What is microservice architecture and monolithic architecture?

Updated at: Oct 01, 2019
By Gatefy

What is microservice architecture and monolithic architecture?

Microservice architecture and monolithic architecture are terms used to refer to two ways of thinking and building the architecture of applications and software. But what's monolithic architecture? It's a model in which a system's functionalities and modules depend directly on each other. Okay, and what's microservice architecture then? It's a different model designed so that the system's functionalities and modules operate individually, without one interfering in the operation of the other.

If you're not understanding the difference between these two types of software architectures, don't worry. We're going to talk more about it in this post. For now, it's important to understand that the purpose of both models is to make an application or software work. The key point is that the way the application was designed will have direct reflexes on your team's productivity and day-to-day routine.

Imagine your company is looking for an email security solution or a software to manage customers, also called CRM (Customer Relationship Management). One of the main questions you should ask during the negotiation process is: How does the product's management and updates work?

Advantages of microservice architecture

Monolithic architecture, for the time being, is still the standard and dominant model in the market. Microservice architecture came later, surfing in the wake of technological evolution and the expansion of new concepts. Due to its advantages, though, the microservice model has been gaining more and more market and has won the hearts of IT teams and managers who are looking for software and solutions that offer agility, availability, scalability and flexibility.

The main advantage of microservice in relation to monolithic architecture concerns the software's maintenance and upgrades. It's much safer, simpler and faster to change a module within a system based on microservices. Why? Because the change only affects that particular module. It's different from what happens in the monolithic model, in which a change will affect the whole system, and may even make it unavailable.

Why do we use microservice architecture?

To make it easier to understand microservices, let's use Gatefy's Secure Email Gateway (SEG) product as an example. It's designed using microservice architecture.

Let's say that within your company's Gatefy SEG there are three redundant MTAs configured, which is easily done because we're using microservices. An MTA is a program that manages the receiving and sending of emails. These three MTAs are identical. The idea is to have redundancy so that your service is always working and available. Here we are talking about availability and scalability as advantages of microservices.

There is an engine called Gatefy Cluster Engine (GCE) that manages the SEG. It's this engine that gives the orders within the system. For example, if many employees are sending emails at the same time, GCE will manage the demand for the three MTAs so that the system works as quickly and simply as possible.

If something happens and an MTA fail, you still have two others on hand and you can upload a third one in a matter of seconds. If you want to change the MTA settings, you can upload also other new MTAs in seconds and then just turn down the old ones. Now we're talking not only about availability and scalability, but also agility and flexibility.

In our case, microservices were the best option we found for our solutions' development. It's a model of software architecture that fits well with what we expected and especially needed to meet our clients' demands, which means that, depending on the case and the situation, monolithic architecture shouldn't be discarded. Each case is different, right?