Why MACH architecture matters

by Jasmin Guthmann

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Have you been hearing about MACH lately? It’s currently one of the biggest buzzwords out there — and for good reason. The acronym has spread like wildfire throughout the digital world. Endorsed by analysts and IT experts; frowned upon by not-quite-as-tech-savvy business folks; initially belittled, now heavily embraced by the monoliths who are trying to MACH-wash their offerings and avoid extinction. 

But what exactly is MACH architecture? How does it compare to monolithic platforms? And where does composable fit into all of this? If you’ve been wondering lately, keep reading. You’re about to get the inside scoop. 

What is MACH architecture?

MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. Let’s look at each individual term. 

Microservices: Microservices bring together loosely coupled, independently deployable small components or "services" to compose a more integrated application. They are exposed via well-defined APIs as the communication method between frontends and backends. They deliver faster responses, are more reliable, and can be deployed more frequently. 

API-first: Through APIs, best-of-breed components can be combined into a custom application built for specific business needs. 

Cloud-native: Being cloud-native in MACH architecture means leveraging cloud-based infrastructure and services, resulting in significant cost advantages by avoiding the high costs of maintaining on-premises infrastructure, such as hosting, site acceleration, security and uptime. 

Headless: Headless describes the decoupling of the front end from the back end. The front end can be anything customer-facing, from a web shop to social media to mobile apps. The backend is the layer where all the systems, processes and tools run to handle operations, including product information management, checkout and more.

Headless vs composable vs MACH

Headless is all about decoupling the front end and the back end so they can operate independently and achieve higher flexibility and agility. Nowadays, you see many legacy platforms claiming to be headless when really all they offer is a few APIs. Don’t be fooled. If a monolithic, non-microservices-based architecture is lurking behind the scenes, you won’t be able to unlock the freedom that a true MACH architecture has to offer.

Composable is yet another term that is being thrown around, many times used interchangeably with MACH. They are not the same though. Composable is a modular development approach and enables brands to “compose” unique customer experiences by plugging best-of-breed building blocks like cart, checkout and payments into their technology stack. Those components, though, are not required to be MACH-compliant.

Assembling a composable architecture using MACH-compliant building blocks is the only way to truly embrace the power of composable technology. 

Essentially, composable takes a step beyond headless. It breaks down the entire platform into individual components that can be independently plugged in, customized and even replaced. That allows companies to integrate curated best-of-breed components to tailor their technology stack and, consequently, the customer experience. 

What are the benefits of MACH technology?

MACH-based architecture provides the technical backbone to make businesses future-fit. It creates an environment in which every component is pluggable, scalable, replaceable and can be continuously improved through agile development to meet the ever-evolving business requirements.

When combined, the technologies that provide the foundation of MACH architecture provide remarkable advantages:

  • Flexibility: Decoupling of frontend and backend allows for more agile development and deployment.
  • Scalability: Auto-scaling ensures seamless handling of traffic peaks with zero downtime. No more Black Friday outages!
  • Speed: Allows for faster iteration and testing, and the cloud provides instant provisioning and deployment of resources.
  • Lower costs: Reduces the need for costly and frequent investments in hardware, software and infrastructure.
  • Resilience: Reduces the risk of application downtime; has built-in redundancy and failover mechanisms.

If you want to go further, faster, a MACH architecture will get you there.

MACH architecture vs. monoliths

The time of the monolithic giants — think the likes of SAP, Oracle and Salesforce — is coming to an end. No monolithic platform can deliver the same speed, functionality and performance that a MACH architecture can deliver. What may seem like a blessing when you sign on with a monolith (you only buy once, with one contract and one point of contact) quickly becomes a curse if you want anything but the standard procedure. 

Thinking about an innovative, unique customer experience? You’ll need to beg the monolith to create it for you, and chances are slim they will unless you’re the biggest customer in their portfolio. 

With a MACH architecture, you are in the driver’s seat. You’ve got a brilliant idea for a thrilling new customer experience? Plug and play the best-of-breed solutions and watch your business thrive. With a monolith? Wait until the trend has passed to even get a response to your request.  

Is your business ready for MACH?

