Evolution of E-commerce Architecture

Introduction

There is a strong relation between the architecture of a software app and the efficiency of your development team, testing activities, managing the complexities of a software app, and how fast can products go to the market and how fast can it adapt to changes. In this article, I focus on the evolution of software architecture starting from all-in-one monolithic applications towards the current future of apps, headless software architecture. 

Traditional Monolith Strategies

Monolithic strategies result in slow-go-to-market timelines and high development costs. This delays innovation. On the other hand, it gives IT departments and developers full control of the software, which is useful in the case of extreme customizations. 

All-In-One

It all started with an all-in-one monolith architecture in the 1990s. For example in a NodeJS app, everything from the user interface, to business logic, to the database would all be in a single app.js file all within the same server and within the same ports. The code was so intertwined that any change in the software frontend or backend would have unpredictable consequences. It would be challenging for multiple developers to manage work on the same code without conflicts and testing overhead. The code is less secure and inefficient. 

Layers

Also known as layered monolithic architecture. The code is split into different components but all reside on the same physical server. The view, business logic, and data layer can be separated using different ports. This allows developers to work on different components simultaneously and change in the components has better management. 

Tiering

 Also named as (tiered) monolithic apps. Web apps have had a 2 or 3-tier architecture for quite some time, composed of presentation layer, business logic, and data layer. Each tier resides on a separate physical server. The tiers communicate with each other via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Tiering was the introduction of new modernization technologies. 

Modernisation Strategies

 Today, most three-tier applications are targets for modernisation, sing cloud technologies such as containers and microservices, and for migration to the cloud.

Microservices

 In 2010s, microservices architecture was introduced. In microservices, the application is arranged as a collection of decoupled services which can be on the same or separate physical locations. The communication in this architecture occurs via APIs. Microservices allow faster deployment to the market and are more adaptive to changes. A microservice is not a layer in a monolithic, Rather it is a self-contained piece of business functionality with clear interfaces, and may, through its own internal components, implement a layered architecture. Microservices has myriads of benefits such as: distributed development, modularity, scalability, and integration. 

Headless Architecture

From a development perspective, headless commerce is methodology of managing the development and testing activities of an ecommerce app. Headless architecutre enhances agility, scability, and modularity. 

 Why Headless Architecture?

There are a lot of benefits of using a headless architecture, such as: 

  1. Enhancing your omni-channel experience, where customers can have the same experience regardless of which channel or device they are using to access your web app and ease of introducing new channels. 
  2. Agility, flexibility, and speed to the market. 
  3. As the number of users increase, services can be replicated addressing scalability. 
  4. A change or experiment in any of the services will not impact the entire software solution.  
  5. Personalising content for different audiences (channels, devices, offers)
  6. Serverless deployments. AWS for example, auto scaling, security by default, simple setup and startup. 

But, does modern mean better? 

So, modern architectures such as microservices and headless apps have tons of benefits. But does that mean monolith is out? The answer here is “No”. For starting brands, the setup of modern architectures may incur higher costs and resources initially compared to monolith solutions. In addition, monolith applications may give better control over the application for extreme customisation of apps. 

Next…

In the next articles, we will discuss some of the existing headless commerce solutions in the market (Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, and BigCommerce).

If you would like to know more about building your own E-commerce store

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