What is MACH Architecture?

MACH architecture represents the evolution of software architecture to support the complexity and scale that most modern businesses require . It supports the increasing load as needed without upfront commitment to large hardware or other system capabilities.
It has been supported by relatively recent eCommerce developments in cloud computing like hardware and network as code and containers.

The MACH acronym stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. Each of the components are described below.


Microservices are small independent software components which provide a very specific feature or service to the system. They are independent in terms of deployment. In most cases they must communicate with other similar services in some manner. For example system may have a service responsible for sending out email notifications to customers and yet another for taking back up of the system.

Benefits of micro-services are in how it helps the developers which results in benefits to business.

Benefits :
● Since they are designed to focus on a single task, programming and testing them is easier.
● Deployment is easier as only a small amount of code needs to be updated.
● Failure of one services will generally not mean failure of system as other parts will continue functioning.
● With use of containers for each service, business need not incur costs for servers and hardware when the service is not needed.

Drawbacks :
● Since almost all services need to talk to other, the communication should be managed properly, their load distribution should also be even.
● In most cases, there will be a service to co-ordinate with other services. This can be a bottle neck or a single point of failure.
● Some problems may be difficult to diagnose as it could be occurring due to complex interaction of various services and containers.

API First :

A typical system design begins with consideration of user workflow and user experience. While this may still be largely true, API first expects that the UX be separated completely and overall data exchange architecture be given as much if not more importance in system design.
Most modern systems will have more than one interfaces. For example there will be a website as well as mobile app. Further more, they will need to send data and receive data from other systems. An ecommerce system will need to communicate with a CRM and warehousing system when an order is received.
API stands for application programming interface. The system is designed to provide low level functions/features which can then be used as needed. In an ecommerce system, when an order is received, orders service will call API from CRM and warehousing system. When the order is dispatched, they in turn will update the ecommerce system to update the status of order. Already even the bundled solutions integrate with different APIs for payment gateways and shipping providers.

Benefits :
● API first approach forces to design the system for multiple use cases and not just say one thing like a website.
● Supports micro service architecture as each api can be made available as service.

Drawbacks :
● Since the APIs are expected to talk to other systems, even external systems, they are more vulnerable to attacks and security gaps.
● A bad system can accidentally overwhelm the API by sending too many requests for particular set of data.

Cloud Native :

Cloud computing means having practically infinitely scalable servers, storage and resources needed to run your systems.
APIs and microservices provide the ability to deploy the system on multiple servers. A system may start with a single server but as demand increases they can be moved to additional servers. Not just that, with use of containers, they may be turned on only when needed or many instances of such containers may be created to support increased volume during say holiday or promotional season.
These can be similarly scaled down quickly when such high demand period is over.

Benefits :
● Cloud native architecture allows the system to scale up or down depending on the load on the system.
● It clearly breaks down the system demands for a particular service thus allocating resources at the right place.

Drawbacks :
● Automatically scalable systems are complex to set up and maintain.
● Sudden spike by bots good or bad can sometimes result in unwanted and unexpected load resulting in unexpected costs due to automatic allocation of resources.

Headless :

Head here refers to the human user interface of the system. In this architecture, the system is designed without the consideration of the humans to start with. The head may be added on the top of the rest. Ecommerce systems will for example will have APIs for managing the store and taking orders etc. The design will be done for web and mobile and perhaps POS depending on the needs of the business. Thus same headless API based system can be used for web, phones as well as POS.

Benefits :
● Complete flexibility in the design of your user interface.
● Choice of implementing only the features needed for your system.
● Ability to add more features specific to business needs without being limited by something provided out of the box.
● Can help you avoid locking to some extent, since in theory, you can decide to use other api without substantial reprogramming.
● Provides ability of connecting multiple systems and automation.

Drawbacks :
● Not all businesses need or want to design their own UI.
● Using APIs requires specific knowledge of the APIs.
● Custom developoment of mobile apps and websites is expensive and time consuming.

Composable Commerce and MACH Architecure :

MACH architecture and composable commerce are not comparable and should not be confused with each other. MACH architecture provides the underlying structure to support composable commerce. Composable commerce refers to the ability of choosing different modules from different providers to create your own custom e-commerce solution. A composable e-commerce solution will in all likelyhood have MACH architecture behind it to support it.
For example, you may choose to use one catalog manager, another for payment gateway and yet another one for shipping and fulfillment. Additionally it may be integrated with internal systems like ERPs, CRMs or warehousing systems.
All these systems will likely have one or all the components from MACH.

The Benefits of the MACH Architecture

● Composability
E-commerce site has a choice of using services that are most suitable for their business. They are not locked in with a provider if it is not suitable for them. Most solution offer an all or nothing bundle which can make things difficult if not impractical.
Even at later stage of project it would be relatively easy to switch one service with a comparable other if found unsuitable for some reason.

● High availability
E-commerce site has a choice of using services that are most suitable for their business. They are not locked in with a provider if it is not suitable for them. Most solution offer an all or nothing bundle which can make things difficult if not impractical.
Even at later stage of project it would be relatively easy to switch one service with a comparable other if found unsuitable for some reason.

● Composability
Since each microservice is independent, failure of one will not mean failure of complete system.
If a particular service is under heavy load, it can be scaled with more resources easily due to cloud infrasturcture.
Functions like back up and backend services may be moved to different infrastrucure to keep operations running even in case of failure of other components of system.

Cons with the MACH Design

The inherent architectural complexity of the microservices causes bulk of the difficulties that must be handled. It is difficult to build a software system that is composed of a large number of independent microservices, each of which has its own application programming interface (API).

Either the customer or the partner must do this; whomever does it will greatly lengthen the period before your e-commerce store goes live.

Conclusion :

All in all if you need your e-commerce store to be scalable and need the flexibility of Adding new features and services, MACH is the way to go. It will support your need for a flexible solution of composable e-commerce.
However, understand the challenge of integration of various components before going headlong into it.