Understanding SOA vs Microservices Architecture: Navigating Architectural Differences

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SOA vs Microservices

Key Takeaways

  • SOA and Microservices are two approaches to replacing monolithic application structures.
  • SOA separates an application into multiple services that each address a cluster of functions.
  • Microservices are small containers that handle one task and drive focused app functionality.
  • Microservices evolved from SOA as a more independent, agile architecture.
  • The main difference between microservices and SOA is their scope. The former is used for light app projects, while the latter powers enterprise applications.
  • SOA emphasizes reusability, while microservices are dedicated to service independence.
  • Due to containerized isolation, microservices are easier to deploy, manage, and modify than SOA.
  • SOA excels in enterprise usage with complex functionality and heterogenous communications, while microservices are optimal for single-project apps.

The SOA vs Microservices debate has been a hotly contested topic in the world of software development. Both technologies have emerged in response to the need for a non-monolithic application architecture and share key similarities.

Despite the similarities, the two technologies take very different approaches to solve the same problem. Understanding what separates the two is the first step to understanding modern web architecture. Beginner and veteran developers alike need to be aware of the differences between the two to navigate the development landscape effectively.

Today, we will delve into the SOA vs microservices discussion to help illuminate modern application architecture. Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

  1. Key Takeaways
  2. What is SOA?
  3. What is a Microservice?
  4. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) vs Microservices Architecture
    1. Scope and Granularity
    2. Communication Channel
    3. Database Sharing and Reusability
    4. Ease of Development
    5. Governance
    6. Deployment and Scalability
  5. Conclusion
  6. FAQs

What is SOA?

SOA stands for Service Oriented Architecture. It is a non-monolithic application architecture that utilizes loosely coupled modular components called services to build apps. Each service addresses a complete business function and is reusable across an enterprise.

Reusability makes SOA popular for enterprise-level usage. SOA comprises two software layers: the provider and consumer layers. The two layers communicate via a common communication channel known as the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).

Consider a User Service as an example. Under the SOA architecture, a User Service would manage all user-related tasks. This includes registration, authentication, login, profile management, etc. All of these features would be addressed by one service, which will interact with other such wide-scope services to deliver a complete app experience.

Here is a quick breakdown of the many features associated with SOA:

Features of SOA

What is a Microservice?

Microservice is a concept that evolved from the core principles of SOA. Microservices take the idea of breaking down monolithic programs to the extreme. They prioritize independence, breaking an application into smaller independent microservices. Each broken service then does one specific task. The idea is to break down every app function into granular parts and use a microservice for each.

Let’s continue with the example we used last time. In an app built with microservices architecture, there will be no all-encompassing User Service. Instead, several microservices will be employed, each addressing one user-related task. So, a separate microservice will handle registration, another will deal with authentication, and a third will manage login.

In this way, microservices architecture further breaks down the idea of individual services in SOA and transforms them into microservices. Several microservices come together to fulfill one complete app function.

Also Read: Monolith vs Microservices Architecture: Which Is The Best Approach For Your Projects?

These are the features most characteristic of microservices architecture:

Features of microservices architecture

Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) vs Microservices Architecture

SOA vs Microservices Architecture

Despite being derivative technologies, the two are very different. Let us compare SOA vs microservices in the context of their most notable differences to highlight their unique capabilities.

Scope and Granularity

The biggest point of difference between microservices and SOA architecture is the scope within which they operate.

SOA: SOA services are commonly referred to as enterprise services. The scope of these services is broad, and they address multiple functionalities. This coarse-grained nature means related functions are often bundled and carried out by the same service. Some large service modules in SOA can be mistaken for individual applications, communicating with others to perform complex tasks.

Microservices: Microservices, on the other hand, take the fine-grained approach. They are geared towards powering a single application with one major functionality rather than an enterprise-level program that offers hundreds of different services.

What is addressable by a single service in SOA is handled by tens, if not hundreds, of microservices working together. Each microservice does one task, and many microservices combined offer the capabilities of a single SOA service.

Communication Channel

SOA: SOA is still monolithic to an extent. This is most visible in how communications are handled. The ESB is a central communications channel. It facilitates communication between services. If the ESB fails for any reason, services lose communication.

The ESB is a remnant of the monolithic architecture that still survives in SOA. To an extent, it is necessary to control intricately designed networks of services. Nevertheless, the ESB is a single point of failure in SOA architecture. It detracts from the goal of breaking down monolithic programs.

