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Love Your Monolith, For Now

In today’s fintech-frenzied atmosphere it’s easy to understand why there’s so much buzz about APIs and microservices.

While breaking the monolith is certainly an exciting prospect, for many financial institutions it may not be the way to go right now. And there are some important things you need to know before heading down this path.

The fact is, all this hate about the monolith is a great opportunity for overzealous fintech firms to offer their wares and build you a ‘cutting edge’ system when you may not need it.

Actually, what you might end up with is far more tech than you need, a big price tag and lots of tech headaches. Hopefully this doesn’t sound too familiar.

There are a lot of things to love about running and maintaining a monolith. And there are plenty of ways to keep your monolith and still get the benefits of integrating into a more dynamic microservices platform - you just need the right fintech partners.

“When we first launched about a decade ago, Ruby on Rails was the cutting edge programming language,” says Aaron Junod, Vice President of Product Development at Geezeo. “But since then, our website morphed into a data processing platform, and our decisions to use a cutting edge web development platform for our monolith were no longer appropriate. Ruby itself is still a viable option, and we could have even chosen to build our microservices in Ruby, but we chose a platform more tuned for concurrency.”

“The monolith is the best way to build quickly and cheaply,” says Geezeo CTO James Elwood. “Say you were cooking dinner. It’s most efficient to find one kitchen where you can prepare your meal. Using microservices is like having different kitchens around town that you have to use to prepare each course.”

This doesn’t mean microservices aren’t valuable tools. It’s just that they’re not always valuable. It’s like the old analogy that if all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. Microservices have become a fintech hammer in certain cases.

You have to decide what you need your systems to do and whether it’s easier to add on to your monolith or break it apart into microservices.

And much of that answer comes from how complex your business is, and how complex you’re interested in making it. If you’re a community FI, it’s unlikely you’re going to be expanding into new business lines, building out of your niche. If that’s the case you’re probably better off sticking with your monolith. You can still add microservices using fintech partners that have the ability to build components that complement your current resources.

“Really, it’s core providers and fintechs that FIs work with that need to be looking at moving beyond the monolith,” says Elwood. Find out how well prepared for scaling up your vendors are, rather than starting with your own systems.

Cores offer FIs so much support on so many different levels, integrating scores of fintech solutions, managing cloud databases, customizing APIs, etc.

“You want your vendors to talk about solving problems rather than simply talk about their technologies,” Elwood advises. Because vendors have numerous clients (which is a good thing since it means that have good products), they need to scale to be able add to their client list without hurting any of their clients’ performance.

These fintech partners are running billions of transactions daily, batching them and keeping them secure. Adding to that client list means these fintechs need to be able to continue to process all this information for their clients efficiently and securely.

“The bottom line is,” advised Elwood, “you need to make sure you have the right tool to address your problem. If you need to travel down the street to go to the store, you don’t need to buy a Ferrari to do it.”




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