Amazon, Uber, and Netflix are the top real-world apps that were initially launched as monoliths. Further, they have migrated to microservices because of the need to implement new features easily.
The microservices implementation statistics say that only 1% of companies plan to use the monolithic architecture. The other 99% of surveyed companies reported they have already switched or plan to adopt microservices in the future.
What's wrong with a monolith? The top three issues of the monolithic architecture at scale are:
- slow delivery
- poor stability
- insufficient scalability
The following problems increase fast when the complexity of an application grows.
Let's explore the “at scale” issues with the monolith and how refactoring helps fix them in more detail below.
MICROSERVICES — SOLUTION TO MONOLITH ISSUES AT SCALE
The majority of small businesses and startups launch their digital solutions. It needs less effort to develop and launch an app. However, when the project's scale increases, most companies refactor their applications.
The refactoring of a monolith to microservices makes it easy to implement new features quickly. Moreover, it helps incorporate a lot of diverse technologies into one application.
Most issues arise when companies need to scale up their monolithic application fast.
1. Slow Delivery
Monolithic applications use one codebase that comprises all the functionalities. Since disparate features aren't isolated, developers need to release major app updates to release even small changes. The other bottlenecks of the architecture are as follows.
- A large codebase. One developer can hardly maintain and quickly update a massive codebase.
- Outdated technologies. Developers have to stick to a defined tech stack. They can't incorporate new technologies. In some cases, software engineers need to learn outdated technologies.
- App is slow to build and test. The continuous integration (CI) and quality assurance (QA) processes are time-consuming with a large monolithic application.
Microservices-driven solution: The monolith to microservices migration helps involve autonomous teams. One team of software engineers can work independently, being assigned to one of several microservices.
Also, each service is easy to understand, maintain, test, and update for a dedicated team. Developers can choose an individual tech stack for new services.
2. Poor Stability
The primary stability issues with a monolithic application at scale are:
- Complicated testing. It is challenging for a QA team to test a large application comprehensively. Moreover, the more complex an app becomes, the larger the number of bugs that appear.
- Higher app failure change. One feature failure can disrupt the entire application. When a database or one line of code crashes, the entire app fails.
Microservices-driven solution: Fault isolation is achieved because microservices are loosely coupled. A failed app's part does not affect the entire application.
3. Insufficient Scalability
Developers can't scale up certain parts of a single app. The limitations set by the architecture need businesses to choose from:
- compromise on the performance
- overspend on scaling up the entire application
Nevertheless, it's impossible to limitlessly increase an app's performance by adding more CPU and RAM.
Microservices-driven solution: Each service has individual performance requirements and can be scaled independently.
MONOLITH TO MICROSERVICES MIGRATION GUIDE
The process of moving from monolith to microservices involves seven crucial stages. They help understand the current problems and define the best solution refactoring strategy.
1. Discover if Monolith is a Problem Source
Migration from monolith to microservices isn't the all-purpose solution to all the problems that arise when monolith apps scale up.
Ensure that project challenges are caused by the downsides of a monolith but not the following issues.
- Insufficient business analysis. Your team of software engineers may dedicate a lot of time to eliciting business requirements because of a lack of business analysis. It negatively affects the performance of software engineers as they dedicate fewer hours to developing new features.
- Poor team management. The most popular gaps in team management processes are the absence of regular meetings or feedback-sharing sessions. Also, you may lack defined roles and responsibilities that are usually indicated in a RACI matrix.
- Unoptimized development processes. Many factors can drive poor development process management. For instance, you may lack Git workflow rules, tech meetings, linters and autotests, code review sessions, etc.
- Insufficient team seniority. A team dedicated to a project may need more expertise to manage a large codebase and implement new functionality efficiently.
- Lack of testing. The poor involvement of a quality assurance team may lead to a large number of bugs being unfixed in a deployed product.
Stage #1 outcome:
Understanding if the monolith downsides are the problem source in a project.
2. Check if Issues Can be Solved Quickly
We recommend checking if small tweaks and adjustments can solve performance issues before refactoring a monolith to micros
Check if the following solutions are applicable to your product and can help address tech issues.
- Code scaling. Containerize your application, implement an orchestration tool, implement CI/CD pipelines, etc.
- Database scaling. Replication and sharding are the two top ways to optimize a database used in a monolith application.
- Small adjustments. The implementation of non-blocking code or SQL query optimization are minor tweaks that can help address tech issues.
Stage #2 outcome:
Understanding if it is required to convert a monolith to microservices to solve detected issues.
3. Optimize a Monolith
The better a monolithic application is optimized, the smoother and faster the refactoring process will be run.
At CodeIT, we recommend following the best practices to convert a monolith to microservices smoothly.
- Domain-driven design. The approach helps software engineers change the code structure to make it well-aligned with the business logic.
- Clean architecture. The adherence to this software design philosophy helps improve the maintainability and scalability of an app. Also, it promotes detachment from third-party frameworks and libraries.
- SOLID guidelines. The set of principles promotes the development of a modular software design with reusable components.
Stage #3 outcome:
An optimized monolithic application as per the DDD/Clean Architecture guidelines. Having a modular monolith with minimized dependencies will help to speed up the refactoring process.
4. Choose a Migration Approach
The two major ways to handle monolith to microservices migration are complete refactoring and incremental migration.
The entire codebase is refactored at once. Until the migration process is completed, new features are implemented in the monolithic codebase. Further, they will need to be implemented into the microservice codebase.
The option is applicable if:
- the codebase is small
- new features are released rarely
- existing modules are well-defined and can be easily separated
The application is being refactored incrementally. New features are developed as distinctive services. Meanwhile, the most crucial features are extracted from a monolith and implemented as microservices.
