How to switch from a monolithic to a composable architecture in 7 steps


In recent blog posts, we discussed the benefits of a composable architecture and the common pitfalls  of moving to a composable architecture. Now that we’ve highlighted the benefits and the challenges, there’s only one area left to cover: how to make the switch.

The goal of switching from monolithic or “legacy” architecture to composable is to do so with as little disruption as possible to your organization’s digital experience. This seven-step process helps you do just that.

Step 1: Make sure you’re ready

Moving to a composable content management system (also known as a “headless CMS”) is a major undertaking that requires a lot of time and resources. So before you take any concrete action, it’s crucial to first ensure that your organization is ready to make the switch. To determine if your organization is ready to switch, ask yourself the following questions:

What are your goals?

Do you need to scale certain key functions or features to keep up with customer growth? Does your digital experience require a particular tech stack that can’t be replicated with a legacy CMS? Do you need to cut down on development time and reduce your time to market? Before moving to composable, it’s important to define what specific business needs you hope to meet by making the switch.

Can these goals be achieved with your legacy architecture?

Depending on your organizational needs, it’s possible that your monolithic architecture isn’t up to the task. Still, it’s a good idea to confirm this before committing time and resources to moving to a composable CMS.  

Do you have the right people in place?

Implementing and managing a monolithic CMS and a composable CMS are two very different things. You need to be sure you have engineers and developers on your technical team who can effectively manage the transition — and everything that comes after.

Step 2: Take inventory and categorize functions

A monolithic CMS is large and complex. You may not realize how many functions are contained within the codebase — or the ways each function connects to and depends on the others. You don’t want to find yourself midway through a migration and scrambling to find an application to replace a key function you didn’t know was there.

In order to ensure a seamless switch from monolithic to composable architecture, it’s important to take an inventory of what you currently have. Mapping out how all the existing monolithic functions work together helps ensure you have the right tech stack in your new composable CMS to handle those functions once the migration is complete. 

During this step, you should also group all your functions into logical units based on the area of your business they support. For example, all the functions that support your customer service can be grouped into one unit, while functions that support shipping can be grouped together in another. 

Knowing what functions and services you currently have is a crucial part of the next step: deciding what to prioritize as you switch to composable. 

Step 3: Define your priorities

It can be tempting to want to migrate everything from your legacy CMS to composable all at once, but doing so is a recipe for disaster. The smartest and safest way to switch to composable architecture is with an incremental process; how that process unfolds is up to you.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this step. Some enterprises may focus on moving functions with the fewest number of dependencies into a composable CMS. Others may be experiencing performance issues with core functions in their legacy CMS and choose to move those services over first. Each organization will have its own unique business needs and  priorities. 

Step 4: Find a platform

The purpose of this step is to help you get a clear picture of what you need from your composable CMS and how you intend to use it, which in turn helps you identify the platform that is best suited to host your new composable CMS.

Once you’ve taken inventory of what you have in your legacy CMS, the next step is to define how each existing feature works. This will give you a better idea of how those features need to function as individual applications in a composable CMS. You’ll also need to identify the APIs needed to build each of these applications. There are different categories of APIs depending on the functions and protocols required for your organization’s tech stack. 

Step 5: Isolate functions and design applications

Now that you’ve taken inventory of your monolithic CMS’s functions and split them into groups, you’ll need to isolate the functions themselves. That means untangling any dependencies that exist between functions within these groups so they can work as independent applications in your composable CMS. 

Designing the applications will fall on your organization’s technical team, which is why it’s so important to ensure you have the right talent before starting the transition. In a monolithic CMS, functions are linked to domain logic, but composable doesn’t work that way. Your team needs to separate the presentation, business logic and data layers of each function — and set up gateway APIs to route requests between each of those layers — in order to ensure these functions can operate independently in a composable environment.

Step 6: Define your strategy

You’ve started the process of designing the applications and determined the order in which these functions will be migrated over to your composable CMS. Now you have to decide on a migration strategy. There are a few ways you can perform this migration.

The Strangler Pattern

Introduced by Martin Fowler in 2004, the Strangler Application Pattern is an incremental approach to migrating from legacy architecture to a composable system. 

