There once was a day when monolithic systems were the best answer for ecommerce businesses looking to grow. However, today is not one of those days.
Strategies built around all-in-one monolithic systems have fallen out of favor, replaced by best-in-class microservices. Instead of having all functions working under a single platform, many ecommerce platforms are being run by function-specific microservices that work in concert with one another.
It’s a highly scalable approach that avoids bottlenecks that typically follow monolithic architecture.
Microservices have become an industry standard and 85% of enterprise businesses are using them globally. For ecommerce companies operating in quicking changing environments, microservices are almost a must-have.
Ecommerce Microservices vs. Traditional Digital Commerce
Traditional digital commerce has mostly been handled by monolithic approaches. A centralized, on-premise architecture that works well for basic functionality.
However, as digital commerce gave way to ecommerce, basic functionality wasn’t enough. This has spawned the MACH (Microservices, API-First, Cloud Native and Headless) approach.
Modern ecommerce requires speed and flexibility, which monolithic systems struggle with. Feature-rich sites that sell across borders and through multiple channels are the norm now, which is where microservices can help most.
Why Monoliths Can Cause Problems for Enterprise Businesses
For many years, monolithic platforms were the answer for enterprise businesses because, well, they were the only answer. Their limitations forced developers and engineers to adapt, creating a natural need for microservices.
Customizations lead to complications.
Monoliths keep the front- and backends coupled together, meaning that any changes to one impacts the other. This requires extra work, slows down deployments and brings additional costs.
Response to new trends is slower.
Customer preferences change quickly and it’s one the ecommerce site to keep up with them. Companies need to stay nimble to meet shifting needs. As mentioned above, monolithic systems can move at relative iceberg speed compared to microservices.
Can lead to a single point of failure.
Monolithic systems can be fragile, where a single point of failure leaves the entire platform vulnerable. For ecommerce solutions, this is unacceptable and an unnecessary risk to take.
Updates need significant testing before going live.
Monolithic systems can be updated, but they require significant testing to ensure that the wider platform is not impacted. This slows down software development and extends time to market.
Main Microservices Architecture Foundation
Typically, microservices include the following four layers. This architecture is based on independent services communicating with one another and then producing a final product.
Data Storage layer.
This includes all the databases that microservices pull from. Each cluster (inventory, product listings, etc.) may have its own independent database.
These are the actual microservices that do most of the heavy lifting. They’re typically grouped together by function.
This layer connects queries to the correct microservice. This may include load balancing, network locations and security.
User interface layer.
This displays what the customer sees. The user interface layer includes the public-facing platform.
Key Components of Ecommerce Microservices
While microservice architecture may vary from enterprise to enterprise, there are some basic characteristics that are fairly universal.
Each microservice should be clear in what it does and how it impacts how customers interact with your platform. APIs are usually published with the microservice to provide this clarity.
While microservices may work together to produce a final product, they are mostly independent of each other. Each is replaceable without directly impacting other systems. This avoids issues with a single problem impacting the entire system.
“You build it, you run it.”
The "You Built It, You Run It" mantra is used in DevOps and encourages developers to take ownership and responsibility for the software they create and run it throughout its lifecycle. This approach leads to improved communication, faster feedback loops and ultimately higher-quality software products.
How Microservices Enable Composable Commerce
Composable commerce is a new concept in ecommerce that emphasizes the flexibility and customization of commerce experiences. By using microservices, retailers can easily mix and match different providers and components to create unique customer experiences and meet complex business needs.
Using composable commerce.
Composable commerce leverages headless approaches enables ecommerce platforms to provide customized experiences. In headless commerce, the frontend and backend are decoupled and operate independently.
Headless commerce is easier to scale and more flexible, and often uses multiple frontends to improve the user experience, while a single backend maintains core systems.
Composable meets increasing customer expectations.
Customer expectations change regularly and it’s the burden of the ecommerce platform to give customers what they want and how they want it. Composable commerce uses a modular approach to give businesses the agility and flexibility to change quickly.
Why Enterprise Businesses Should Make the Move to Microservices and Headless
The advantages afforded enterprise companies by microservices make it the superior approach to software architecture. The capacity to quickly adjust to changing markets and deliver new technologies make going headless the best option.
High frontend traffic has no effect on the backend.
Both the front- and backend can be scaled independently from one another. Developers can make changes to meet sudden increases in traffic without affecting the entire system.
Greater opportunities for customization and personalization.
Headless means you can have multiple frontends, meaning you can deploy multiple independent touchpoints designed for specific users.
Technology stack enables rapid implementation.
Because headless systems have a decentralized development process, it’s easier for developers to collaborate and launch new features.
Utilize best-of-breed solutions.
Instead of being locked into one vendor, you’re free to pick and choose the best solution for your specific needs. You can find solutions that meet specific requirements instead of relying on one that’s all-in-one.
Potential Ecommerce Microservice Challenges
Microservices don’t make problems go away, of course. Before going down this path, you should be aware of roadblocks that might pop up.
Requires organizational and infrastructure changes.
Switching to a microservices architecture requires changes to your platform and development teams. There needs to be a certain level of talent management to ensure that you have the knowledge and experience with programming languages to properly develop and deploy microservices that meet key business functions.
Fully decoupled microservices.
Fully decoupled microservices can be costly, depending on the complexity of your ecosystem and vendor pricing. A headless solution may do well in keeping costs contained.
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The Final Word
Ecommerce microservice architecture and headless models are not the only solution, but for growth-focused ecommerce platforms, they’re often the best.
Modular approaches through microservice architecture reflect the growing need to create a personal customer experience, including an omnichannel approach, with added scalability and optimization. There is no better way to accomplish this than a headless model.