Most individuals who work in technology — and in particular, cloud computing — are likely aware of how service-oriented architecture (SOA) and microservices work. There is much discussion, however, regarding the best approaches for various situations. There are crucial differences in data governance, component sharing, and the architecture between SOA vs. microservices.

In this article, you'll learn the basics of SOA vs. microservices, understand the basic differences between the two, and discover which approach is the best for your particular situation — whether you're modernizing, updating, or starting from scratch.

Table of Contents

  1. What is SOA?
  2. What are Microservices?
  3. What are the Major Differences?
  4. What are the Similarities?
  5. What are Examples of Each?
  6. What are the Pros and Cons?
  7. Which is Best for You?

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What is SOA?

Service-Oriented Architecture is an approach to software that includes an entire enterprise development. It enables developers to reuse components from a variety of other applications across the entire enterprise. SOA includes a group of services that are modular in nature and "communicate" with one another to support applications.

This service allows communication via different platforms and languages. SOA bases this organization on loose coupling or decoupling. So two businesses can communicate even if they are entirely different. This often makes software development more convenient and improves business functionality. SOA basically delivers four types of service:

  • Functional Service: This is the general service for business applications.
  • Application Services: These services are for deploying and developing applications.
  • Enterprise Services: These are for specifically implementing functionality.
  • Infrastructure Service: This is for nonfunctional purposes and can include security and authentication.

What are Microservices?

Microservices are a sort of evolution or extension of SOA. The different services in microservices communicate through APIs or application programming interfaces. Each of these forms an organizational network around a specific business domain. When all together, these services create complex applications. Microservices craft an application system as a series of single-purpose services that are normally unique and distinct from one another.

Microservices allow programmers to update code with ease, scale components independently of each other and use different stacks for various components. This reduces the cost and waste that often occurs when scaling entire applications. It also prevents single features from facing too high of a load. Microservices are more tolerant of faults than other types of application methods. They also frequently run on the Cloud.

What are the Major Differences?

The scope of SOA vs. microservices is where the primary differences lay. The architecture in microservices produces an application scope, while SOA provides an enterprise scope. There are a few specific areas where these major differences are noticeable.

Data Duplication: Changing data at the primary source is one of the basic purposes of providing SOA for all applications. This can reduce the necessity of maintaining complicated data synchronization patterns. Microservice applications usually have local access to data. This, however, means there are sometimes duplications of data in the other systems, which can cause complexity.

Data Storage: Microservices usually have individual data storage. SOA systems normally share data storage units.

Reusability: Reusing integrations is one of the primary goals of SOA. Reusing components in microservices throughout an application can cause dependencies that limit resilience and agility.

Speed: Sharing a basic architecture can assist SOAs when simplifying troubleshooting and ongoing development. On the other hand, SOAs may work more slowly, which limits sharing and favors duplication.

Communication: An SOA system provides each service a basic communication mechanism. This is an ESB (enterprise service bus). This means a single point of failure can disrupt the entire enterprise. With microservice architecture, every service is independent of one another.

Granularity: SOA exhibits a wide range of services. These can include small, specialty services to those that are enterprise-wide. Microservices are all specialty. Programmers create each one to carry out one particular service extremely well.

Interoperability: SOAs are open to diverse messages and protocols. Microservices keep things simple and use messaging such as HTTP/REST.

What are the Similarities?

There are a few ways that SOA and Microservices are similar:

  • Both are collections that focus on performing specific functions.
  • Both are smaller in overall scope than one large monolithic architecture.
  • Both require decentralization in the internal culture with cross-functional collaborative abilities.
  • Both allow the choice of program languages that best suit each service.

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What are Examples of Each?

Deciding which is the best choice is sometimes easier after looking into some real-life examples. The following are companies that use either SOA or Microservices:

Companies Using SOA: SOAs are similar to a monolithic system and focus on component sharing. There are several large companies that use this type of application. NASA and Motorola implement SOA into their software development. First-Citizens Bank is also an institution using SOA.

Companies Using Microservices: Microservices have a higher focus on decoupling. Netflix uses a microservice system that allows the brand to stream titles effortlessly across the globe. PayPal uses microservices each time someone taps "make a payment." Amazon web services also support microservices architecture.

What are the Pros and Cons?

There are advantages and disadvantages when using SOA vs. microservices. You'll want to evaluate the pros and cons of each when making a choice between them.

SOA Pros: The location of services doesn't matter. Services on one server or several will work. SOA also provides high reusability. Development teams and data engineers can also create parallel development opportunities when using SOA.

SOA Cons: One of the biggest drawbacks is that SOA often requires a large upfront investment. When starting web services or any type of new service, this may negatively affect a company's bottom line. Using SOA usually increases response times because a full validation of all parameters occurs with each interaction between services.

Microservices Pros: There is an increase in agility and flexibility when using microservices. Cross-platform development is easy because of high reusability. A major benefit is that a broken service won't crash the entire application. (This, however, often depends on having safety measures in place.) There is also the potential for scalability with the ability to adjust each component separately.

Microservices Cons: There are sometimes slow communication times. This is especially true if more services are in the system. Unlike monolithic applications, each service needs an update or a testing check. This obviously is more time-consuming. Overall, microservices are more complex to operate and run properly.

Which is Best for You?

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After reading the pros and cons, you should have a better idea of which system will work best for you. There are a few questions you'll want to ask yourself or your organization when making the final decision between SOA vs. microservices.

You would likely want an SOA if the answer is yes to the following questions:

  • Do you have a large, diverse application environment?
  • Do you want a system that can support multiple messaging protocols?
  • Do you want a messaging system that works through an enterprise service bus?

You would probably want microservices if the following apply to your organization:

  • Do you have a smaller environment that doesn't require a strong communication layer?
  • Do you need a system that provides extensive scalability?
  • Do you want to build a smaller project with simpler messaging systems?

Finally, when deciding between SOA vs. microservices, you'll need to keep in mind any features or services you might add in the future, how the system will work with your service provider and how much scalability you'll need. Both SOA and microservices provide great options depending on key differences in each organization, focusing on individual needs.

Xplenty can improve your business process whether you use a monolithic architecture, SOA architecture, or microservices. Xplenty provides scalability with the right software components and application development. Contact Xplenty today to work with the most advanced DevOps, and ask about the 14-day pilot program.