What is a composable architecture?

Oct 06, 20235 min read

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You'll learn:

  • Composable architecture is a modern approach that allows enterprises to assemble independent and reusable components to create digital experiences.
  • It separates the presentation layer from the back-end system, leading to faster development, increased scalability, and agile cross-functional organization.
  • This architecture offers more flexibility and scalability than traditional methods, making it suitable for organizations requiring quick integration of new technologies.
  • By leveraging reusable components, composable architecture simplifies deployments, allows component swapping or updating, and can be used for cloud-based solutions.

Ready to modernize your business with composable architecture? Keep reading to learn more!

Today’s consumers expect to interact with your business on any channel they choose, whenever they choose. To stay competitive, you need the speed and agility to deliver seamless customer experiences across those channels.

The need to quickly deliver new experiences and adapt to market changes has led more businesses toward a digital experience platform (DXP) with a composable architecture. Gartner predicted that by this year, organizations that had taken a composable approach would “outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.” 

In this guide, we’ll look in-depth at composable architecture, explain why it’s important, the benefits of going composable, and more.

What is a composable architecture?

Composable architecture is an approach to building software systems with flexible, reusable components. These components are designed to execute specific tasks with minimal side effects, enhancing a system's overall efficiency and adaptability.

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In composable architecture, the term "composable" refers to the ability to combine and recombine components as needed. This flexibility empowers businesses to adapt quickly to customer needs and market changes. This is why “composability” is essential to digital transformation strategies.

In a traditional website or application, the front-end code (what the user sees) is tightly coupled with the back-end code (the database and server-side logic). This creates development and deployment challenges. This is because even small changes to the front end can require developers to make significant back-end changes. 

A composable architecture decouples the front-end and back-end code, making development faster and easier. A composable platform such as a DXP typically uses a headless CMS. This type of CMS provides an application programming interface (API) that the front-end code can call to fetch data. 

The separation of the front-end and back-end means each area can be developed independently. This makes deployments simpler and more efficient.

Key terms and concepts related to composability

Here are some applicable terms to know related to composable architecture.

  • Composable enterprise: An organization that leverages cloud services and reusable components to achieve agility and resilience. It can quickly rearrange its technological resources and operations to meet changing business needs.
  • Cloud services: On-demand services available over the internet from a cloud computing provider's servers rather than a company's on-premises servers.
  • Reusable components: Independent components used across different systems or applications. These components are software-defined, meaning they are programmable and can be easily controlled and managed.
  • Software-defined: The use of software to control hardware functions traditionally performed by physical hardware such as networking, storage or data center infrastructure.
  • Traditional IT infrastructure: Rigid, pre-configured components often physically located in one place and complex to adapt or scale.
  • Virtual machines: Software emulations of physical computers. They operate based on computer architectures and provide the functionality of a physical computer.
  • Independent components: These components can function independently, reducing the risk of side effects when one component fails or changes.
  • Side effects: Unintended consequences or disruptions caused by changes to or failures in a system’s components.
  • Composable technology: Technology that’s easily manipulated and reassembled for different purposes.

The benefits of composable architecture

Composable architecture has many benefits, but perhaps the most important is enabling a more modular and scalable approach to website development. With composable architecture, individual components can be developed independently and brought together to create a complete website or application. 

This modular approach makes scaling a website or application much easier since new functionality can be added without re-architecting the entire site. 

Composable architecture also tends to be more resilient than monolithic architecture. This is because individual components can be swapped out or updated without affecting the rest of the system. 

Finally, composable architecture is often more cost-effective than monolithic architecture since it requires less development time and effort to create and maintain.

Composable architecture vs. monolithic

In a composable architecture, also known as a microservices architecture, applications are built as a set of small, independent services that can be combined to form a complete app. This approach contrasts with the more traditional monolithic style of development, in which an app is built as a single, self-contained unit. 

There are several advantages to composable architectures.