The option should be considered in the following cases:
- the architecture is large and complex
- you need to roll out new features constantly
- business requirements are unclear or change frequently
Stage #4 outcome:
A defined monolith to microservices migration approach.
5. Prioritize Features to Extract
When you select the strangler application approach, you have to define features that should be extracted from the monolith first.
The process of extracting a service is time- and resource-consuming. Moreover, extracting all the services from a monolith is not always necessary. Therefore, it's vital to identify services and prioritize them by considering the following criteria:
- extraction will accelerate further functionality development and enrichment
- extraction will help solve performance, scalability, or stability issues
- extraction will enable the opportunity to extract other services
We recommend defining domain entities along with business logic for managing them. It is one of the core aspects of the smart service extraction strategy.
Stage #5 outcome:
A list of the most important features that should be extracted first.
6. Extract Features from a Monolith
Onboard software engineers to a project. They are responsible for extracting new services and incorporating new technologies if needed. Create separate teams of developers assigned to one or several microservices.
The strangler application approach needs you to incrementally cut off the functionality of a monolith and implement it as distinctive microservices.
Extract the most crucial functionality first using the list of prioritized features.
New services should be slightly connected from a monolith. A perfectly refactored microservice should match the following criteria:
- service isn't bound with a monolith logic
- service doesn't need to call a monolith's API and provide it's API
- service and monolith share a small amount of code
- service needs adding new tables/fields to a database
Some of these criteria can be compromised on. However, if you create a new service that is tightly coupled with a monolith, which comprises the business logic of a feature, you risk ending up with a distributed monolithic architecture.
The term distributed monolith describes an undesirable outcome of a monolith to microservices migration. It is characterized by extracted microservices that are highly connected or heavily dependent on a monolith. Hence, the “monolith issues at scale” remain unsolved, even though an app is split into microservices.
Stage #6 outcome:
A strangler application with services being incrementally extracted from a monolith.
7. Implement New Features as Microservices
Add new microservices to the existing strangler application to keep developing and releasing new features during refactoring.
It's crucial to implement the integration glue. It helps enable the smooth integration of new services with a monolith.
The three core components of the integration glue are:
- monolith to new service data exchange
- new service to monolith data exchange
- API gateway if access to both monolith and service data is required
New services should be loosely coupled with a monolith and highly cohesive. They have to keep the business logic and most of the functionality independent from a monolith.
Besides, you need to implement the microservices security best practices to develop a stable and highly resilient application.
Stage #7 outcome:
New features developed as microservices and loosely coupled with a monolith.
REFACTORING AS STRATEGIC BUSINESS DECISION
Monolith to microservices migration is a strategic decision that should be taken when a digital system becomes too complex.
It needs to invest a lot of time and resources. Moreover, there is a high risk of getting a distributed monolith, which won't help you solve project issues.
It's advisable to thoroughly analyze the possible outputs and problems you will need to tackle.
The top business-side benefits of migration of monolith to microservices are as follows.
- Team scaling. The microservice architecture enables the opportunity to keep large teams of software engineers and manage them effectively.
- Predictable time to market. The rising complexity of a solution won't affect the time needed to create and release a new feature.
- Fault isolation. The application keeps working even if one of its services fails.
- Improved developer performance. Software engineers can use the most optimal technologies when creating new microservices from scratch. Also, they can better understand a small codebase of a certain service.
Meanwhile, the process of refactoring a monolith has the following business downsides.
- Senior developers. It's required to involve highly skilled software engineers. Besides, it may be difficult and time-consuming to assemble a team of senior developers.
- Large investments. Senior developers need to dedicate a lot of time to monolith to microservices migration. Also, it may slow down the release of new features.
- Chance of mistake. If your team of developers isn't senior enough, you may get a distributed monolith as an outcome.
CODEIT EXPERTISE IN MIGRATION FROM MONOLITH TO MICROSERVICES
CodeIT's experts have completed a lot of successful refactoring projects. Read the CodeIT's monolith to microservices case study below.
A large ad listing app with the booking functionality was developed as a monolith app. The architecture's downsides held the project back from fast growth. Also, the developers couldn't pick different tech stacks for implementing different features effectively.
Our team has brainstormed and developed a new architecture. We've identified the top three features that should have been extracted from the monolithic architecture and created a strangler application.
The three services we've extracted are:
- Ad management and search
- Automated email notifications
- User authentication and document validation
Monolith to microservices migration is a critical business decision. Therefore, we recommend refactoring your application only if you have strong reasons, including the following:
- system struggles from monolith downsides
- you need to involve a large number of developers
- the number of features will grow fast
It's important to stick to the smart refactoring strategy to avoid the development of a distributed monolith instead of a microservices-based application. Extract features along with their business logic. Microservices need to have high cohesion and be loosely coupled.
Monolith refactoring is the process of decomposing an application into distinctive services that are loosely coupled with each other.
The refactoring of a monolith to microservices helps solve project issues, enlarge a team of developers, and keep new features fast despite the increasing complexity of an application.
The seven monolith to microservices migration steps are:
- Problem source discovery
- Fast solutions discovery
- Monolith optimization
- Migration approach selection
- Prioritization of features to extract
- Feature extraction
- New service implementation
The two main approaches are:
- Complete rewrite — best for small applications
- Incremental rewrite — best for large and complex apps
The foremost mistakes to avoid when moving from monolith to microservices are:
- Development of a distributed monolith instead of a microservice-based app
- Selection of a wrong refactoring approach
- Involving developers with low seniority levels
The monolith to microservices migration help solve the “monolith at scale” issues, including:
- slow delivery
- poor stability
- insufficient scalability
The more complex an app becomes, the more time it takes to develop, test, and release new features. Also, the chances of app failure increase significantly.
The migration of a monolith to microservices is a solution to the “monolith at scale” issues.