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monolithic

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Developers' guide to deploying microservices and containers
Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Monolithic, in information technolog, means either very large (and possibly imposing) or composed all in one piece, depending on the particular context; the term is used in different ways to describe integrated circuits, organizations, applications and storage systems, among other things.

A few examples of how the term is used in IT:

monolithic architecture is the traditional programming model, which means that elements of a software program are interwoven and interdependent. That model contrasts with more recent modular approaches such as a microservice architecture (MSA).

A monolithic integrated circuit (IC) is a set of circuitry on a single semiconductor plate or chip rather than built of separate elements as a discrete circuit is.

A monolithic storage array has disks fixed into the array frame and connected to controllers through cache memory; modular arrays, on the other hand, are usually based on dual controllers connected to a separate power source and connected to the disks through cables.

A monolithic corporation is a large, separate and undiversified organization.

In a general context, a monolith is a single, separate and large stone feature that may be geographic or man-made. Examples include a mountain that is not part of a range, a standing stone and a monument. The word comes from the Ancient Greek μονόλιθος (monolithos), from μόνος (one) and λίθος (stone).

This was last updated in May 2016

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Not quite one piece. Client-server apps or web-based apps are very modular. This label (monolithic) was given to contrast the difference with SOAP/REST architectures.
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