Microservices: Microservices architecture achieves monolithic independence. Rather than a centralized communication hub, microservices communicate using APIs. APIs are independent, lightweight messaging systems. If a service API fails, only that service loses communication capability.

Each communication method has its ups and downs. While APIs are independent, they are less robust than ESB and cannot handle complex communications as effectively. ESB is ideal for SOA architecture due to the complexity and multitude of communication protocols at work. API, meanwhile, is more dynamic and flexible, using REST protocols for communication for agile applications.

Database Sharing and Reusability

SOA: SOA architecture shares the same resources among all services. Databases and communication channels are all shared. Multiple app functions use the same service. For example, the accounting and marketing applications use the same customer information service.

Microservices: Microservices detract from this approach. Every service gets its own data storage to operate independently. There is no code reuse. Microservices prefer duplicating data and emphasizing independence.

Ease of Development

SOA: SOA services are much more difficult to develop, modify, and scale. Services being interconnected, sharing the same communication channel and database, and being reused across multiple components is a big obstacle. Modifying one service will affect every other service that depends on it. Consequently, if one service has a flaw, every service reusing the same code will have the same flaw.

Microservices: Microservices are much easier to develop. They are isolated in containers with their own database, API, and source code. Developers can easily modify a microservice with minimal effect on other microservices.


SOA vs microservices is a choice between centralized and decentralized governance. Governance refers to the rules, policies, and standards development teams enforce on the components.

SOA: SOA uses centralized governance. This means a single, sweeping standard with static policies is enforced on all components.

Microservices: Microservices are more flexible. They allow developers to program each microservice with different standards and policies. Both have their uses.

Administrators might want to limit policy-making to high-level roles in an enterprise. They may also want consistent policies across multiple cross-enterprise services. This makes SOA a better choice than microservices. The latter is good for development freedom. It enables teams to use the policies best suited for specific services.

Deployment and Scalability

SOA: SOA architecture is significantly more challenging to deploy than microservices. SOA services are a whole different can of worms. Deploying additional services means all the other services must be modified or recreated to accommodate the new addition. This makes SOA much harder to scale and costs significantly more time and money to deploy.

Microservices: Microservices allow for agile development, and by being small, independent containers can easily be deployed without much hassle.


Choosing between the two depends on project goals and specific business use cases. Choose SOA if you want an enterprise-wide software solution like an ERP system. For agile applications with a smaller scope, microservices are optimal. Regardless of your choice, it is also important to consider the infrastructure required.

RedSwitches bare metal servers present a golden opportunity for SOA architecture deployment for enterprises. At a highly affordable price, RedSwitches offers a robust environment for deploying business-critical systems with 24/7 support. Microservices are no different, with RedSwitches dedicated server hosting providing all the space required to host and execute containerized applications.


Q. What is the main difference between SOA and microservices?

The scope is the main difference between microservices and SOA. SOA is more suited for enterprise-level use with complex functionality. Microservices are used on a project scale in single applications.

Q. Why are there so many similarities between SOA and Microservices?

Microservices are often considered an evolution of SOA. Microservices deconstruct the monolithic architectural style entirely on a deeper level than SOA.

Q. Why are microservices popular for app development these days?

Modern applications prioritize agile deployment with fast development cycles and dynamic scalability. Microservices are just better to achieve these goals.

Q. How do databases work in microservice software architecture?

Microservices follow the bounded context principle. Services are packaged in containers, each with its own database. There is no central data pool which every service pulls from.

Q. Can an ESB be used with microservices?

Using an ESB with microservices is technically possible, but this goes against the primary purpose of using microservices: decentralization.

Q. How does governance differ between SOA and microservices?

SOA uses a centralized governance feature to establish enterprise-wide standards. Microservices offer flexible standards for each service.

Q. What communication protocols are used in microservices vs SOA?

SOA often uses SOAP communications protocols and ESBs. Microservices typically use RESTful APIs over HTTP/HTTPS.

Q. Are microservices more suitable for cloud environments than SOA?

Microservices are much better suited to cloud environments. They are easier to deploy and scale. SOA is compatible with the cloud but demands much more effort.

Q. Which architecture promotes faster time-to-market for new features?

Microservices typically promote faster time-to-market. This is thanks to smaller, independently deployable units and continuous delivery.

Q. Can you use both SOA and microservices in the same organization?

Yes, some organizations use a hybrid approach, leveraging the strengths of both architectures where appropriate.

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