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April 2, 2024 10:50 am GMT

Difference between Microservices vs Monolithic Applications for System Design Interview

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Microservices vs Monolithic architecture

image_credit - DesignGuru

Hello friends, if you are preparing for System design interview then you must have come across questions on Microservices architecture.

In last few articles, I have answered popular System design questions like API Gateway vs Load Balancer and Horizontal vs Vertical Scaling, Forward proxy vs reverse proxy and today, I will answer another interesting System design question, "difference between monolith and Micro service architecture?".

With the growing popularity of Microservices, you I am seeing more and more questions from Microservices on System Design Interviews and this is one of the starter question.

In system design interviews, understanding the difference between microservices and monolithic applications is crucial. While monolithic architectures offer simplicity and ease of development, microservices provide scalability, flexibility, and resilience through their distributed nature and modular design.

For example, in case of monolith architecture, your entire application is packaged and deployed together while in case of Microservices architecture an application is broken into a collection of small, independent services that communicate with each other over a network, mostly over HTTP.**

Each service is responsible for a specific business capability and can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently. This makes it easier to make changes to the application without affecting other parts of the system.

Microservices also enable applications to be developed and deployed faster, and they are better suited to large and complex applications where different parts of the application may need to evolve at different speeds.

By the way, Microservices are not sliver bullet, there are debugging and troubleshooting issues with Microservices because application log files is scattered across multiple services also for latency sensitive application, Microservices is not a good choice because it increases latency.

Now that we are familiar with the basic idea of Microservices and Monolithic architecture, its time to deep dive and see pros and cons of both software architecture.

By the way, if you are in hurry then below diagram from, one of the best resource for system design interviews and creator of Grokking the System Design Interview nicely explain it, he even added comparison to server-less architecture:

Microservices vs Monolithic architecture

And, if you are preparing for System design interview, along with Design Guru, Educative, ByteByteGo, and Exponent are great resources to further improve your preparation.

Difference between Monolithic vs Microservices Architecture

Now that you have a basic idea of what does Microservices offer in terms of Monolithic application, it make sense to deep dive and find out more technical differences between these two architecture style to build software applications.

Here are the key differences, advantages and disadvantages of Monolithic and Microservices architecture:

1. Deployment and Management

Monolithic applications are simple to deploy and manage, since all components are included in a single package, but Microservices are complex to deploy and manage, since each service is deployed independently and must communicate with other services over a network.

Microservice architecture also have increased operational overhead, as each service must be deployed, monitored, and managed individually.

Monolithic vs Microservices

2. Easy to Understand

In case of Monolithic architecture its easy to understand the entire system, since all components are integrated tightly, while its difficult to understand the flow in Microservices because of multiple services.

3. Debugging

Monolithic application are easier to debug as compared to Microservices because entire application runs in a single process, while Debugging can be more difficult in Microservice architecture, since issues can span multiple services.

For example, if data is updated in one service it can have origin in some other service like authentication or authorization

4. Development

Microserivces promotes flexible development and its better suited to large and complex applications where different parts of the application may need to evolve at different speeds.

While Microservices are better suited for small, latency sensitive application. In short, Microservices Enables faster development and deployment, since services can be developed and deployed independently.

Microservices vs Monolithic architcture

5. Coupling

In case of Monolithic architecture components are tightly coupled which makes it difficult to make changes to the application without causing unintended consequences, while Microservices promotes low coupling.

It's also easier to make changes to the application, since each service is responsible for a specific business capability.

6. Maintainence

Monolithic applications are easier to start but difficult to maintain, as the application grows, the code base becomes larger and more complex, making it harder to maintain.

On the other hand, Microservices are easier to maintain as you can make changes in one service without deploying other services.

7. Performance and Scalability

Microservice architecture allows for better scalability and performance improvement , since each service can be scaled independently, while performance bottlenecks can easily happen in Monolithic application, since all components share the same resources.

Monolithic an Microservices architecture difference

In short, while monolithic architectures offer simplicity and ease of development, microservices provide scalability, flexibility, and resilience through their distributed nature and modular design. So both have their places.

And, here is also a nice diagram to highlight the difference between API Gateway and Load Balancer from ByteByteGo, one of the best place to prepare for System design interviews

Difference between Microservices and Monolithic applications

That's all about difference between Microservices and monolithic architecture and applications. As I said, monolithic architecture is simpler and easier to deploy and manage, but is less flexible and harder to change. Microservices architecture is more flexible and easier to change, but is more complex and harder to deploy and manage.

While, Microservices is latest trend in Software development and a well-designed microservices architecture can provide benefits such as scalability and faster development, especially on cloud, but requires a more complex deployment and management infrastructure.

On the other hand, a well-designed monolithic architecture can provide benefits such as simpler deployment and easier debugging, but can become more difficult to change as the application grows.

This is a really useful concept for System design interview, especially Microservice architecture and you shouldn't be missing on that. For better preparation, I also suggest to checkout sites like DesignGuru, Educative, ByteByteGo, and Exponent, all of them are great resources for tech interview preparation, particularly System design.

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