MACH Architecture: Principles, Benefits and Examples
In today's fast-paced eCommerce industry, satisfying customer needs is not enough to be visible. Companies must exceed expectations on a daily basis. If you don’t, the competition will. This is why eCommerce companies are constantly looking for solutions that provide them with that special “something” that secures their position.
The problem is there is no one silver bullet — the key is in assembling a whole stack of them. And that is basically the main idea behind MACH architecture.
Keep reading to discover:
- What is MACH?
- What are the MACH architecture principles?
- What are the benefits of MACH Architecture?
The origins of MACH: How it all started
Before we dive into details and dissect each aspect of the MACH approach separately, we need to grasp the ultimate goal of MACH. And that won't happen without going back in time a bit.
eCommerce companies realized their monolith systems didn’t keep up with digital customer expectations
Companies gradually came to realize that fluency in the "digital tongue" was a crucial component of their success a long time ago. Still, the awareness that their old technologies lost the capacity of keeping up with digital customer expectations came only recently. And right after that, the need for a new approach to developing the IT systems occurred.
Enterprise software "all-on-one" suites - once the only option for eCommerce companies - stopped being the safest choice when eCommerce started to evolve at a breakneck pace. Businesses were forced to deal with increasing legal restrictions in terms of data, growing demands in terms of UX, the need for smarter and faster marketing activities, omnichannel sales, etc., and their eCommerce systems failed.
Challenges presented by monolith legacy systems
These challenges were especially difficult to tackle while handling debt implied by legacy technologies, and enterprise-scale companies were typically stuck with them. Within legacy monolith systems, all elements are tightly connected. That makes moving to modern JS frameworks that deliver, for instance, better web performance risky.
What’s more, changing the UI and adding UX-focused features was challenging. Also, updates in monolith systems involve much time-consuming, expensive labor. They can potentially cause the whole tightly coupled system to collapse as the backend is connected directly with the frontend. Managers try to avoid them, and it prevents organizations from innovating.
Businesses started to look for ways to remain agile, nimble, customer-centric, and future-proof. And that was when the MACH approach (although the name hadn't been coined yet) came to light.
So what is MACH?
MACH acronym stands for Microservices , API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless, and to fully understand the pros and cons of this approach, we need to dissect each aspect separately. However, to grasp the main idea of the MACH architecture principles, it can be said that it is focused on composability that allows to mold the entire IT ecosystem to make it align with business needs.
Below you can find MACH Alliance manifesto:
MACH technologies support a composable enterprise in which every component is pluggable, scalable, replaceable, and can be continuously improved through agile development to meet evolving business requirements.
MACH Architecture - Microservices
The first element of the MACH approach is “microservices-based”. What does that mean in practice?
In the briefest explanation, it means that separated applications within the system are independently developed, deployed, and managed. One single microservice is designed to perform a single function such as product search reviews, checkout, wish lists, etc.
The architectural composition of microservices consists of:
- Containers that make sure that the unit is consistent throughout the entire development process, this includes testing
- Service mesh
- Service discovery
- API gateway
These elements communicate and exchange data, forming a complete application, but remaining separate "nature":
- each service has a separate IP address and exposes a public interface that is language-agnostic
- each service architecture is unique, decentralized (although loose coupling necessitates frequent and extensive communication), resilient (a single microservice malfunction should not disrupt the entire application), and API-oriented
MACH Architecture - API-first
All elements within the system communicate with each other via an Application Programming Interface (API).
API is an orchestrator in a decoupled, microservice-based ecosystem. It is responsible for sending and receiving requests for only necessary data. The data is gathered at dedicated backend microservices and transformed into a relevant outcome. This outcome is exposed at the frontend layer. API specifies how software components should interact.
In other words, an API creates an interface framework to deal with the logic without the need to learn anything more about what's underneath the bonnet. API masks the complexity and makes it easy to use in the broader loosely coupled systems (e.g. modern eCommerce architecture).
MACH Architecture - Cloud-native SaaS
Cloud-native SaaS means that development and delivery are based on the scalable cloud.
It refers to software hosted in the cloud (an on-premise option is not available). This model doesn't require installation or maintenance since updates and upgrades happen automatically and instantly without customer effort, downtime, licensing costs, or other fees. Also, the tech vendor provides a Service Level Agreement (SLA), which secures the business for the future.
