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  • Writer's pictureMatt Burrell

Choosing the Right Architecture for Your Application: Serverless, Microservices, or Monolithic?

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

When building a new application or modernising an existing one, one of the crucial decisions you'll need to make is choosing the architectural approach.

There are several different architectural styles, each with benefits and trade-offs. This post will discuss three common approaches: serverless, microservices, and traditional monolithic architectures.

Serverless architectures, also known as "function as a service" (FaaS), are designed to execute short-lived, stateless functions in response to events. They rely on third-party cloud providers to provide the infrastructure and runtime environments for your functions and are typically billed on a pay-per-use basis.

Serverless architectures can be a good choice for applications that need to scale quickly and handle fluctuations in demand, as they can automatically scale up or down based on the workload. However, they may not be the best fit for applications with strict performance or compliance requirements, those that require custom hardware or software or for long-running processes.

Microservices architectures also involve breaking down a large application into smaller, independent units that can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently. But the size and scope of the separate units tend to be larger than individual functions in serverless architectures. These units are called "services" rather than "functions".

Breaking down an application into discrete, independent parts can make developing and maintaining complex applications easier, allowing teams to work on different parts of the application in parallel. However, microservices architectures can be more complex to design and operate, as they require a robust infrastructure and good communication between the different services.

Often, the services are packaged into containers and managed using a container orchestration platform like Kubernetes. This requires a certain level of knowledge and expertise to keep everything running smoothly.

Traditional monolithic architectures involve building a single, standalone application with all the functionality and dependencies needed to run the application. This can make developing and deploying simple applications easier, as all the code is in a single place. However, as applications grow in size and complexity, monolithic architectures can become difficult to maintain and scale.

So, which architectural approach is the best fit for your organisation and project? Here are a few factors to consider when making a decision:

  • Scalability: If your application needs to handle a high traffic volume or sudden spikes in demand, a serverless or microservices architecture may be a good choice. Monolithic architectures may not be as well-suited to handling fluctuations in demand.

  • Performance: If you have stringent performance requirements, such as real-time processing or high-volume data pipelines, a traditional monolithic architecture or a microservices architecture may be a better fit. Serverless architectures, especially on a consumption (pay-as-you-go) tier, can introduce latency due to the need to spin up and autoscale.

  • Team size and structure: A microservices architecture may be a good choice if you have a large team or need to develop and deploy different parts of the application in parallel. Monolithic architectures may be more suitable for smaller teams or simpler applications.

  • Complexity: A traditional monolithic architecture may be the easiest to develop and maintain if you have a relatively simple application with few dependencies. However, a microservices or serverless architecture may be a better fit if your application is complex or has many dependencies.

Ultimately, the right architectural approach will depend on your organisation and the project's specific needs and constraints. It's essential to carefully consider all the factors involved and choose the approach that best meets your needs.

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