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PHOTO: Dan Burton

Customer experiences today span multiple channels and digital touchpoints and require brands to remain agile as they adapt to sudden market changes. Companies need to not only react to these market changes, but also need to continuously evolve to keep up with their customers’ expectations. 

According to Gartner, one of the key strategic technology trends for 2021 will be the combination of “multi-experience, customer experience, employee experience and user experience” into a total experience meant to transform business outcomes. To facilitate these outcomes, technology needs to evolve from monolithic architecture to a new approach built for the cloud and capable of meeting changing consumer demands. 

To learn more about this new approach being dubbed “MACH” architecture, we’ve spoken to experts who are actively implementing it as part of their strategies.  

What Is MACH Architecture?

MACH stands for microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless. This set of modern technology principles that incorporates a best-of-breed approach to constructing enterprise software stacks. The goal of MACH is to break down legacy applications and instead introduce a modular architecture that enables enterprises to be more agile and adapt faster. 

  • Microservices replace the traditional, monolithic architecture and allow applications to be arranged as a collection of loosely coupled and independently deployable services. 
  • API-first exposes all application functionality through an API, making it possible for two or more applications or services to interact.
  • Cloud-native leverages software-as-a-service (SaaS) to store, host, elastically scale and automatically update functionality.
  • A headless approach decouples the front-end presentation experience from back-end logic which provides freedom of design for creating user interfaces for multiple channels and allows enterprises to remain framework agnostic. 

Since MACH architecture favors a best-of-breed approach, enterprises can choose the best tool on the market for their specific needs. It makes it easy to remove or replace tools as necessary, something which monolithic architectures limit. According to Kevin Zellmer, VP of partnerships at Berlin-based Contentful, “MACH architecture enables partners and customers to deploy a limitless array of digital experiences with the tools that best meet their needs.”

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Why Take an API-First Approach?

When it comes to content and commerce, changes need to happen swiftly and often. As the world around them continues to evolve, enterprise companies can no longer make changes to their digital experience every once in a while. 

According to Kelly Goetsch, chief product officer at German commerce platform commercetools, the current standards are still behind the times, so MACH can provide the answer that lets enterprises keep pace in the changing world. 

“MACH (as in MACH speed) represents the state of the art in both technology and practices that allow for near-instantaneous releases to production, allowing for rapid changes to meet customer demands,” he said. 

With APIs, MACH can facilitate the move away from the limits suite products offer in terms of out-the-box functionality. The movement towards MACH architecture has been happening over the last few years, and for that reason, commercetools, and other MACH advocates combined to form the MACH Alliance, a non-profit organization focused on introducing an open, best-of-breed technology ecosystem. 

As president and co-founder of the alliance, Goetsch explained the reasons behind solidifying the movement. “Many enterprises had some experience with microservices, APIs, cloud and headless but we wanted to make MACH a formal standard in the industry. These are fairly technical topics and explaining the value to both business and technical audiences takes education and time.”

Given the time taken to implement a movement geared towards educating the public on what is possible with MACH architecture, companies would understandably expect some benefits when transitioning to this approach. 

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How Does MACH Benefit Enterprises?

Technology has evolved over the years as businesses continue to seek new ways to differentiate themselves and improve performance. For those businesses that don’t wish to be left behind due to outdated technology, MACH could help them to more easily adapt to a changing world. 

“Many legacy commerce and content platforms failed to adapt to changes, and clung to their monolithic, tightly-coupled template-driven models,” said Daniel Backhaus, chief strategy officer at Prague-based software development agency Salsita

He explains that failure to move on from their legacy architecture could lead to enterprises taking on too much technical debt and not being able to capitalize on new opportunities.

“MACH addresses this by offering businesses not only a fresh start but, thanks to its inherent flexibility, also an onramp of sorts that will allow them to integrate these concepts incrementally, enabling them to migrate to a more agile, resilient, and future-proof solution architecture gradually,” said Backhaus.