This way, cloud infrastructure provides sophisticated scaling capabilities to meet growing demands that occur over time. Thanks to the cloud, enterprises can use commerce service as a whole or its separate components as needed without deploying and re-deploying solutions.
MACH Architecture - Headless
A headless architecture is based on decoupling the frontend and backend, which provides the ability to create personalized UX experiences.
This type of software architecture opens up almost limitless possibilities in terms of customizations, speeds up time-to-market, and enables eCommerce brands to enrich and differentiate the customer experience.
By providing a high level of technical flexibility, headless architecture enables businesses to build a platform that meets their current business needs and fulfills customer expectations. Merchants can freely compose their systems by adding, removing, and altering particular services such as headless CMS, headless payments, searches, loyalty programs, or headless checkout at any given time.
Learn more about headless commerce
Benefits of MACH Architecture
With MACH architecture, the path to MVP (minimum viable product) is significantly shortened. Developers are able to rapidly roll-out prototypes and businesses can prove key concepts before investing in large-scale implementations, which leads to saving time and money.
MACH architecture allows for tailor-made IT systems from the best technology available on the market. Companies are no longer doomed to settling for less when it comes to software suites: they can add, test, and remove particular services at any given time.
With MACH software architecture, all releases are automatic and don't interfere with the integrity of the system.
With agility provided by MACH architecture, merchants can make instant changes to keep up with their customers’ needs. Prioritizing innovation means prioritizing iteration.
MACH architecture website examples
MACH architecture brings numerous benefits, however - to avoid making hollow statements - let's see what implementing MACH Technology looks like from those that have implemented it.
Foodl, a B2B online marketplace for HoReCa, lacked a human touch in its digital services. They searched for a flexible solution that would support the company’s growth with the desired UX. The company didn't want to force customers into anything just to, for example, shorten the buyer journey or use any specific devices. They decided to approach it with Vue Storefront.
"Vue Storefront gave us a speed start and a lot of flexibility. It fastens getting things done with native integrations and numerous OOTB features but doesn't block the business both from shaping the UX layer and scaling. It enables molding the tech to business requirements, not the other way around."
Platform Technical Lead / Senior Product Owner at Foodl
Mission Linen’s B2C project - OneLessTripp - demanded choosing an extendable eCommerce frontend platform. The events of 2020 accelerated their already set plans. The company was aware of the importance of flawless UX in the B2C sector. So it was looking for a frontend on par with commercetools in terms of flexibility. Together with Divante, they bet on Vue Storefront – a standalone code library, with PWA and the out-of-the-box features that ensure compatibility with commercetools.
"Time is money, and in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, the common phrase gained heavy. We didn't want, nor did we have time to reinvent the wheel, and so Vue Storefront was a no-brainer for us. We know this solution, we know how to work with it, and - as we proved - we can launch a Vue Storefront-based project within weeks."
Engineering Director and eCommerce Solution Architect in Divante
LoveCrafts is a B2C platform with sophisticated business logic, a multi-layered tech stack, and a complicated user journey. They required unique frontend features to meet all expectations. Vue Storefront - thanks to modular, composable architecture and default PWA features - provided the capabilities to do it right.
"We approached the Vue Storefront team due to their backend-agnostic frontend experience. They demonstrated their new frontend with composable architecture and SSR thanks to Nuxt as well as the use of the design system Storefront UI. This immediately appealed to us and things kicked off rapidly from there."
Head of Engineering at LoveCrafts
What is MACH Technology?
MACH is an acronym for Microservices; API-first, Cloud-native; and Headless. Its founding idea is modularity which enables businesses to incorporate new emerging technologies without kick-off a full-blown re-platforming project. With MACH, companies have the freedom to cherry-pick the best-of-breed technologies on the market to compose their eCommerce ecosystem in the way they need.
What “MACH” acronym stands for?
Separated applications that are independently developed, deployed and managed. A single microservice is designed to perform a single function such as product search reviews, checkout, wish lists, etc.
All elements within the system communicate with each other via an application programming interface (API).
- Cloud-native SaaS
All development and delivery are based in the scalable cloud.
A headless approach is based on decoupling the frontend and backend, which provides the ability to create personalized UX experiences.
Is MACH architecture reserved only for major companies?
No, MACH is not necessarily an all-or-nothing game, and it can be implemented gradually. To make a swift shift to MACH technology, merchants can apply a cost- and time-effective approach, and - instead of full-blown re-platforming - they can start with replacing just a frontend and/or Headless CMS.