid in the self-contained nature of the program. Although this design is a tried-and-true method for creating apps, some developers consider it to be antiquated.

Even so, in some cases, we think a monolithic architecture is the best option. Let’s weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this architecture to see if it is beneficial for your company.

Pros of Monolith Architecture

1. Streamlined deployment and development

You can include several tools to speed up development. Additionally, all operations are carried out in a single directory, making deployment simpler. 

Developers may release updates or modifications all at once using a monolith architecture, saving them a lot of time and effort.

2. Fewer cross-cutting issues 

The majority of applications depend on several cross-cutting issues, including audit trails, logging, rate limitation, etc. 

According to Smartsheet, when utilized properly, audit logs and trails may point out trouble spots, provide people the tools to discover solutions, and shield the business from issues related to electronic and computer-based record-keeping difficulties. 

Because of their centralized code base, monolith applications make it much simpler to include these issues. When everything functions inside the same app, connecting components to these issues is simpler.

3. Enhanced efficiency and availability

Monolith programs are often more efficient than microservice-based apps when correctly constructed. 

For instance, a microservices-based software could need to access 40 separate microservices through API to display each screen, which clearly slows down speed. 

Due to common code and memory, monolith applications, in turn, enable quicker communication among development tools.

Cons of Monolith Architecture

1. It’s more difficult to manage the codebase

Most products evolve over time, broaden in scope, and lose their distinct structural identity. The code base seems to be quite large and is challenging for inexperienced engineers, in particular, to comprehend and edit.

Finding adverse effects and dependencies is also becoming more difficult. The quality of the code base decreases as it grows, and the integrated development environment (IDE) becomes overburdened.

2. Built-in software is not scalable

It could be challenging to adopt new technologies or change your software system. The whole program must be rewritten, and the software must be created from scratch.

Yet redesigning the whole program is expensive and time-consuming, as we all know. At the same time, if an organization does not adopt new technologies, it will undoubtedly lose its place in the market.

3. Barriers to agility

Even if just one component of functionality has to be modified, any little change necessitates a complete redeployment of the whole program. It implies that all developers must wait to assess the effects of a little modification.

Additionally, when many teams are collaborating on a single project, this presents a significant challenge. There is a decrease in the team’s agility and the number of new deployments.

Microservices Architecture

Microservices Architecture Illustration
Microservices Architecture Illustration

Microservices Architecture Illustration – Image Source: Narasimman Tech

Microservices are a form of service-oriented software architecture for back-end application development that focuses on creating a collection of independent components that comprise an app. 

Microservice applications, in contrast to monolith apps, are made up of a number of distinct components that are connected through APIs.

While the monolith strategy is structured around technical layers, user interfaces, and databases, the microservices architecture focuses primarily on business goals and capabilities. 

This software architecture for back-end application development has gained popularity in recent years as a growing number of businesses adopt an agile development and operations strategy.

Netflix was a pioneer in using Microservices in its service-oriented design. When the business was expanding quickly, they were able to resolve problems with the scalability of its data centers.

The strategy aids in reducing duplication and boosting cohesiveness. Additionally, it reduces connectivity between parts, making the system more scalable and simple to comprehend. But in addition to these benefits, there are a few more things to think about.

There are several instances of businesses that switched from a monolithic to a microservices model. The most noticeable are:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon
  • Twitter
  • eBay
  • PayPal 

Let’s explain the advantages and disadvantages of this software architecture for back-end application development in order to decide if microservices are appropriate for your project.

Pros of Microservices Architecture

Advantages of Microservices
Advantages of Microservices

Advantages of Microservices – Image Source: O’Reilly

1. Easy development, testing, and deployment process

When comparing monolith vs microservices vs serverless, the primary benefit of microservices is the ability for small, standalone services to be developed, tested, and deployed separately.

A deployment unit streamlines and expedites development and distribution since it is compact. Furthermore, the deployment of a unit is not constrained by the publication of an incomplete unit.

Another benefit is that when developers release portions of the program rather than the whole application, deployment risks are lower.

  1. Heightened agility

Multiple teams may swiftly and independently concentrate on their services thanks to microservices. The decoupling of microservice components enables the autonomous development of each component of a system or a program.

For instance, you may have a 300-person team working on the whole program (as in the monolithic model), or you might have 10-20 teams of 10-15 individuals creating various app services.

The ability to upgrade system components without impacting the application is made possible by heightened agility. Agility also offers a safer deployment procedure and increased uptime. There is no need to wait for the complete app to launch before adding new features.

  1. Capacity for horizontal scaling

The capacity of each service may be a restriction on vertical scaling, which is the process of executing the same program on larger computers.

However, with microservices, horizontal scalability isn’t constrained and may operate dynamically. Additionally, horizontal scaling is entirely automatable.

  1. Safer deployment of updates

The complete piece of software is not affected by updates to system components. When employing containers, updates and modifications to one service’s technology stack won’t affect the other services. 

