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Cover image for Composable vs. Monolitch architecture: Uncovering recent composable hype
Shahed Nasser for Medusa

Posted on • Originally published at medusajs.com

Composable vs. Monolitch architecture: Uncovering recent composable hype

In recent years, many businesses have switched their tech stack from a monolithic architecture to a composable one. They realized that, as their business grows, a monolithic architecture proves to be inflexible and not scalable.

On the other hand, composable architecture is gaining popularity due to its focus on creating completely independent components that achieve different business functionalities. Among the many benefits that come with this architecture, it is by nature flexible and scalable.

In this article, you’ll learn about the differences between monolithic and composable architecture, and why many modern companies today prefer composable architectures.

Understanding the Terms

Monolithic Architecture Explained

A monolithic architecture is a traditional architecture most software and systems resort to. It’s simply a single block of all features a software provides in a single codebase. Everything is tightly coupled and dependent on one another, but the software as a whole is independent of any third-party services.

A monolithic architecture is a go-to architecture for many developers and businesses, due to the fact that it’s generally easier to set up and get started with. Since all components are part of the same codebase, testing, deployment, and debugging are simplified in a monolithic architecture.

Composable Architecture Explained

A composable architecture is a modular approach that separates the different components of a software.

Instead of having all components tightly coupled and dependent on one another, a composable architecture makes it possible to break down a large architecture into manageable and independent components connected by APIs.

Monolithic vs. Composable Architecture: The Case of Ecommerce

When it comes to ecommerce platforms, there are a set of characteristics that are important to have. These include the ability to roll out features quickly to match the ever-growing digital trends, create unique experiences that reflect that brand’s identity, and ensure great performance for the users.

Traditional ecommerce platforms have used for a long time a monolithic architecture. However, that presented many hurdles for businesses and developers as they tried to scale the platform to meet the business requirements.

For that reason, composable architecture has been gaining more interest in the ecommerce world. It was coined Composable Commerce in 2020 by Gartner.

Composable commerce focuses on packaged business capabilities (PBC), which are components that completely serve a business function on their own. This emphasizes business requirements and guarantees more flexibility for businesses.

Monolithic Architecture Disadvantages

Slow Development

Since all components in a monolithic architecture are tightly knit, introducing new features or customizing existing ones takes longer. The bigger the platform gets, the harder it becomes to ensure these changes do not affect other components in the platform.

The tight coupling of components also means that different parts of the development team heavily rely on one another. This slows down the development cycles within the team, which further slows down the delivery of new features.

For many ecommerce stores, this can be particularly problematic as development cycles are often tight and require interactions with several different applications.

Lack of Flexibility and Scalability

One of the first issues businesses run into as they grow is the difficulty to scale their tech stack with their growth. Scalability can include continuously introducing new features, switching out services that no longer serve them with better services and solutions, or ensuring that their tech stack can handle the growing size of customers and traffic they receive, among other details.

In a monolithic architecture, switching out components is costly which in many cases makes it impossible. So, a business is stuck with the components it started out with.

For an ecommerce platform, this means a business is incapable of advancing in terms of the features it provides or the technical stack it uses. This hinders a business’s growth in different aspects.

Performance Issues

Ecommerce platforms using a monolithic architecture run into a slow performance issue, especially as they provide more functionalities and the size of the platform increases.

According to a report by Unbounce, 70% of customers say that the load speed of a page can affect their decision of making a purchase from an ecommerce store. To avoid losing customers, it’s important to improve an ecommerce store’s performance.

Although there are many ways to resolve these issues even in a monolithic architecture, they can be challenging to implement and can even be ineffective the bigger the platform gets.

Composable Commerce Benefits

Build Unique Experiences

The decoupling of the different components of a composable architecture, mainly the frontend and the backend, gives businesses the flexibility to build the solution that brings their vision to life.

Using composable commerce, a business can tailor the design of its storefront based on its brand identity without the technical limitations that are present when the backend and frontend are tightly coupled. It can also personalize its user experience to match the shopping behavior of its customers, instead of using a one-size-fits-all solution.

Faster Development

The modular approach of composable commerce means that all components are independent of one other. So, if any change needs to be made to any of them, it doesn’t have to affect other components. The same applies to adding new components.

In addition, development teams can work independently without blocking each other’s work or relying on one another. So, features can be shipped out quickly which contributes to the growth of the business.

For ecommerce businesses, backend developers can continue to integrate new solutions and features, whereas frontend developers can focus on optimizing the performance and experience of the storefront for the customers.

Omnichannel Support

In recent years, ecommerce businesses have realized more than ever the importance of selling across different channels. Whether a business is selling on a website, a mobile app, or social media platforms, it should support a seamless shopping experience despite of what channel a customer is using.

This is made possible in composable commerce as all ecommerce functionalities are provided independently of where they are being consumed from. In addition, this gives businesses the flexibility to integrate best-in-breed third-party solutions of their choice.

Full Flexibility and High Scalability

Since components don’t rely on one another in a composable architecture, components can be added, switched out, or removed without affecting the platform as a whole. There are therefore no limitations to what services or tools a business decides to use as part of its tech stack. All that is needed is to connect the different components using the necessary APIs.

This gives businesses the flexibility to integrate best-in-breed third-party solutions of their choice. Likewise, this means businesses don’t have to worry about their tech stack becoming outdated as they can easily switch different components in the architecture as time evolves.

Composable Commerce: Why we believe it is the future at Medusa

Medusa is a composable commerce platform that aims to provide developers with a great experience and merchants with full flexibility while building out their ecommerce stores.

Here at Medusa, we believe it’s time to adopt composable commerce, as it is the future of ecommerce.

We have seen a rise in businesses looking to implement custom use cases such as subscription models and multi-vendor marketplaces. Often these cases are constrained by a monolithic architecture, whereas a composable commerce setup enables them to build custom functionality into the solution.

Furthermore, many more API-first solutions and services have been built in recent years specifically catered to a more composable stack. The ecosystem maturity makes integration work more seamless than it has ever been before.

If you’re interested in getting started with Medusa, check out our documentation to get started in 3 steps. You can also join our discord if you have any questions.

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