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May 26, 2023 | 5 minute read

eCommerce Microservices Explained: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

written by Shaneil Lafayette

This post was originally published on October 21, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance to the current market.

In today’s world, a one-size-fits-all commerce approach won’t get the job done. It is crucial that brands within eCommerce consistently evolve with today’s market demands and the needs of customers. One of the best ways to do this? eCommerce microservices.

eCommerce microservices allow you to meet customer expectations in a fast and flexible manner, so you can always stay up-to-date with eCommerce best practices and new technologies. 

But are you aware of all there is to know about eCommerce microservices? Let’s break down the good, the bad, and the ugly truth about microservices in eCommerce that brands like yours should know.

What Are eCommerce Microservices?

Microservices are small services that are loosely coupled, independently deployed, and organized around business capabilities that enable the rapid, frequent, and reliable delivery of large complex applications. 

Though they were established a decade ago, microservices are still new to many commerce practitioners. While many developers are adapting to and experimenting with microservices for eCommerce, others have continued to shy away because of the perceived complexity and risk.

That’s likely to change in future years, as Composable Commerce makes it easier to work in microservices architecture. As you decide whether an ecommerce microservices architecture is right for you, here’s what to consider:

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The Good: Benefits of eCommerce Microservices

Microservices are known for unparalleled flexibility and modularity. Standing up a new customer experience and adding additional customer experiences can be done fast with microservices technology. 

Microservices are fully independent: Separate platforms, deployments, and data storage capabilities exist separately from each other. If a developer needs to make a new microservice and works in Javascript, he or she can make the microservice in Javascript. They don’t need to learn a new language in order to keep growing the platform. This way, any new application can be built quickly and has a reduced time-to-market.

This is the complete opposite of a full-stack monolithic suite, in which the most functionality lives in a single service that is tested, deployed, and scaled as a single unit. To get a platform working requires integration phases, quality assurance, and a shared language. Expanding the monolithic suite to include other touchpoints and devices requires a substantial customization, making it cost-prohibitive to explore new ideas.


The Bad: Common eCommerce Microservices Challenges

When companies are moving from a monolithic to a microservices eCommerce solution, challenges do arise. After all, having a monolithic pattern means having infrastructure, licenses, and organizational structure built around a monolithic technology.

The possible challenges of a full-on replatform of a solution that was not built from the ground up with APIs and microservices include:

  • Laying off or retraining workers
  • Dealing with duplicative data and connections
  • Losing control of your database
  • Adjusting your cross-functional organizational capabilities and communication

These challenges don’t override the benefits of an eCommerce microservices architecture. Choosing an API-first, microservices-based commerce solution such as Elastic Path ensures that you have support as you incrementally replace your monolithic system and retrain your team.

The Ugly: The Downside of Adopting eCommerce Microservices Without Support

The biggest downside of microservices is the complexity that the mini-services introduce into your team’s developer architecture.

When eCommerce microservices first came onto the scene, developers found that they were managing multiple microservices at once. It made for unlinked, challenging work and a process that wasn’t streamlined.

Some developers have also encountered challenges tracking their changes and work after adopting a microservices architecture. The autonomy and independence microservices provide your team may also mean that the departure of a single teammate renders some of your architecture impossible to edit.

For these reasons, having support when adopting eCommerce microservices is essential. One way Elastic Path Commerce Cloud helps is the inclusion of Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs)

PBCs and microservices are not the same. PBCs are a grouping of APIs that serve a specific business capability. Microservices are tightly scoped and specific.

PBCs are useful because they reduce complexity, enhance clarity, and are developed via business-centric planning.

For brands looking for a business-centric eCommerce solution, PBCs are a strong option – and selecting and managing PBCs is made easier with Elastic Path.

Should You Adopt an eCommerce Microservices Architecture?

An eCommerce microservices architecture will provide the flexible foundation businesses today need to keep up with the ever-evolving commerce landscape. Implementing a microservices architecture benefits both developers and end users with:

  1. Abundant opportunities for customization. With the addition of multiple front-ends, you can easily and seamlessly integrate multiple new touchpoints for customers – all while staying connected to the same back-end.
  2. Quick and easy implementation. Due to the decentralization of the development process, microservices allow for rapid implementation of changes. This means you can go to market faster with new updates.
  3. A leaner technology stack. Since you are only adding what you truly need, you will be able to enjoy a streamlined and more efficient tech stack. 
  4. Front-end traffic won’t impact the back-end. In the past, developers have typically had to adjust the entire system to extend services. With microservices, the front-end and back-end are individually scaled, which means high traffic won’t impact what’s happening in the back-end. 
  5. Pick and choose the solutions you want. With eCommerce microservices, you can select services and solutions that specialize in your exact needs and enjoy a specialty-tailored approach.

Moving Forward with eCommerce Microservices

eCommerce microservices may be a major benefit for your business. While the developers of the past have experienced many pain points when adopting microservices for eCommerce, you can learn from their mistakes and adjust your microservices strategy to achieve business success. 

At Elastic Path, we want to ensure that the ugly side of microservices never rears its head. Talk to an expert to discover how our team can help you implement a microservices architecture that fits your business needs and objectives.