It also becomes simpler to separately add new features without having to reload the application.

Cons of Microservices Architecture

  1. Complex decoupling process

Microservices make each component simpler, but breaking the program down into smaller pieces might be difficult. It entails handling additional artifacts while boosting testing and monitoring automation. 

This kind of design needs meticulous planning, a lot of work, team resources, and expertise. Below are some causes of increased complexity:

  • A rise in the requirement for automation as more services need to be tested and watched over.
  • The use of technologies with service dependencies is not possible.
  • Since each application has a database, data integrity and concurrency control become more difficult.
  1. Stronger security measures are required

Every component in a microservices program that uses an API to connect with the outside world raises the risk of attacks. 

Most security breaches are only possible if sufficient security precautions aren’t taken while developing software.

  1. Issues with different programming languages

Each service is independent; therefore, several teams could use various programming languages. Language diversity makes deployment more challenging. 

Additionally, when each service is developed in a distinct language, it is more difficult to transition programmers during development periods.

Serverless Architecture

Serverless Architecture for back-end application development enables the development and operation of applications and services without the requirement for infrastructure administration.

Developers may deploy code in serverless applications without stressing over server provisioning and maintenance since a server manages code execution in these applications.

Serverless really does not imply “no server.” Although the program is still executing on servers, entire server management is handled by a third-party cloud provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

Serverless Web Server Based on AWS Services

Serverless Web Server Based on AWS Services – Image Source: Business Process Incubator

The requirement for additional resources, application scalability, server upkeep, and database and storage technologies are all eliminated with a serverless design.

The serverless architecture takes into account two ideas:

  1. Function as a Service (FaaS) allows developers to upload functional component parts into the cloud. After uploading, you may individually run each component.
  2. Another idea is Back-end as a Service” (BaaS). It is a kind of cloud computing where users may use outsourced back-end functions while merely building and managing front-end services.

Now that you have a basic understanding of Serverless architecture, let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using this architecture.

Pros of Serverless Architecture

1. Effortless deployment

Developers are free to concentrate on the code, given that infrastructure is not required. Software may be spun up quickly as a result of this.

And in the monolith vs microservices vs serverless comparison, the deployment time for the latter may just be a few hours or days.

2. Decreased costs and resources

Costs are lower while using no servers. One may not only write better code, but also save money, as they won’t have to deal with servers, databases, and certain logic.

You only pay for the CPU cycles and RAM you really utilize when employing a serverless architecture.

3. Increased scalability

Would you desire your program to be as effortlessly scalable and popular as Facebook? Serverless architecture claims there is absolutely no issue.

Automation is possible with this architecture, making scalability more smooth and simple. Even as the user base grows, for one, your product may automatically expand without affecting performance or availability.

Additionally, a sudden spike in demand would overwhelm a typical service, but serverless applications can manage a high volume of requests.

Cons of Serverless Architecture

1. Not for long-term tasks

Long-term activities are not ideal for serverless architecture, which is primarily effective for quick real-time tasks. One may need to budget for more FaaS capabilities if the operation is long-term.

2. Difficulties when testing locally and remotely

The process of executing your functions remotely or locally could become difficult and time-consuming. 

Additionally, certain systems may not support traditional runtime developer tools with line-by-line stepping in your local context.

3. Services from vendors have limitations

Allowing service providers complete operational authority might impede development and slow project turnaround. Another thing to think about is moving from one service provider to the next. 

More critically, the choices you have for modifying the service provider’s backend architecture are limited.

Monolith vs Microservices vs Serverless: Which Should I Pick?

Your project’s needs and the available resources hold the key to the answer.

Even though Monolith is the conventional approach to software engineering, it may still be effective in the appropriate circumstances. Despite the popularity of microservices today, some enormous corporations like Etsy continue to be monolithic.

Organizations that need to launch a product as quickly as feasible are ideal candidates for Monolith. However, don’t forget that the monolith package comes with some disadvantages, as discussed in this article.

The Microservices architecture, on the other hand, could simplify complicated systems, but it might not be appropriate for all projects in software development. Complex systems and developing applications both benefit greatly from this architecture.

Finally, the Serverless software architecture is useful for finishing one-time projects and supporting operations. It works well for client-intensive applications and applications that need to scale infinitely and are expanding quickly.

So, the ideal course of action would be to choose the appropriate architecture for the task at hand rather than relying only on one of them.

Acodez is a web development company in India offering all kinds of web design and development solutions to our clients in India and abroad. We have catered to a large number of clients with a varied range of web-related solutions. We are also a renowned digital marketing agency working for many clients ranging from corporates to one-man start-ups. Our team has helped clients to take their business to the next level with their range of custom-made solutions for the web. For further inquiries, contact us today.

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Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Director at Acodez IT Solutions, who has a rich experience of 16+ years in IT & Digital Marketing. Between his busy schedule, whenever he finds the time he writes up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development. All thanks to his master brain behind the gleaming success of Acodez.

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