Now that I’ve gotten you curious about the whole MACH thing, how do you know if MACH is right for your business? Start with an assessment of your current systems, processes and goals. Then, check the statements below. If you agree with any or all of them, it is time to make a move.  

  • Your current system is holding you back because it is too inflexible and slow to move at the speed necessary to keep up with shifting customer expectations and industry trends.
  • You're looking to decrease TCO and increase ROI as you are currently paying for resources you don't need.
  • You want to improve customer experiences, but you are struggling to provide cohesive and personalized omnichannel experiences.

  • You want to stay ahead of the competition by staying agile and responsive to market demands, but you're finding you can't keep up with your competitors.

The bottom line

In today’s uncertain market conditions, the only constant is change. Moving to a MACH architecture will not only make your business more agile and adaptable, it also reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) often associated with outdated pricing and licensing models employed by the monoliths.

A modern tech stack is key to making your business future fit. Make the move from monolith to MACH. Tailor your tech stack to your individual business needs and create that unique customer experience that will put you ahead of your competition — time and again.

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About the author

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Jasmin Guthmann is the Head of Corporate Communication at Contentstack and Vice President of the MACH Alliance.

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Composable architecture: How to future-proof your business tech stack

Technology is changing at lightning speed along with market trends and customer expectations. Adding more to it, as per a recent survey by the Conference Board, 93% of corporate CEOs are gearing up for a recession over the next 12 to 18 months. The immediate requirement for these leaders is to ensure the resilience of their technology stacks for the future, thereby keeping their businesses ready for a diverse range of unforeseen circumstances. In such a scenario, delivering customized user experience through composable architecture could ensure long-term survival and success.Customer experience is prioritized by 44.5% of enterprises worldwide, as per a 2021 Statista report. Achieving this in today's dynamic environment requires effectively using technology to create and deliver top-notch products and services.To help organizations respond to that sense of urgency, here are five tips to consider when futureproofing your business tech stack.1. Customized User ExperienceBrands, on their composable journey, must focus on offering personalized user experiences, attained using relevant user data right from the start. McKinsey reports that 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from brands. Besides improving user experience, brands must focus on designing systems that scale with the growing user base and its dynamic functionality needs.2. Coordination with other business unitsContrary to traditional stereotypes, IT does not function in isolation. In fact, to ensure business success, technology initiatives must align with the business's overall strategy and add to the brand's short- and long-term goals. However, transitioning from a monolithic structure to a composable one must be iterative. Once a new technology is integrated within one business unit, it can eventually be rolled out to other units. While preparing for future challenges, the choice of technology will impact multiple business units during a business's transitional phase.To make sure a specific new tech works well for all units, it's essential to plan and think about the opportunities, problems and trends that might occur. This requires effective collaboration across business units. Given the interconnected nature of these departments, proper goal alignment must be ensured to deliver compatible, scalable, flexible and secure results. For seamless and customized solutions across different touchpoints, the chosen technology should be capable of scaling and accommodating new process changes across the organization.3. Constant hyper-personalization and differentiation The importance of customer experience (CX) is highly discussed in the current business ecosystem. Brands are constantly innovating new solutions to thrive in the face of competition. The only way to do that is by adopting highly scalable tech stacks that incorporate speedy change processes. While customers expect a more compelling experience, selecting any technology for the sake of it or, worse, by mimicking other brands will not work and will lead a brand to lose its competitive advantage. Instead, they must adopt best-of-breed components and change stack parts when required, creating the much-required hyper-personalized experiences.4. A flexible approachBusinesses are more unpredictable than ever, increasing the potential stakes for which leaders must be prepared. While tech leaders know that a tech revolution is coming, the exact nature of the change remains unknown. This unpredictability will lead to rapid and diverse market requirements and changes in user preferences. By investing in and leveraging technology, brands can quickly adapt to these changes and make necessary system adjustments. Furthermore, flexible tech is more interoperable, allowing smoother integration with other tools and platforms.5. Prepare your organization for the futureDon't bite off more than you can chew when it comes to composability. Business leaders can decide the number of components they want to switch at a time. Unlike monoliths, composable architectures allow business leaders to determine the number of components they want to change at a time. This makes the shift a lot smoother and much quicker. There is no rush to modernize in haste. With customer needs and industry trends changing dynamically, flexibility in business functionality is the only way forward and achievable through composable architecture. But before getting into the composable journey, organizations must find their motivation and identify their reasons for going composable to deliver a differentiated experience to their audience.

