A guide to choosing between Microservices and cloud-native development versus traditional development

November 26, 2021
A guide to choosing between Microservices and cloud-native development versus traditional development


When was the last time you had to deal with downloading software and having an update for the same a year later? Or a bug that was never fixed but had to be worked around? Or dealing with the fact that the application was available on windows but not on Mac?

When one considers today's generation of application users, the changes are apparent. Not only are these issues a thing of the past, but there has been a whole new approach to application development. Older applications were based on a traditional, monolithic model of development that may not be advantageous to a fast-paced, consumer-based society.

When pitted against a newer model of application development, some features that stand out include faster upgrades, newer features every week, bug fixes and improvements, and security patches which all work together to ensure a smoother performance. This approach to building and running applications is attributed to a delivery model known as cloud-native development.

What is traditional development?

Up until about a decade ago, monolithic architecture was the blueprint behind most traditional applications. Any app development, be it traditional or any other method is a combination of tools, personnel, commands, and goals. These features ultimately combine to form a well-working application, but these factors evolve independently to meet consumer demand.

In traditional development, a monolithic model is used where interconnections are common and each service, function, and line of code is interconnected. Not only do these demand intense manual labor and work dedicated to building applications, but the interconnections also do not always translate to an advantage. If one function is affected, the connected functions and codes are affected which leads to disturbances at the user and developer end.

If one were to visualize traditional development, it would be a stack of services on top of each other, but if a block is pulled out, the stack would require repair on the backend side to stand again. Not only is the model not scalable, but it is also not flexible, leading to updating of features, fixing bugs, and updating security taking a longer duration.

What is cloud-native architecture?

A cloud-native architecture utilizes a cloud computing delivery model. It utilizes an architecture where applications reside in the public cloud, compared to a traditional form that depends on the Operating System to create an application.

To break down the components of cloud-native architecture it includes,

  • Application programming interface (API) driven communication

  • Container and microservices-based infrastructure

  • Works hand in hand with DevOps processes such as agile development, collaborative and continuous deployment, security

In a nutshell, cloud-native architecture is faster, enables continuous development and delivery based on a feedback loop, and is optimized for today's fast-moving business sector. The features of the application are created in the cloud, remain, and are accessed via the cloud, in stark contrast to a traditional form of app development.

What are microservices?

Cloud-native applications are based on subunits called microservices. The standard definition aside, to understand microservices in layman terms, one can visualize a website. For instance, a travel website with several sections such as hotels, stays, cars, bookings, luxury travels, and so on.

While the website is the backbone, each section can function independently as a microservice. Each section has features that need not overlap features of another section. Each microservice or subsection can be altered for features without disturbing the website or the other microservices.

What are the main benefits of microservices?

Microservices is the process of dividing an application into different modules that perform a particular function and that may be independent of other modules. These modules have well-defined interfaces and are deployed individually. The post-deployment operations are taken over by separate teams that not only look after the microservices but also the entire architecture of the website.

Microservices are the stand apart feature in a monolithic vs cloud-native model. Instead of interconnections and stacking of features as in monolithic architecture, microservices are used in cloud-native development. They form self-sustainable containers that can be run on any platform. This translates to a faster, simpler, resilient, and scalable model of app development.

Cloud development versus traditional software: which is better?

Cloud-native development has made an undeniable mark in the field of software development and statistics indicate the same. A survey predicts that almost 90% of all new apps will be built on a microservices architecture that allows organizations to design, update features, debug and secure, along with integrating third-party tools easier. But should your organization give in to the herd mentality of shifting to the cloud?

When a monolithic versus cloud-native model is considered, the features that align the most with today's consumer base are with the latter. But cloud-native being the best choice for most businesses does not guarantee it is the best choice for your business. There are cases where traditional applications are used and preferred where there may be smaller projects, protocols to follow that may not require the features of cloud-native development.

There are a few features in traditional development that may not be present in cloud-native development and vice versa. However, to make the choice between cloud-native vs traditional software, knowing these differences may help decide, based on your organization's needs.

1. The traditional model works in silos while cloud-native is open and collaborative

In traditional development, while the services are interconnected, the architecture works in silos. Each team works on separate, team-wise goals. For instance, the operations team receives a finished set of code from the developer team and will use the same to run production. Communication and collaboration between the two teams are rarely seen.