  • They allow for greater flexibility and agility during development, as services can be added or removed without affecting the rest of the app. 
  • Composable architectures make it easier to scale apps, as services can be deployed independently depending on need.
  • Composable architectures help prevent downtime, as failures in one service are isolated from the rest of the app. 

Headless CMSes are well suited to composable architectures. In a headless CMS, the decoupled front-end and back-end allow content to be reused across multiple channels and devices without rebuilding the entire app.

As a result, headless CMSes give developers greater control over how content is presented and make creating seamless user experiences across channels easier.


A broader view of composable architecture

Businesses can leverage composability for more than website development. They can create independent, bespoke cloud-based solutions and services designed with reusable components. This dramatically contrasts with taking a one-size-fits-all approach. 

With composable technology, physical locations are not a constraint because businesses can create and manage their IT infrastructure remotely. 

For instance, one large cable television channel easily and affordably scaled its IT infrastructure after adopting composable architecture. As a result, it was able to meet global demand for its content.

Composable architecture can also reduce side effects. One of the challenges of traditional IT infrastructure is the side effects that are hard to predict and mitigate. In contrast, composable architecture minimizes the side effects of changing specific IT components. 

Composable empowers businesses to significantly reduce the work, money, and time spent on optimization and maintenance. For example, one company switched out their existing firewalls in just a few hours, a task that would have previously taken weeks to implement.

Composable infrastructure also gives businesses more flexibility and agility in their operations. Therefore, they can easily add or remove services as their needs change and quickly adapt to market demands.

For example, in the travel industry, one company used composable architecture to leverage cloud services to analyze and store multiple data points. This allowed it to offer personalized promotions to its customers. For more on leveraging composable architecture in the travel industry, read our blog, “Why travel brands need composable DXPs.”

Adapting to dynamic business needs through composable architecture

Composable architecture is designed to adapt quickly and efficiently to dynamic business needs. It does this by breaking down traditional IT infrastructure into independent, software-defined components that can be rearranged and reused. Businesses gain more agility and resilience so they can respond swiftly to changes in the market or shifts in strategy.

For example, a composable enterprise could quickly scale up its cloud services to handle a sudden influx of online traffic. Likewise, it could leverage virtual machines to test new software without disrupting its main operations.

Composable vs. headless architecture

Composable architecture is an emerging technology that enables enterprises to create digital experiences by assembling independent and reusable components. This leads to faster development, increased scalability, and more agile cross-functional organization.

In comparison, headless architecture is a step toward composable architecture, where the presentation layer is separated from the back-end system. This is useful when the enterprise needs to support multiple front-end channels.

One key distinction between composable and headless architecture is the level of flexibility offered. Composable architecture allows enterprises to quickly build modular digital experiences and compose them into an overall enterprise ecosystem. In contrast, headless architecture is often limited to the front-end web experience. It’s less accommodating when deploying varied business cases across the organization.

The scalability of composable technology is another difference. Composable architecture leverages reusable components that can scale across various systems automatically. It enables businesses to leverage cloud services and software-defined infrastructure for faster software deployment and scaling.

Headless architecture is less scalable if the back-end system is a server-heavy implementation that relies on virtual machines. The headless approach also introduces side effects because it relies on more syncing between systems.

Finally, composable architecture has various use cases suitable for different enterprises. Its modular approach suits organizations that require faster development for new services and products. Also, composable architecture eases the integration of new technologies into enterprises in case they are at the forefront edge of technology adaptation.

To recap, the composable architecture enables enterprises to create a modular ecosystem that declutters IT infrastructure, offering flexibility and scalability. It also enables enterprises to operate a software-defined infrastructure, allowing breakneck deployment, scaling, and microservices adaptation speed.

Composable architecture examples

Composable architecture is growing more popular worldwide across many different industries.

The use of containers in modern software development is one example. Containers separate system parts, making deploying and running them on various infrastructures simpler.

Composable enterprise is another example. In this modular approach, businesses can create dynamic solutions using reusable components and share these solutions across teams. With cloud services and software-defined technologies, they can break down traditional silos, improve agility and gain a competitive edge.