Empowering finance: The composable technology starter-guide

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Composable commerce: Best-in-class tools for the job

Many people today use the phrase "composable commerce" — including monolith vendors like Adobe and Shopify. As the composable commerce space has matured, and as more and more brands have seen the value of a system that lets you leverage best-of-breed microservices for your brand needs, it makes sense that legacy tech platforms would want to carve out a piece of the composable pie. But the reality is, a monolith can never truly be composable. If you're on Adobe, you may be able to leverage a handful of third-party services with relative ease—but only ones that have been approved and integrated by them. You’re still locked into their ecosystem, and your ability to make changes and update your commerce experiences is driven by their feature development and priority list. True composability is about breaking down those barriers and putting control in your hands.What is composable commerce?What sets pure-play composable commerce apart? At its core, real composability involves component-based architecture, cloud-native infrastructure and API-first connectivity. This means that modular capabilities can be mixed and matched, scaled, iterated, and swapped as needed. Instead of an all-in-one toolset, brands access integrated microservices via APIs.Cloud-native infrastructure provides the foundation for this plug-and-play extensibility. Containered services scale automatically, while APIs enable headless commerce functionality alongside other capabilities. As capabilities expand, composable stacks stay cohesive yet cutting-edge.“The ability to curate your commerce experience using best-in-breed microservices, with access to the tools you want and need—nothing more, nothing less—is a compelling argument for modern retail and commerce brands,” notes Jason Cottrell, CEO of Orium. The market moves quickly. Brands need to be able to move alongside it.Benefits of composable commerceModular composability centered on APIs and the cloud provides:Targeted personalization: Leverage real-time data for contextualized messaging connecting commerce and contentContinuous experimentation: Rapidly test and scale what resonates without significant liftsFaster innovation cycles: Plug emerging engagement channels into your stackIf a new, better alternative comes on the market, swapping it out won't be an option. When you lock into a monolithic platform, your options will always be limited by their platform. With a truly composable stack based on MACH technologies, you'll be able to leverage the best solutions in the market for your needs. For example, if you need to understand user behavior (and you do), quantumetrics is an industry-leading solution that can be implemented into a modular composable architecture with relative ease. The same can't be said for monolithic counterparts.Overcoming implementation challengesSome brands hesitate to adopt composable commerce, fearing overly complex implementations involving stitching together disparate systems. However, MACH’s open APIs and microservices architecture streamline integrations. Composable also offers the freedom to work with preferred agency partners versus being locked into an agency ecosystem dictated by a suite vendor.With expert guidance, brands can launch composable stacks rapidly. Many even realize faster time-to-market versus monolithic solutions given leaner, more lightweight systems. Vendor-agnostic flexibility also allows engaging your preferred system integrator partners to streamline rollout.“As the space has evolved, moving to a MACH-based architecture has become easier. The emergence of accelerators, like Orium’s Accelerator, can smooth the process for brands, speeding time to first value without sacrificing the flexibility and scalability of a fully composable system,” notes Cottrell.Separating composable leaders from followersIncreasingly, legacy platforms now pay lip service to composability but lack the cloud DNA and API foundations required. Their tools remain a walled garden, restricting the versatility that authentic composable architecture provides. Even with approved partners, integration is complex, expensive and provides minimal capability.Forward-looking brands opt for these purpose-built composable commerce technologies to future-proof innovation potential. With composability anchored fundamentally in the cloud and powered entirely by APIs, curating cutting-edge yet cohesive stacks becomes simple — an unmatched advantage.ConclusionComposable commerce delivers instantly extensible, best-of-breed stacks aligned to business goals. In 2024 and beyond, composable architecture offers unmatched adaptability to address digital experience challenges through continuous experimentation powered by specialized tools. It lays the foundation for optimized customer journeys that convert. This unmatched advantage makes composable the obvious choice for digital experience success.