Cloud native's collaboration is in stark contrast to the silo model of traditional development. Using a DevOps model of collaboration based on a feedback loop among people, processes, and tools helps speed up the development process and makes deployment faster.

So, what's the benefit of a collaborative team within an organization? In a largely customer-centric marketplace, cloud-native development ensures customers' needs are never compromised. In cases of traditional development, organizational goals and issues may overpower the main goals and lead to issues in working towards customer satisfaction.

2. The traditional model is manual-based, while automation is key in cloud-native

The traditional method levies manual work throughout the entire process. Yet, the issue of human error remains. While this may bring forth human expertise, certain processes may take longer to complete, such as diagnosing issues, troubleshooting, and deployment issues. This could also lead to longer downtime.

Automation and cloud-native development go hand in hand, to eliminate these issues and automate manual tasks. This fares better in cases of larger deployment as it would require a larger team to handle in the traditional model, but an automated task to be run in the cloud-native approach. With continuous integration and continuous delivery, all processes within the production and deployment cycle become faster.

3. The traditional model is OS-dependent, cloud-native is OS independent

In terms of the operating system, when cloud-native versus traditional is considered, the traditional model relies heavily on the operating system's compatibility. This dependence may work in some cases. However, with today's generation, it may lead to complex issues of migration and scalability.

As the term cloud-native development indicates, the applications developed are OS independent and are developed on the cloud. There is no dependency on the underlying infrastructure and this microservices design allows developers to shift their focus away from infrastructure to better development of software. This contributes to the DevOps model of agile development and production.

4. The monolithic architecture of traditional development versus microservices of cloud-native: the factor of predictability

Due to the architecture of traditional development, the immobilization of a process in place leads to a longer duration if any changes in the process, development, or deployment changes are to be made. The production environment is not consumer dependent and is siloed as well, leading to unpredictable handling when any action is to be taken.

In the case of cloud-native development, the components such as containers, automation tools, and capabilities of microservices architecture lead to a predictable flow of work. Conducting tasks is easier in a microservices architecture due to the breakdown of processes and the non-dependence on other components. The dev-test production environment is an added advantage of a predictable loop of upgrades and customer feedback.

5. The low backup capabilities of the traditional model versus the backup of the cloud-native model

A monolithic architecture does not provide the features of automated backup, disaster recovery, handling missing documentation, and so on. The need for an automated backup and recovery system is now more than ever, and the lack of the same can be a blow to bigger organizations that handle large amounts of data.

With cloud-native development, there is an assurance of backup and security as the automated backup helps recover from failed deployments, restarts, outages, and so on. The backups can also help auditing and compliance processes, allowing complete transparency and tracking of resources used. This backup and data protection works independent of the rest of the services, allowing no disruption of workload operations.

6. Waterfall development of traditional versus continuous delivery of cloud-native

Traditional development does not allow for updating security patches, bug fixes, or product updates within a shorter duration. Using a waterfall model of development, the software is released typically weeks or months apart. The code of the release may have been prepared prior, but the release takes longer, as it is dependent on various other factors. In the competition ladder that exists today, it is harder for businesses to compete with a traditional model as it is not customer-oriented.

The DevOps team in cloud-native development works on individual software updates to deploy as soon as they are available. There is a higher chance of a feedback loop as customers use the features and provide feedback via various sources. This feedback is taken into account, reverted back to the IT team which works on newer updates based on feedback. This is followed by faster deployment, for another round of feedback-based updates. This model of continuous delivery and integration works best for customer-oriented businesses of this generation.

Works in silosWorks using a collaborative model
Manual basedBased on automation
Is OS-dependentIs OS independent
Monolithic architectureMicroservices architecture
Low Backup capabilitiesHigher and effective backup capabilities
Waterfall development modelDevOps development model

Making a decision: cloud-native development versus traditional development

While the trend of most organizations is to shift from traditional development to a microservices architecture, the ultimate choice depends on the organization and the needs. Cloud-native may be far more suited to take on challenges of modern businesses than traditional development. However, if there are project requirements that do not meet the features that cloud-native holds, one has to shift to traditional development.

The limitations that traditional apps have are solved by cloud-native development. From shifting an application into a server and making it premise independent to faster delivery, the advantages are many. Unless there are limitations that require an organization to resort to traditional development, the methodologies offered by cloud-native are best adopted for scalability and flexibility in this competitive era of app development.