Scalability and agility are defining features of the modern-day ecommerce platform, considered imperative in helping brands adapt to current markets and evolve with future developments. As a result, more and more brands are realising the monolithic architecture of their legacy systems does not afford them the agility and scalability required to gain a competitive edge. Now, they are turning to microservices architecture to remove these barriers and drive faster digital success.
Monolithic architecture was the only realistic choice for most organisations in the early 2000s when the ecommerce market emerged, as brands sought to quickly capitalise on this development and access a new revenue-generating stream. An all-in-one infrastructure with a range of in-built functionalities seemed like the perfect solution – it was straightforward and included all the necessary tools to exploit this new revenue stream.
However, the ecommerce market has matured over the last two decades, with speed and innovation continuously pushing digital brands towards new horizons. In attempting to keep pace with these developments, monolithic architecture has created more problems. Now, brands applying this infrastructure often find themselves lagging behind the competition.
Monolithic architecture restrictions
Customisation is a must-have capability of a modern ecommerce platform. Brands today are expected to adjust their offering in line with market trends and consumer demand, and leverage this to promote personalised products and services.
However, working with an infrastructure where the front-end and back-end are tightly coupled makes customisation a slow and onerous process. Any front-end update will invariably necessitate changes to the back-end script. In a tightly coded structure, developers need to be careful to ensure that any updates don’t create problems with existing functionality, or else debugging can become a similarly laborious task.
These restrictions often deter developers from committing changes in the first place, resulting in an over-reliance on software upgrades to deliver the latest ecommerce functionalities that competitors have already implemented. Even then, any new feature adopted will likely be outnumbered by all the unused functionality in the software, which can create sluggish performance.
When you combine this with monolithic architecture’s lack of scalability, it becomes apparent that the framework is now outdated – it’s not designed for the needs of the modern brand.
How microservices architecture removes these restrictions
Conceptually, microservices architecture is the opposite of monolithic infrastructure. Microservices are decentralised, meaning the front-end and back-end are separate while components connect and communicate via API calls. This clear separation means developers can commit straightforward updates to the front-end user interface (UI) that don’t threaten operational disruption to the back-end or database.
This enables brands to optimise their platform and evolve with market trends and consumer demands, including easily updating and adding new services to accommodate new touchpoints and devices, with no wastage on redundant functionality.
This makes for a more refined and efficient digital proposition, and also helps development teams become more agile by ridding back-end and database engineers of involvement in front-end updates. Liberating your developers means they can deliver digital results faster, which has a knock-on effect on your marketing teams, who can then be more creative in the way they deliver the Customer Experience.
Migrating to microservices – it’s easier than you think!
Migrating to a microservices architecture is an essential transition for brands hoping to grow and adapt. There’s never a bad time to initiate the process either, as the incremental nature of microservices migration minimises disruption to business operations.
In a phased migration microservices components are implemented independently, gradually replacing functionalities of the monolithic architecture until all the legacy system’s components are deemed “extinct”. This means you can see return-on-investment in months not years, effectively reducing chances of project fatigue.
However, a successful outcome depends on a carefully designed migration strategy. This includes a comprehensive assessment of the business and its existing ecommerce solution, and the creation of a migration blueprint, before breaking the legacy system into components to be sequentially replaced. As a minimum this requires commitment, but it usually requires specialist input from an external partner too.
To gain a more detailed understanding of how you can adopt microservices to evolve your digital proposition, sign up to our headless ecommerce professional development programme – Module 4: Monolithic to Microservices is available from 24 June 2020.