With the Strangler Pattern, your team builds and deploys the individual applications for each function. While this is going on, a router (also known as an intercept, a proxy or a facade) directs user requests. If the request involves a function that hasn’t been migrated yet, the legacy CMS handles it; if it involves a function that has been migrated, your new composable CMS handles it. As more applications go live, your composable CMS will pick up more and more of the user requests. Eventually, once all services and functions are up and running in your composable CMS, you can route all traffic there and retire the monolithic CMS. 

This approach gives your enterprise a valuable safety net in case one of the applications doesn’t work as intended, allowing you to quickly identify the problem and deploy a fix. It’s also minimally disruptive to an existing system, which makes it a very popular approach to migrating to composable architecture.

Domain-Driven Design (DDD)

The Strangler Pattern is ideal for organizations with static needs. But if your organization is constantly adding new functionality, Domain-Driven Design (DDD) offers greater flexibility during the migration process.

With DDD, new functionality is added to a standalone application, rather than to the monolithic codebase. An API gateway routes incoming requests to the monolith or the new composable application, depending on where the requested function lives. In the long run, DDD and the Strangler Pattern both eventually phase out your monolithic CMS — the difference mainly lies in how agile your CMS can be during the migration. 

Parallel adoption

A parallel adoption pattern works similar to the Strangler Pattern, but with one key difference: the monolithic CMS does not get retired right away. Instead, the monolithic and composable solutions run the same features in parallel with one another. Duplicating these features allows you to compare how each CMS performs with a given request, which can help you determine if the composable application is an improvement over your existing functionality. 

Eventually, the monolithic CMS does get retired, but not before you can gather extensive performance data to ensure the composable CMS is delivering as expected.

Step 7: CI/CD & Strategic Migration

The last step is to create a CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) process. The CI/CD process allows your team to automatically test any changes and confirm the code is ready to deploy, and if it is, to automatically publish those changes. A CI/CD pipeline allows your team to code, test, and deploy changes without getting in each other’s way, and it’s a key part of a major benefit of composable: the ability to test and code changes without disrupting the digital experience for your users.

At this point, you’re ready to begin migrating functions out of your monolithic CMS and into your new composable solution. As we mentioned above, the order in which you migrate and implement each application depends on what best suits your needs. Above all, the migration should be done gradually to ensure your monolithic CMS can serve as a backup and your team is able to address issues as they arise. 

Learn more

Learn more about the benefits of a composable architecture in our guide, “What is composable architecture?

Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s headless content management platform and industry-leading, cross-vendor support can help your organization make the transition to a composable architecture today.

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Leverage composable tech to drive business forward


