Lately, the digital ecosystem has been highly platform-centric.
For a majority of organizations, it looks something like this – A monolith application at the center serves all the different touchpoints and integrates with several back-end and third-party systems for additional functionalities.
The whole ecosystem is often seen as a single-tier solution whose components share the same platform and form an unified system that operates simultaneously with all other channels.
This platform-centric architecture combines many functions and handles multiple related tasks with ease. However, with the evolving technology and changing consumer demands, this system no longer fits the needs of most businesses.
Why is it so, and what’s the alternative now? Let’s explore this in the following article.
What’s Wrong With Platform-Centric Digital Ecosystems?
First things first, platform-centric monolith systems are not all that bad.
Being simple to develop and deploy, they make a good infrastructure choice.
However, in this era of rapid digital transformation, an infrastructure’s ability to adopt new technologies is non-negotiable.
A flexible architecture that can be changed anytime as per a business’s dynamic needs is crucial to stay competitive.
But unfortunately, this is where the monolith architecture falls short.
Monolith systems, by design, are tightly coupled, which limits their scope of evolution. The whole application uses the same tech stack throughout which makes it difficult to update a specific component.
However, this architecture typically serves a limited number of digital channels. Thus, making it challenging to offer seamless connected experiences all across.
Besides, there are various other issues that you might have to deal with-
The codebase is too large and complex to make changes quickly.
Different modules of the application can have conflicting requirements.
A bug in an individual module can impact the entire application.
For each update, the entire monolith needs to be rebuilt and repaired.
Continuous deployment can be difficult depending on the size of the application.
The adoption of new technologies is expensive and time-consuming.
All the above-listed issues with monolith systems present a significant roadblock for businesses to deliver at their best. For growing organizations, this could hinder their operations and slow-down scaling. Hence, looking beyond the traditional platform-centric approach becomes critical in those cases to stay relevant.
The Move to MACH Architecture
MACH is a term coined by commerce tools which stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless.
It is essentially a technology-centric approach that gives you the much-needed flexibility, agility, and freedom to develop new solutions as you go.
MACH introduces a modular architecture that favors a best-of-breed approach for software development. The four key components of this concept are-
Microservices: Microservices is an architectural approach that allows applications to be structured as a collection of loosely coupled services. These services are built as independent modular components that perform specific functions. As a result, failure in any one of the components does not affect the entire application, thus, making the whole system more resilient.
API-first: The API layer in MACH architecture allows microservices to interact with each other. In an API-first approach, the APIs are the bedrock of the application and their development and design come before the implementation. Once the interface for the application is developed, the rest of the components are built around it and stitched to work together.
Cloud-native: Cloud-native refers to the building and running of applications in the cloud environment. These services are built for high performance and delivered via the SaaS model. The cloud-native technology offers elastic scaling to support the growing need for computing resources. What’s more- it follows a pay-as-you-go method which helps keep the infrastructure costs low.
Headless: The headless architecture decouples the frontend from the backend. With no predefined frontend, developers are free to use any suitable tech stack to build multiple user interfaces (heads) to cater to various devices. The interaction between the frontend(s) and backend happens through APIs. This gives you complete control over how the content is delivered at every touchpoint to offer highly-tailored experiences.
Advantages of MACH Architecture
In addition to avoiding outdated technologies, MACH architecture provides you with the following benefits-
Easily Adaptable: Due to its composable architecture, every component in MACH is pluggable and replaceable. As a result, you can easily create a best-of-breed solution by leveraging a cutting-edge tech stack and eliminate any element that has become redundant.
Higher Velocity: MACH architecture equips you with agility. Its headless component saves you from performing complicated backend system updates, while the microservices architecture lets you work on different parts of the application in parallel. This accelerates software development, boosts productivity, and results in faster time-to-market.
Seamless Upgrades: As each microservice can be changed independently, there is no need for a packaged upgrade. You can develop new features for any functionality without impacting the rest of the application. Thanks to the cloud-native environment, all the upgrades are managed and administered automatically.
Enhanced Innovation: With MACH, you can easily introduce new channels and touchpoints into your infrastructure. This propels growth and enhances the business model. Additionally, you can iterate the digital experience constantly as per your changing business needs.
Future-Proof: As interfaces change faster than the core, MACH allows you to act faster to modernize your infrastructure. This helps you enrich your tech stack with up-to-date technologies and remain competitive.
Disadvantages of MACH Architecture
Despite its excellent benefits, MACH architecture also has a couple of drawbacks that you need to be aware of-
Complexity: With MACH architecture, complexity is an inherent issue. You would need to constantly monitor and support tons of different components. Moreover, the traditional hierarchy of the teams would need to be replaced with a cross-functional structure.
Data Integrity: Every service in microservices has its own database. This makes it difficult to maintain data consistency overall. To update some functions in the application, you may have to update multiple databases and set up eventual consistency.
Operational Overhead: While MACH architecture is highly scalable, it requires you to have more development resources. A significant amount of money, time, and effort would be utilized to maintain and optimize the infrastructure.
Being technology-centric, the MACH architecture is the natural evolution of the digital ecosystem. Therefore, software development based on MACH is the next step for businesses to optimize their digital presence.
With that being said, it’s important to understand that not all solutions are the same. Some may fit a particular set of needs better than others. So, for your individual business requirements, it’s best to get an expert analysis done before settling on the infrastructure approach.