Monolith to Microservices: Refactoring Relational Databases

Exploring common patterns for refactoring relational database models as part of a microservices architecture

Gary A. Stafford
19 min readApr 14, 2022



There are plenty of books, articles, tutorials, and presentations on migrating existing monolithic applications to microservices and designing new applications using a microservices architecture. It has been one of the most popular IT topics for the last several years. Unfortunately, monolithic architectures often have equally monolithic database models. As organizations evolve from monolithic to microservices architectures, refactoring the application’s database model is often overlooked or deprioritized. Similarly, as organizations develop new microservices-based applications, they frequently neglect to apply a similar strategy to their databases.

The following post will examine several basic patterns for refactoring relational databases for microservices-based applications.


Monolithic Architecture

A monolithic architecture is “the traditional unified model for the design of a software program. Monolithic, in this context, means composed all in one piece.” (TechTarget). A monolithic application “has all or most of its functionality within a single process or container, and it’s componentized in internal layers or libraries” (Microsoft). A monolith is usually built, deployed, and upgraded as a single unit of code.

Microservices Architecture

A microservices architecture (aka microservices) refers to “an architectural style for developing applications. Microservices allow a large application to be separated into smaller independent parts, with each part having its own realm of responsibility” (Google Cloud).

According to, the advantages of microservices include:

  • Highly maintainable and testable
  • Loosely coupled
  • Independently deployable
  • Organized around business capabilities
  • Owned by a small team



Gary A. Stafford

Area Principal Solutions Architect @ AWS | 10x AWS Certified Pro | Polyglot Developer | DataOps | DevOps | Technology consultant, writer, and speaker