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

Why composable for finance makes sense (and dollars)The financial services sector, a front-runner in innovation, faces intense competition, from major investment firms to independent banks. When it comes to financial services, today's customers demand agility, security and continuous innovation. To surpass these expectations, the financial world is embracing composable technology for its unparalleled capacity for customization and innovation. Imagine tailoring services to meet each customer's unique needs, staying ahead of evolving regulations, and fostering relentless innovation. Composable Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) are the secret ingredient that fuels this transformative journey for today’s financial services organizations.Benefits of a Composable DXPThis shift offers financial institutions a chance to revolutionize their technology spectrum, driving revenue growth, faster market entry, cost efficiency, enhanced risk management and elevated customer contentment. Through a composable DXP, financial businesses gain the agility to adapt swiftly to market dynamics, personalize customer interactions, unveil new services quickly, and seamlessly integrate innovative solutions to maintain a competitive edge in the ever-evolving financial landscape. So what should financial institutions consider before getting started on their composable journey and how does this shift truly move the needle?Personalized digital experiencesToday’s customers crave personalization. They no longer want to be just another number on a spreadsheet; they want services tailored to their unique needs and preferences. This shift towards personalization isn't just a trend; it has become a necessity in the financial landscape. Composable technology serves as the backbone for this personalized evolution, allowing financial institutions to craft bespoke solutions that resonate with each customer. By leveraging modular components, these building blocks enable financial institutions to design personalized offerings that cater to individual needs. By breaking down services into smaller, interchangeable parts, institutions have the flexibility to mix and match these components, creating dynamic and tailored solutions for their customers. “Integrating a headless CMS into our cloud-native approach allowed us to really optimize edge delivery of a lot of our content… Render times are five times faster when compared to our legacy CMS.”— Clay Gregory | Principal Architect, MorningstarThis composable approach empowers organizations to adapt quickly to changing market demands, stay ahead of the curve and deliver innovative, customer-centric experiences.Improved connectivity, compliance and risk mitigationCompliance and risk mitigation have always been critical in finance. However, the increasing complexity of regulations and the fast-paced nature of financial transactions make these aspects even more crucial.Composable technology serves as a game-changer, not only enabling swift adjustments to comply with regulations but also enhancing risk mitigation strategies. Known for its inherent flexibility, composable technology empowers organizations to seamlessly update their systems to adapt to regulatory changes. This facilitates real-time risk assessment by enabling continuous monitoring and analysis of potential threats. Its modular architecture facilitates the integration of advanced risk management tools and AI-driven analytics. Additionally, it streamlines risk mitigation efforts by providing the agility to swiftly implement necessary controls and measures in response to identified risks. By leveraging composable technology, businesses can proactively identify and address potential risks, predict potential vulnerabilities, and implement preemptive measures, ensuring a robust and secure operational environment.Such a proactive approach not only fortifies the regulatory compliance stance but also bolsters the resilience of financial systems against unforeseen risks, safeguarding the integrity of operations in an ever-evolving regulatory environment.Increased customer engagement: Building loyalty with contentEngaging content is no longer limited to media companies. Financial institutions are recognizing the value in building loyalty and trust among their customers — and nurturing that customer loyalty requires a strategic blend of informative and engaging content. To build lasting relationships and deliver value beyond transactions, more financial services organizations are demonstrating their commitment to customer needs with personalized newsletters, social media, targeted emails and other various channels.But how does composable technology come into play in this context? By enabling seamless integration of various content delivery platforms, it empowers financial firms to create localized and omnichannel content strategies, ensuring meaningful engagement with customers across different channels and regions.This approach enhances the overall customer experience and strengthens the bond between financial institutions and their diverse customer base.“We’re aggressively making changes to the website. We’re trying to draw people in, and we haven’t done that before. We can spin up new pages faster now than they could previously.”— Jason Hagen | Software Architect, Harbor Capital AdvisorsModernizing workflows for today's expectations around agility and innovationAgility and innovation are no longer just buzzwords — they are non-negotiables. Composable technology is a force multiplier when it comes to modernizing workflows and increasing agility. The integration of composable technology not only amplifies agility but also catalyzes a culture of innovation within organizations. With composable technology, teams can streamline operational processes, seamlessly integrate new tools, and optimize collaborative efforts, resulting in enhancements in productivity and efficiency. "We cut out 40% of our tickets by having a CMS where other users can make updates to the website. That 40% is so valuable for us, so we can focus on revenue-driving initiatives and find new ways to get users to engage with our web properties to get more leads in the pipeline for sales. It is a huge advantage for us!"— Kevin Yang | Senior Manager, Digital Experience, ICE Mortgage TechnologyAdditionally, the rapid deployment of new functionalities and enhancements encourages a culture of adaptability, allowing teams to respond swiftly to market shifts and emerging opportunities. Composable technology not only future-proofs operations but cultivates a dynamic ecosystem where innovation thrives, positioning organizations at the forefront of industry advancements.Composable is the key to new growth and revenueIf you are still wondering why composable technology is the future of finance, consider this: it paves the way for new growth and revenue streams.By enabling customization, fostering innovation, enhancing compliance and improving customer engagement, composable technology helps financial institutions tap into previously unexplored opportunities. Composable Digital Experience Platforms are not just about keeping up with the times; they are a linchpin of progress. Composable DXPs embody modernization, propelling businesses forward in a landscape defined by agility, innovation and customer-centricity. Embracing these platforms isn't just about staying relevant; it's about reimagining your digital experiences to thrive in an era where adaptability, personalization and swift evolution are paramount. Are you ready to not just meet but exceed customer expectations?Get started today.

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.