The End of the Monolithic Application

By: Thelen Blum 08.22.2019
The End of the Monolithic Application

We are witnessing the end of the monolithic application. Why? Because all forms of cumbersome, over-complicated monolithic architecture is being replaced by the nimble, flexible microservices approach.

What is a Monolithic Application?

A monolithic application is constructed as a singular, self-contained unit. It is a single-tiered software application in which different components combined within a single program form a single platform. The server-side application is a single logical executable, and the only way to alter this is for a developer or a team of developers to deploy a whole new version. Single monolithic deployment artifacts are worked on by a single team, with changes made in ongoing layers of new code.

We are witnessing the end of the monolithic application because, while this process works, it has major flaws:

  • Monolithic applications can easily become complex, overwrought creations that no single developer can fully understand.
  • They are implemented with a single development stack, limiting flexibility.
  • As they get bigger, maintenance gets harder and harder.
  • They become unique ‘snowflakes’ that are hard to replicate and use in other contexts. Deployment becomes cumbersome. 
  • Because of all this, monolithic apps can be very hard to scale. 

The Benefits of Microservices

Microservices, by contrast, describes an approach to application development in which a large application is built as a suite of modular services. Expressed formally with business-oriented APIs, the loose coupling of microservices makes apps far more flexible, adaptable and dynamic. Microservices decouple individual components of a service, so that each component effectively functions as an application in and of itself. This means separate teams can work on separate pieces of the application, without harming functionality. With microservices:

  • Updates can be applied selectively and surgically, removing painful integration processes. You can achieve the continuous delivery and deployment of large, complex applications.
  • Unlike with a monolithic application, development efforts can be distributed across multiple teams who can focus on their own job without worrying about everyone else’s.
  • The application starts faster, which makes developers more productive, and speeds up deployments.
  • You aren’t committed to one technology stack, and can stay agile with how you approach technical problems.
  • Fault isolation gets much easier, as they only affect one service. For example, if there is a memory leak in one service, then only that service is affected. The other services continue to handle requests. In comparison, one misbehaving component of a monolithic architecture can bring down the entire system.               

Across IT at large, everything is migrating to the cloud. We are seeing a grand transition from centralized, monolithic systems to distributed, containerized applications and microservices. This is especially true of app development. Hence the end of the monolithic application.

The Need for Cloud-native Infrastructure

We are living through the end of the monolithic application because monolithic code bases are a hassle to work with, are less flexible, are more expensive, and rack up technical debt. 

Applications are at the core of business transformation. The speed of innovation is driving the ever increasing need for new development methodologies, application architecture and cloud-native infrastructure. The traditional approaches to developing monolithic applications hamper feature velocity. With monoliths, application logic is wrapped into a single codebase increasing test and deployment scope for the smallest of changes. Microservice-based application development allows the disaggregation of a monolith into a set of loosely coupled and independent functions, enabling developers to work in small teams and iterate on features at a higher velocity. 

Aporeto provides a Zero Trust cloud security solution for microservices that uses identity context, vulnerability data, threat monitoring and behavior analysis to build and enforce authentication, authorization and encryption policies for applications. Learn more in our Zero Trust Security Solution for Microservices, Containers and Cloud whitepaper.

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