Ecomm Monolithic Platforms vs. Microservices vs. Headless
Repost (excerpt) – BigCommerce, Susan Meyer May 28, 2019:
These days, it’s hard to spend too much time reading about ecommerce trends without stumbling on an article on microservice ecommerce.
In fact, many businesses are leaving behind monolithic applications in favor of microservices. A study by LightStep found that 92% of the 353 senior development stakeholders surveyed saw an increase in adoption of microservices in their organizations in the past year — and they expected to see that trend continuing in the next year.
But what exactly does microservice architecture mean and how is it influencing ecommerce? You often see microservice contrasted with its opposite: the monolithic architecture. How is microservices different from a monolith and why are many brands moving in a microservices direction?
“A microservices architecture is a set of loosely coupled services that collaborate to create a system.
Microservices operate on inherently distributed systems that connect through API gateways.”
This chart shows the basic structure of a monolith which contains all the elements of the ecommerce system. Here, it’s compared to a traditional SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering that integrates with third party systems, as well as a microservices architectural style that decouples services and connects them via APIs.
Many large scale sites like Netflix and Spotify have moved from monolith to microservices systems. By doing so, they can adapt to new innovations more quickly and choose best-in-breed solutions. Because the parts of the system–or microservices–operate independently, changes can be made more rapidly leading to a faster time to market for updates and more agile integrations.
In this deep dive, we’ll look at what microservices architecture is, how it has evolved from monoliths, what headless commerce is and how it compares, and things to consider before making a switch.
Traditional Digital Commerce
To illustrate why microservices are taking the reins after decades of dependency on monoliths, let’s go way back to the beginning of human history. Long before there was ecommerce or software or even money, there was simply mankind trying to get by on some good old-fashioned hunting and gathering.
Hunter-gather bands were self-sufficient, self-contained systems. Everyone knew everything and could decently do most tasks required for survival.
Even after the Agricultural Revolution, humans lived in small, intimate communities where they could still manage to get by with economies of barter and reciprocity.
Then life got a lot more complicated.
One version of a microservices approach is headless commerce. Headless commerce entails decoupling the front-end presentation layer from the backend ecommerce engine.
The frontend or the ‘head’ of most ecommerce websites is the theme or template that controls what customers see. Headless allows for more flexibility in content delivery because you can connect a content management system (CMS) or digital experience platform (DXP) or Internet of Things device (IoT) that is specifically designed for creating content- or experience-led commerce. You can then swap out the front-end without affecting the backend operations.
“Your chosen frontend communicates to the backend ecommerce through simple API calls.”
Customer expectations are rising. They want fast shipping options, secure handling of their data, and unique digital experiences. They are also shopping more omni-channel than ever and want to see their experiences online reflected offline and vice versa. Headless and microservices can help address these expectations.
As Adam Grohs, the co-founder of the digital innovation agency Particular. posts: “The next generation of commerce platforms will whole-heartedly embrace microservices, headless and event-driven architecture as ecommerce for brands is no longer about a destination. Monetizable events and experiences will be more of the norm than an ecommerce website as a destination.”
Headless enables enterprises to be nimble and to innovate because they can make changes to their frontend faster without compromising essential ecommerce components like their checkout and security.
For more about headless commerce and the reasons brands are embracing it, check out this in depth article.