June 2nd, 2022 | 7 MIN READ

What is MACH Architecture?

Written by Elastic Path Team

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If you have heard about MACH architecture, maybe you are curious about it and why you should care about it. This blog post provides an answer to all those questions and discusses the benefits of this approach.

MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. We will talk about each of the aspects and their value separately.

Microservices Solution aligned with MACH architecture is built as independent components that communicate via a well-defined interface using lightweight APIs. Services are made for business capabilities, and each service performs a single function. The eCommerce microservices-based solution provides the following benefits.

Pros of MACH Architecture

Total Cost of Ownership: If the service architecture is adequately designed, all the microservices can be scaled independently. This allows optimizing infrastructure costs of the commerce service. To learn more about the long-term benefits to TCO, check out our guide here.

  • Composability: With each microservice being independent, replacing any of them with a home-grown or a 3rd party service is possible. Customers can leverage this to create a best-of-breed solution picking the best-in-class functionality instead of being limited to what is available in the best-of-suite approach.
     
  • High Availability: Fault isolation is another benefit of a microservices architecture. If one of the microservices is down, the entire commerce solution will not go down as the other microservices should still operate.
     
  • Seamless Upgrades: Since each microservices can be changed independently, there is no technical need to package new features, patches, updates, and upgrades into more significant releases for rollout.

Cons of MACH Architecture

The main challenges associated with the microservices are related to inherent architectural complexity. If the software application consists of many independent microservices (each having its own APIs), this can result in the excessive effort required to stitch them together. This has to be done either by the customer or by the partner; in both cases, this will result in prolonged time-to-revenue. To overcome this, we offer Pre-Composed Solutions™ to pre-integrate Elastic Path capabilities and third-party technology, so you spend less time stitching together granular components and start driving revenue faster. See a complete list of Pre-Composed Solutions™.

Microservices

Microservices (or microservices architecture) is a cloud native architectural approach in which a single application is composed of many loosely coupled and independently deployable smaller components, or services.

Pros to Microservices

  • Essential for scaling a business
  • Can be deployed to run many aspects of the business such as storefront, catalog, reviews, inventory, etc.
  • Ease fault isolation through testing by isolating decoupled components more efficiently than a monolith application
  • Improve software time to market

Cons to Microservices

The biggest con of a microservices architecture comes from cost. If you’re a smaller business looking to transition over to a microservices-based architecture, you’ll need to account for increased cost to build a DevOps culture and the ability to manage resources like APIs and testing strategies.

MACH is API-first

Having a commerce service with the right API design is extremely important since it will allow your developers to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Improved Flexibility: Select the most appropriate front-end technology or framework to solve a particular business problem.
     
  • Simplified development: Unify logic across touchpoints to eliminate channel siloes and duplication of development work.
     
  • Accelerated Speed-to-market: Reduce the time required to learn the APIs, implement new touchpoints, and extend the eCommerce API capabilities.

To learn more about the differences between APIs and Microservices, check out our post here.

Cons to API-First Approach

Having APIs has no real drawbacks, although the business needs to know that not all APIs are created equal. APIs can differ in terms of the design, level of maturity, and API coverage, so while evaluating a commerce service, the enterprise needs to be sure to explore this area of capabilities in greater detail.

 

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What is Cloud-Native?

The cloud-native principle means that the commerce service is delivered in the SaaS model. This provides significant benefits for the business.

Pros to Cloud-Native

  • On-demand: Enterprise can use commerce service as a whole or its separate components as needed without deploying and re-deploying solutions. This provides superior business agility for the enterprise.
     
  • Scalability: A service deployed in the public cloud can be easily scaled to support peak demand and long-term business growth. For example, Elastic Path Commerce Cloud solution can handle 3,500 orders/min, giving you the confidence in your eCommerce solution to scale with your brand's success.
     
  • Reliability: Enterprise can leverage a solution deployed across multiple data centers and availability zones to maximize up-time and reduce potential revenue losses.

Cons to Cloud-Native

In some niche cases, it may be necessary to deploy the service in a private cloud or on-prem due to security or any other reasons.
In those cases, a purely cloud-native solution would not be a good fit since they don't have that option.

Headless Commerce Approach

The headless commerce approach allows an enterprise to support omnichannel journeys across traditional and digital touchpoints and new business models. This approach works well for businesses with unique eCommerce use cases, operate within multiple channels, and have an in-house technical team.

Pros to Headless Commerce

  • Omnichannel Journeys: The headless approach will eliminate channel siloes to seamless customer experiences across touchpoints with unified business logic. The pandemic changed the ways customers interact with a brand and how they make purchases. Some of those changes, like curbside pick-up or higher expectations for a mobile experience, are here to stay. For the changes in buyer behavior that are yet to come, leveraging a headless approach can equip your brand with the ability to test, adapt, and excel with new initiatives now and in the future.
     
  • Flexibility: Enterprise is free to choose any front-end technology to build channel applications. Whether this enables a better experience for all customers or, in some cases where it is needed, a tailored experience for customers in a particular geography, a headless approach allows you to make the decisions that fit your customers rather than fit the platform.
     
  • New Business Models: Businesses can drive revenue growth by introducing new business models, for example, support for new sales channels such as curbside pick-up or IoT-enabled offerings.

Cons to Headless Commerce

While the headless approach brings a lot of value, it means that usually, there is no front-end (head) included with the solution. And most often, the business has either to build a front-end themselves or bring a 3rd-party head and integrate it with the commerce platform. In both cases, the time-to-market is usually affected negatively. To mitigate this challenge, commerce service can provide a pre-integrated 3rd party front-end or a set of out-of-the-box reference applications.

How Does the Composable Commerce Approach Fit into MACH?

A common question is the difference between MACH and Composable Commerce. MACH is the acronym for the technologies outlined above: Microservices, API, Cloud-Native, and Headless. One of the key tenets of Composable Commerce is Modular Architecture. This is where MACH comes into play as the underlying back-end technology of a Composable Commerce approach that enables marketing, merchandising, and sales teams to bring their brand's unique digital vision to life by launching and continuously optimizing digital commerce experiences that leverage multiple best-of-breed vendors, composed together into a complete, business-ready solution.

For more on the Composable Commerce approach and how to implement and support it in your eCommerce strategy, read our Composable Commerce Architecture Guide. 

Is The MACH Alliance All I Need?

Since MACH architecture and its benefits are now clearly established in the market, we often get the question, should I only work with companies in the MACH alliance? The simple answer is no. While the alliance has been beneficial for broadening the acceptance and understanding of the benefits of MACH, it still essentially functions as marketing for an approach that leverages this technology stack. The truth is, not all MACH solutions are the same, where some solutions will fit a particular set of needs better than others.

Learn more about why Elastic Path is not in the MACH alliance here.

Elastic Path fully embraces and supports the principles of MACH. However, we believe you are better off with a solution composed of vendors that best fit your customers instead of limiting your solution based on a stamp of approval from the alliance that may prove to be unfit for your unique needs. To see if Elastic Path is a good fit for your brand, chat with us now.  

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