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Mar 30, 2022 | 5 minute read

The End of the Monolith Commerce Platform

written by Tim Norman

As Hemingway so adroitly put it in The Sun Also Rises: Bill: "How do you go bankrupt?” Mike:  "Two ways,  gradually, then  suddenly.”

  And what relevance is this to the eCommerce space - well, I believe that we are seeing the tipping point in this space away from the monolith to a faster, more flexible, commerce landscape which delivers real benefit to both an organisation but also to their clients and suppliers - and the pace of change is accelerating.

First, let's be clear that the first age of eCommerce when the likes of ATG, IBM Websphere, and Hybris were the only games in town - they were a revelation; delivering a full suite of capabilities that allowed organisations to sell online and make, in many cases, a huge contribution to their profit margins, reach, and brand.

However this also came at a cost, not just in development, hosting, and management but also setting strict guardrails on what could be sold, when, and how.  Gradually, the buildup of technical debt (the outstanding development request, enhancements, and bug fixes), the sheer cost of maintenance, upgrades, and changes in the way customers want to engage has meant that organisations had to look at something different.

So the second wave of eCommerce came along - lighter weight, maybe headless, maybe SaaS, and increasingly microservices based, and a few companies started to move off their monoliths.  Or perhaps, more factually, they started to explore how they might replace some aspects of the full function stack - the cart maybe or the checkout.  Small steps because one thing that the monoliths did was deliver:

  • You want promotions? Tick.
  • Multiple catalogue management? Check!
  • Variations and bundles? Step this way.
  • And so on for security, scalability, OMS...

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and that created a problem to the second generation, they just were not as functionally rich as the monoliths - and if you wanted that then there was often a huge amount of external development to be done.

Change was coming but coming slowly.

But now it feels that the tipping point has come with the advent of three major changes:

  • Development of core commerce capability on the new SaaS / Headless / Microservices architecture
  • Composable Commerce allowing for the plug and play implementation of best of breed/need technology
  • The development of migration blueprints enabling a low-risk movement to the new solution

Commerce is more than a cart and check out - today's organisations want to operate across multiple business models - B2B, D2C, B2C, and marketplaces.  Further, they need to manage the catalogues that are presented to the different customers; based on geo, channel, brand, spend, segment overlayed with sophisticated promotions, and capable of managing complex bundles - and of course scalability and security is a given.

Building on the basis of a MACH (Microservices, API First, Cloud Native, Headless) architecture to deliver these business capabilities, so the merchandiser can get back to their day job is now expected in a solution (and delivered in a few).

Composable Commerce builds on the core commerce advances to deliver the non-core commerce required functionality be it Search, CMS, PIM, OMS, Taxation etc. With the correct pre-built integration, be it via Accelerators or Pre-Composed Solutions™ you can choose your technology of choice based on price point, functionality, etc. and build out your tailor-made solution but without the months of custom integration that would have been required previously.

Elastic Path also provides Composable Commerce XA™ - a support offering which de-risks ownership of a solution made of multiple components by providing first line support for the whole application.  You have an issue with the "shop", one number to call, one team to help.

Finally, and as important as the previous two advances, is the development of migration blueprints - a known route that covers not only the migration of data, but of functionality and organisational capability. Critically, this input has to come from an SI or agency who has a foot in each camp; with experience implementing a monolith and of working with a next generation composable commerce solution, performed the functional and organisational gap analysis, and developed a repeatable solution to ensure minimum risk moving from A to B.

At Elastic Path we recognize that no two solutions are the same, so working with our partners have developed the first of our blueprints; read about the Elastic Path solution for brands migrating off Sales Force Commerce Cloud towards a Composable Commerce approach. In the near future additional solutions for Hybris will be announced.

A few brands have migrated from their monolith, or are in the process of doing so, but it has been slow and faltering steps - the "gradual" phase. What is happening now is an acceleration into the "suddenly" phase, supported by the developments in functionality, composability, and migration blueprint.

The change is coming, and it's coming faster than you think. Elastic Path Commerce Cloud, our technology, and SI/agency partners are the fulcrum for that change.