Companies in many different industries have realized the benefits of composable architecture. Here are four case studies.

  • Media & EntertainmentLADBible.com, a media company, cuts editorial time in half and easily scales. Read the complete case study.
  • Retail Bol.com, a large e-commerce platform in the Netherlands and Belgium, increased its website click-through rates by 40% after implementing Contentstack. Read the complete case study
  • Technology – Elastic moves from WordPress and speeds up the development process by 500%. For more on this example, read the complete case study.
  • Travel Icelandair.com decreased the time it took to push out promotions by 90%. And its content team managed 12 languages for 16 locations without leaving the platform. For more on this example, read the complete case study.

To see how businesses in other industries have achieved measurable impact after implementing Composable architecture, check out our case studies page.

Experience future-ready DXP with Contentstack. Contentstack, identified by Forrester's composable DXP award, is an industry leader for enterprises wanting to future-proof their digital strategy. Our high scores in vision and innovation speak for themselves. Request a demo to explore our best-in-class features.

How to get started with a composable architecture

To improve customer experience, the logical first step is to implement a composable digital experience platform with a headless CMS. A headless CMS provides the structure and content for your website or application but doesn't dictate how it should look. This allows you to build a composable architecture that’s adaptable and customizable architecture as your needs change. 

Once you've chosen a headless CMS, you can add different components to your website or application. These can be anything from simple text and images to complex interactive elements. The key is to start with the basic building blocks and then add on from there. 

Adding more components allows you to create a unique and custom composable architecture that meets your needs.

To install composable architecture, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Understand the ecosystem – audit the existing architecture and its capabilities
  2. Assess the need for composability – scope out the requirements of upgrading to composable 
  3. Architect the requirements – based on business requirements, design the architecture that is required to achieve measurable goals for the business
  4. Build the system - build, test, measure results, and continue to evaluate and grow.

The future of composable architecture

The future of composable architecture looks very exciting. With the rise of the headless CMS, we see more flexibility and control over how we build applications. Now, we can break down our applications into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be easily reused and composed into new applications. This gives us much more power and flexibility to build the applications we want without being tied to a specific platform or framework. 

Composable architecture allows us to change and adapt our applications as our needs change quickly. We can add or remove components without rebuilding our entire application from scratch. This makes it much easier to keep our applications up-to-date and responsive to changing needs.

Composable architecture is a powerful tool that offers much flexibility and control over how we build our applications. This makes it an essential tool for any business that wants to stay ahead of the curve.

Learn more

Harness the power of composable architecture to enhance your digital experiences and stay ahead of the competition. As Gartner's prediction suggests, organizations that embrace this composable approach will outpace competitors by 80% in the speed of implementing new features.

A composable architecture allows you to adapt quickly to market changes and customer needs. It allows you to build software systems with flexible, reusable components, making development faster, easier, and more cost-effective.

By decoupling the front-end and back-end code, a composable architecture simplifies deployments, making them more efficient. You also gain the resilience of swapping out or updating individual components without affecting the rest of the system.

Beyond website development, a composable architecture can also be leveraged to create independent, bespoke cloud-based solutions and services. This offers you the freedom to manage your IT infrastructure remotely and reduce the side effects of traditional IT infrastructure.

Take advantage of our comprehensive guide to understand the full potential of composable architecture, including how to transform your business, making it more agile, scalable, and future-proof.

Contact us today to explore how you can leverage a composable architecture to deliver seamless customer experiences across multiple channels. 

About Contentstack

The Contentstack team comprises highly skilled professionals specializing in product marketing, customer acquisition and retention, and digital marketing strategy. With extensive experience holding senior positions in notable technology companies across various sectors, they bring diverse backgrounds and deep industry knowledge to deliver impactful solutions.  

Contentstack stands out in the composable DXP and Headless CMS markets with an impressive track record of 87 G2 user awards, 6 analyst recognitions, and 3 industry accolades, showcasing its robust market presence and user satisfaction.

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