Microservices Architecture vs. Monolithic Architecture: 4 Key Differences

May 17, 2018

Category: Headless eCommerce

By now, you’ve probably heard your development team buzzing about microservices architecture. But what is it exactly, and how does it compare to the monolithic architecture many eCommerce applications were first built on back in the ‘90s?

Microservices architecture is most broadly defined as a single process that deals with a set of functional elements that is architecturally separate from other functional services. The opposing architectural design, monolithic architecture, deals with elements of functionality that are built into one process and/or service.

Modern development teams are choosing microservices architecture for today’s eCommerce and order management challenges because monolithic architecture has proven to be challenging and time-consuming to innovate on. Microservices architecture is loosely coupled by design, which makes it much easier to manage changes without disrupting other services. Because every aspect of an application built using microservices architecture is available via an API, dev teams can more quickly extend their functionality to new channels and experiences, like augmented reality and IoT (internet of things).

The 4 key differences between microservices architecture and monolithic architecture have to do with integrations, customizations, costs and extendibility.


  • Monolithic: Each application operates in relation to the other applications
  • Microservices: Each microservice is an app itself with its own API and well-defined functionality, so it can be function independently


  • Monolithic: Customizations are riskier because one change can impact many other areas
  • Microservices: Customizations are encouraged, because you can enhance an existing microservice or deploy a new one without disrupting the others


  • Monolithic: Enhancements are expensive and labor intensive
  • Microservices: Enhancements are quick and cost-effective


  • Monolithic: Can only be extended to a limited degree and is often vendor dependent
  • Microservices: Unlimited potential to extend via new microservices and APIs

Learn about how 4 companies are disrupting their industries using OrderCloud’s microservices architecture in our “Digital Disruptors” eBook.