MACH Architecture: What You Need to Know
When it comes to acronyms (so popular in tech), there’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s MACH architecture. The point of MACH architecture is not to make you the coolest company at the trade show — it’s to make your IT roadmap come to life without you constantly having to reinvent the wheel or spend half of your equity on development projects that should take weeks but actually take months and then don’t work. MACH architecture is about eliminating arcane complexity in development, constant failures in attempts at enterprise integration, and seemingly endless IT projects that don’t deliver what they promised.
So, What is MACH?
MACH stands for Microservice-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless. These are the four pillars that make up this architecture. MACH technologies support composable infrastructure, meaning that each digital component of the enterprise can be scaled, improved, and replaced as needed. More traditional legacy enterprise suites were monolithic: a great, big uniform system that resisted digital growth. Think of the hydra of mythology. All of those heads coming from a single, unchangeable base. If you're digital suite is comprised from a single software and everything gets added on top of each other, you don't have the flexibility that this new digital climate necessitates because you can't simply change your base when you need to.
The Four Pillars of MACH Architecture
Like all new technology architectures, or new technologies themselves, it’s arguable whether it will last. The MACH architecture's use of the latest developmental innovations assures it will advance, and not recede — for MACH makes use of four of the most important aspects of software development:
This describes an application that is built in units, or modules, each independent of the others. For example, if you have an application architected in the traditional way (known as monolithic architecture), it’s impossible to make any changes to the application without affecting the entire application’s performance. However, if an application uses Microservices architecture, swapping out the old feature for a new one would be just like changing a tire on your car. Microservices feature flexibility and interchangeability, not rigidity and dependency. It’s this interchangeability and flexibility that will allow enterprises to face their technological future without fearing obsolescence.
In traditional application development, developers code the application and then develop an API, or Application Programming Interface. In MACH architecture, they write the API first and then code the application to fit it, hence the name API-first. In a nutshell, this means that every aspect of the application fits the API, which gives programmers access to the entire application. As new functionalities and upgrades are available to the application, they code these also to fit the API.
In summation, the various functionalities of the application are microservices, and they are each accessible through the application's API. API-first architecture is another step toward universal accessibility for all cloud-native software.
It’s hardly worthwhile to have an architecture that stresses modularization, integration, and connectivity if you’re running on-premise or proprietary software. That’s where the Cloud comes in. The Cloud has become the hub of the integration revolution in computing. In cloud-native apps, everything can integrate with everything else. The only limitations are those driven by the desires of cloud clients.
For example, if Company "A" wants to allow access to part of its IT infrastructure (say, the CRM) to Company "B", without the Cloud, this would be a massive undertaking. Take EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange. Originally, in order to automate product ordering between a retailer and a supplier, both would have to build a bridge A from a flat file to an on-premise EDI translator. The translator would take the flat file and transform it to an EDI standard, such as ANSI X12. The data would flow through a Value-Added-Network (VAN) or a dedicated T1 connection to the supplier’s translator from the retailer’s translator, through the supplier’s bridge program to a flat file and then integrate with the supplier’s ERP. Now, data transmission can occur over the internet, and the integration can happen in the cloud. Now, that is so much simpler, right? It leaves less room for error and frees up your teams' time to focus on their projects.
Imagine an e-Commerce store. There is a website with a shopping cart, mix in a payment gateway, integrations to Product Information Management Systems, Inventory management, etc. Those would run behind the scenes — as part of the backend of the e-Commerce platform, which is inextricably linked to the front end, or the head. The head is the part that the user sees.
In order to change some aspect of the head, developers must be sure not to disrupt the rest of the body. Add 3D visuals to the website? You’ll want to make sure it doesn’t cause a disruption in the backend that could cause the site to crash. Just as microservices are de-coupled from each other, in headless commerce, the body is de-coupled from the head. They join each other via APIs, not interdependent code.
The Importance of Innovation in Business
Very few people today realize that Apple did not invent the graphical user interface (GUI), or that the most popular name in consumer photography was once Kodak — not Canon or Nikon. The graphical user interface originated at Xerox Parc, the Palo Alto research campus the company owned. It literally gave the technology to Apple. And Kodak? Dozens of companies surpassed this one-time leader because it failed to recognize the march toward digital photography that was going on right under its nose.
This is not to disparage either Xerox or Kodak. The right decision today can be a brilliant decision tomorrow, and vice versa. However, one aspect of the future of business is 100% predictable: companies that do not keep up with new technologies will fail. MACH architecture is still evolving, but the promise of Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless development is one that you don’t want to miss out on. But, to capitalize on all the latest technologies, you can't rely on in-house expertise exclusively. You’re best off with a partner that can guide you down the right path — the MACH path that works for your enterprise. Get in touch with RDA today!