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In order to ensure the best possible user experience, you should carefully consider your architectural approach for your business application development. We provide our readers with a comparison of stateful vs. stateless architecture to help them make the right choice. Are you looking for the best solutions for your digital product as well? Read our article to learn more. 

Stateful architecture or stateless architecture? Which one is better for your next project? This is one of the decisions that should be made before the development process starts. The main difference between these two approaches is storing data. Stateful applications have to store data, while stateless don’t. But what does that really mean in practice and how do you make the right choice? We hope that our article will solve your stateful vs. stateless architecture dilemma.

What is a network protocol, and what do you need to know about it?

“Network protocol” is hardly a new term – you’ve probably already heard it before many times. It is a set of rules on how data is formatted and sent through a computer network, and later received by certain devices in this network (servers, routers, etc.). In order to participate in information exchange, these devices have to accept and follow the protocol rules. Otherwise, their users may encounter problems while sending and receiving data. 

Network protocols can vary in terms of their purpose or the rules they consist of. According to the basic classification, there are two types:

  • stateful
  • stateless

The “state” means inconstant occurrences individual for each user, such as internal operations, interactions with other apps and storage systems, the preferences and customizations set up by a user, temporary storage etc. An application’s architecture will be defined as stateful or stateless based on how much information has to be stored. Keep reading our comparison of stateful vs stateless architecture to understand what kind of choice you have to make.

Stateless architecture – definition, advantages

In the case of stateless architecture, an application does not save information about previous users’ activity and operations. This means that every time a user sends a request, each operation has to be carried out from scratch, just like it was being performed the very first time. Stateless applications store no information about use, past transactions or users’ actions. 

Applications with stateless architecture are generally considered slower than those based on stateful architecture. On the other hand, one of the main advantages of this architectural approach is simple horizontal scaling, that allows for easy and fast recovery if the server goes down, which is quite significant for many companies. 

Types of applications that commonly use stateless architecture

As stateless architecture can be easily scaled, it is a choice worth considering for any organization that puts application scalability first. Such a solution may be good for businesses that expect their apps to grow dynamically in time. 

Picking stateless architecture doesn’t have to mean that your application will be much slower than a stateful architecture based app. In fact, a stateless web application can act like a stateful one. It is important to understand that statelessness doesn’t mean there is no state at all stored – it is simply held somewhere else. If your development team uses Representational State Transfer (Rest API), the HTTP can be augmented to make a stateless architecture based application behave like a stateful app. There are many popular websites, web services or even social media platforms that are stateless. 

Stateful architecture – definition, advantages

Applications with stateful architecture store the specific state of each user – profile, preferences, and behavior. Such a solution requires figuring out where the data will be held. Commonly, user information is kept by the server itself. But the server can go down and data can be lost. This can be prevented by using more than one server, but it still might lead to inconsistency. That is the main reason why stateful applications are not really easy to scale horizontally.

The most important disadvantage of this solution is how difficult recovery can be if the server goes down. Applications based on stateful architecture have one big advantage, though – they are fast, because there is no need to query the database every time that action is performed.

Types of applications that usually have stateful architecture

In the case of stateful architecture, the server processes requests based on information related to a request – meaning data gathered earlier during similar requests. Such an approach is typical for e-commerce applications. Many shopping platforms save items you add to the cart before leaving the online shop, and they are still in it when you visit the platform again.

Stateful vs. stateless architecture – major differences

We could write a book titled “Stateful vs. stateless architecture.” There are so many technical and conceptual differences that could be described. To give you the full picture of the most important things you need to know about these two architectural approaches, we’ve created a list of differences:

  • State – stateless applications work based on the current request, while stateful applications also consider previously gathered data.
  • Stored data – a stateful service acts as if the client has never disconnected. It stores information about a user’s activity and presents it in the very same state, when that user returns to the platform. 
  • Requests – stateful services depend on the server-side state, while stateless requests don’t process any additional information. The request is carried out in a simpler manner.

Which architectural solution is best for your project? The thing is that each digital product is different, with its own purposes and requirements. You should choose your architecture based on them. When browsing the Internet, researching articles to solve your stateful vs. stateless architecture dilemma, you will find contradictory information. Furthermore, stateful and stateless can both be applied in digital products with monolith and microservices architecture. 

User experience has to come first

There are many aspects of the application development process. You have to think of the budget, performance, and maintenance of your digital product, but also user experience.  The market has changed in the last two decades. Nowadays, customer-centric businesses are usually getting ahead of the competition, so you should also focus on delivering a valuable product. Make it fast, functional and intuitive. Your new business application should leverage the newest technologies and tested, innovative architectural solutions. Before you make your choice, you simply have to put yourself in your clients’ shoes, and try to imagine what is most important to them. Is it performance, simplicity or maybe privacy?

Our experts can help you select the best technologies and solutions for your business application, and deliver the highest quality digital product to your end-users. Contact us, and tell us about your ideas. We will analyze them as well as your business requirements and help you make your vision come true. 

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Author

  • Tomasz is a Kubernetes Team Leader and CI/CD expert, evangelizing DevOps culture in DS Stream. For our customers, Tomasz is delivering end-to-end MLOps solutions on GCP and architecting Airflow as a Service mutli-cloud product. Never stopping to learn new technologies and spreading them in the organization. In previous life was Barça and Premier League fan, currently all free time spending on preparing a 2-year-old son to be a Robert Lewandowski's successor.

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