Microservices vs. web services: what are the differences?

Microservices and web services differ in various ways. While microservices are an approach to building an application from a set of smaller services, web services are programmable components that communicate with one another using the internet as a conduit. They share similarities but are different in purpose and implementation.


This guide will explore the benefits, drawbacks, and differences between microservices vs. web services. This will help you choose the right architectural approach for your business and learn why Compass is a good option for your app.


What are microservices?

Microservices, or microservices architecture, build a single application by breaking it up into a collection of small independent services. Since each service runs a unique process, you can build microservices, deploy them, and scale them independently of other services running alongside them and of the application as a whole.    

The microservices architecture began as a response to the traditional monolithic architecture for building applications. In the traditional architecture, there’s one code base for everything the app does, and modifying any part of it requires deploying the entire app. 

Benefits of microservices

Microservices are lightweight and flexible, so using them to build your application offers distinct benefits. Advantages of microservices include:

  • Scalability: Each service is scalable independently based on demand. This means each service can handle an increased load without negatively impacting the performance of the other services or the application. 
  • Modularity: With each service representing a specific business functionality (for example, products, user, checkout, shopping cart), the system becomes modular. Autonomous teams can iterate changes quickly and maintain and develop each service independently.
  • Ease of maintenance: Each service is separate, so maintaining or updating one service does not require changing the code base of the entire application. 
  • Resiliency: Microservices are autonomous, so the failure of one service does not significantly impact the entire application. 
  • Speed of deployment: With this architectural style, you can achieve continuous integration and continuous deployment of large and complex applications. This aids in improving the speed to market.
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Drawbacks of microservices

While there are many advantages of microservices, there are also some potential challenges with using microservices architecture, including: 

  • Complexity: By breaking down the application into smaller, independent microservices, you end up with a distributed system. It must work well with the other services and handle data consistently. Managing this software sprawl becomes a challenge without the right tools.
  • Testing: The distributed nature and interdependencies between services means unit testing, integration testing, and end-to-end testing become much more intricate. You will need specialized microservices tools and techniques for testing. 
  • Security: Because of the increased number of services and communication channels, there are more opportunities for attack. This means extra precaution is necessary to secure each service individually and ensure secure communication between services.  
  • Deployment: Deploying microservices can require using tools such as Open DevOps or Compass and orchestration techniques to automate deployments and secure fault tolerance.

What are web services?

Web services are applications or programmable components accessible through the Internet, enabling communication between devices over a network. The web service aims to perform a specific set of functions. 

To do this, it sends and receives messages between client and server applications. Web services serve various purposes, including retrieving data and implementing complex business processes.

Benefits of web services

Web services enable communication between applications via the Internet or an intranet, giving them several distinct advantages, including: 

  • Interoperability: Businesses can communicate via web services without having to abide by complex rules. Web services allow communication with any software system regardless of the language because of standardized web protocols such as HTTP or AMQP.
  • Ease of integration: Web services allow different applications, systems, and websites to communicate. This is useful when you need to connect data from different sources. 
  • Cost: Through Internet protocols, businesses can communicate cheaply. This enables them to build an affordable environment for communication.

Drawbacks of web services

Web services also come with unique challenges, such as:

  • Security: Web services can have security issues, such as buffer overflow injections and session hijacking. This can lead to corrupted data, the execution of malicious code, and data theft.
  • Performance bottlenecks: Web services introduce additional overhead that can result in slower performance compared to more lightweight communication mechanisms.
  • Complexity: Web services involve more complex interactions and data exchange than direct programming approaches. This complexity can make developing, debugging, and maintaining web services more difficult.

Differences between microservices and web services

So, what’s the difference between microservices and web services? Below, we examine both service types across several facets so you can decide which is more suitable for your application.


In terms of their build, microservices are a distributed architecture with independent, loosely coupled services making up an application. Web services stand on a standardized architecture that enables interoperable communication between systems.


Microservices are typically smaller in scope. Each service focuses on a specific business functionality (e.g., one service focuses on the shopping cart, and another focuses on user-generated content). Meanwhile, web services can be larger in scope and often represent larger functional components.

Communication protocol

When microservices communicate, they use a variety of protocols, such as HTTP, AMQP, and gRPC. When web services communicate with other systems, they use standardized protocols, such as SOAP, REST, and XML-RPC.


Developers deploy microservices independently, often using containerization to isolate them from other services and ease the deployment process. Web services, in contrast, are typically deployed as a single unit or a collection of services in a monolithic application.


While both services have their fair share of complexity, microservices are typically more complex in terms of architecture due to their distributed nature. This highlights the need to manage all their interdependent parts. 

Web services are typically less complex due to their standardized approach and centralized management. However, they might be complex when adhering to specific standards.

Use Cases

When should you use web services vs. microservices? Here are three use cases to illustrate the best option for each:

  • E-commerce platform: This is a large, complex application with various parts that must be reliable and work well together (e.g., catalog, wish lists, payment systems, shopping cart). Microservices will ensure each functionality is independently stable and interacts well with the others.
  • Travel booking app: You’ll need an architecture to communicate with legacy systems. With web services based on standardized protocols, this architecture can ensure your travel app communicates well with different platforms and legacy applications.
  • Fintech service: Because of this complex app, you’ll need something stable and reliable to deal with frequent changes. Microservices are a good choice for this, as they allow for easier updates and, if necessary, rollbacks.

Which is better for your business?

When deciding between microservices vs web services for your business, it’s crucial to consider the following key points:

Choose microservices if your application is large and complex, deals with frequent changes, has high availability requirements, or is resource-intensive.

Choose web services if your application needs to integrate with legacy systems, has simple requirements, or has limited resources.

Achieve scalability and efficiency with Compass

When you’re ready to use microservices for your business, there’s one tool that simplifies managing the complexity of a distributed, loosely coupled architecture: Compass

Compass consolidates your distributed software architecture and collaborating teams into a central, unified place. Using Compass to manage your microservices, you can achieve efficiencies, allowing your application to:

  • Tame software sprawl by seeing all the components your team builds and relies on.
  • Increase productivity by proactively providing developers with a comprehensive catalog of software components. 
  • Monitor your service health with real-time activity updates from your components and their dependencies. 

Learn more about Compass

Microservices vs. web services: Frequently asked questions

Is it possible to use microservices and web services together?

Yes, you can use microservices and web services together. You can apply microservices using web services and use web services to communicate between microservices. 

There are three main advantages to combining microservices and web services in a single application. Microservices are scalable independently of one another, making deployment more flexible. And yet, implementing them using web services still allows them to communicate with each other using protocols such as HTTP or AMQP. You can even use web services to provide a public API for a microservices application. In general, using both microservices and web services in a single application is a powerful combination that can lead to scalable, flexible, and robust apps.

How do I choose between microservices and web services?

Choosing between microservices vs. web services will depend entirely on the needs of your application. You need to ask some questions: 

  • How complex is the application? Microservices are best for complex applications that require flexibility, scale, and dependability. Web services are a good choice for simpler applications that require less flexibility.
  • How scalable does your application need to be? Microservices are scalable independently of one another, as they’re not built on a monolithic architecture. You can scale a microservice up or down as the need fluctuates. Web services are not as scalable, though you can still scale them up or down to some extent.
  • How interoperable does your application need to be? If your application must interoperate with other systems, web services are a better choice because they use standardized protocols, such as SOAP and REST. This makes it easier for them to integrate with other applications than microservices.

How do microservices and web services address security concerns?

When you implement microservices, you increase the number of services and, therefore, have more “attack surface.” The use of HTTPS, encryption, and authentication tokens, as well as secure containers and API gateways, can mitigate this issue. Finally, you should secure all access to microservices and audit this access regularly to keep things secure.

Web services have their own security vulnerabilities due to their reliance on open standards and protocols. But, with careful implementation of security measures such as encryption, authentication, and authorization, you can protect your web services from attacks.

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