An agnostic system offers interoperability between other tools. It doesn’t place any restrictions on the types of tools it can work with and doesn’t need to know anything about these other tools to integrate with them.
Many companies are aware of the frontend and framework-agnostic benefits of headless architecture. However, a backend-agnostic architecture is necessary to truly deliver the best experience for developers and the customers on the other end.
In this blog, we’ll explain what it means to be backend agnostic, why it’s something enterprises should consider when building a tech stack, and provide some examples of what constitutes a backend agnostic architecture.
#Backend agnostic defined
A backend-agnostic architecture is one where the backend components of a system are designed to be independent of specific technologies or platforms. As such, code can be deployed on different servers, databases, or cloud providers without being rewritten to be compatible.
With a backend-agnostic architecture, your system is completely interoperable, providing increased flexibility and freedom of choice in the makeup of your technology stack. Additionally, it makes integrating a variety of tools or sharing data between them much easier.
#Why enterprises need backend agnostic architecture
Over the last few years, the emergence of more and more digital channels has sparked an increase in multiple enterprise-grade tools to help exploit them. This includes everything from CMSs to handle websites and mobile apps to marketing automation tools that manage email, customer journey analytics tools that manage digital ad campaigns, eCommerce platforms to drive shopping experiences, and several custom-built solutions for everything in between.
Many companies implemented these solutions on-premises, and even as they undertook digital transformations to begin migrating some systems to the cloud, many of these tools still need to be connected.
With integration being such a problem, silos remain throughout several organizations, preventing the unification of these systems. As such, data collected from these multiple systems becomes overwhelming and essentially unusable due to their lack of connectivity. The result of such fragmentation in the backend makes it harder for companies to solve customer problems and seize the opportunities that can generate engagement and revenue.
#Characteristics of a backend agnostic architecture
A system or platform should meet the following criteria to be considered backend agnostic.
Applications designed with a backend-agnostic approach can be deployed on different server environments or cloud providers. This portability allows companies to choose the most suitable deployment option based on cost, performance, and compliance requirements. For example, some companies may require an on-premise deployment for security reasons, while others may want to leverage the benefits of the cloud.
Flexibility and adaptability
Another core tenet of a backend-agnostic architecture is flexibility. Developers can effortlessly swap out backend components without fundamentally altering the application. This flexibility ensures that the application remains robust and adaptable despite changes in technology or business requirements.
A backend-agnostic architecture should enable an application to seamlessly integrate with third-party tools, APIs, and data sources. With easy integration, engineering teams can easily extend the functionality of applications.
A backend-agnostic application should offer scalability, enabling the application to adapt and grow regardless of the specific technologies in use. For instance, a backend-agnostic architecture should be able to leverage and integrate with a variety of tools and technologies without suffering from a dip in performance.
#Benefits of a backend agnostic approach
Enterprises can realize several benefits by seeking tools that offer the characteristics of a backend-agnostic architecture.
Improved developer experience
With a backend-agnostic architecture, developers can choose the best tools for the job based on the project's requirements rather than be restricted by a particular set of technologies. Backend agnostic architecture also reduces learning curves as developers can focus on building high-quality features and writing the best code instead of learning a new framework or building new integrations, thus improving their experience.
Reduced vendor lock-in
Developers can mitigate the risk of vendor lock-in by avoiding strong dependencies on specific backend technologies. This is crucial for businesses seeking to maintain control over their technology stack and avoid the cost of being tied to particular proprietary applications.
A backend-agnostic architecture future-proofs your application by ensuring it can seamlessly integrate with new technologies or platforms as they emerge.
Maintenance and debugging become easier with reduced dependencies on specific technologies as updates can be executed and replacements found without disrupting the entire system.
Better resource management
When companies can choose backend technologies based on cost and resource requirements, it leads to more efficient resource utilization and cost savings. For example, rather than having to train developers on a new framework or software tool because it isn’t compatible with the existing system, they can simply use the tools best suited to the business.
#Examples of backend agnostic architecture
Now that we understand what constitutes a backend-agnostic architecture, where can these systems be found?
Containerization and orchestration platforms
Containerization platforms such as Docker and orchestration tools like Kubernetes are an example of backend-agnostic systems.
With Docker, applications can be packaged along with all necessary dependencies, making them agnostic to the hosting environment. This allows for deployment on various cloud providers or on-premises servers.
Meanwhile, Kubernetes provides a way to manage and deploy containerized applications across different cloud providers or on local infrastructure, maintaining consistency regardless of the underlying environment.
Composable software solutions also offer backend-agnostic architecture. These modular applications are designed so that individual components can be arranged, rearranged, and discarded as needed.
Composable applications can integrate more easily than monolithic applications; however, it’s important to note that not every software application that positions itself as composable is, in fact, backend agnostic. That’s because these applications include some level of vendor lock-in due to the ability to integrate seamlessly with other applications within their ecosystem but not with other third-party applications.
MACH-based applications that leverage microservices, API-first, cloud-native, and headless architecture are perfect examples of backend-agnostic architecture.
Being API-first and leveraging microservices, in particular, enable MACH products to be classed as backend agnostic. This allows companies to choose the best tools available on the market and provides a structure that makes it easy to add, replace, or remove technologies in the future.
Hygraph is a next-generation headless CMS adhering to MACH principles with a native GraphQL API that easily integrates other tools in your stack. Built for the composable era, Hygraph’s modular architecture epitomizes backend agnosticism as it can easily integrate with several different tools.
Dr. Oetker sought to replace its monolithic infrastructure and needed a microservices-based solution with robust APIs that could handle the scalability needs of its portfolio of brands and provide a future-proof platform. Hygraph was chosen due to its microservice-based, API-first headless architecture and APP Framework, which gave Dr.Oetker the backend-agnostic infrastructure it needed.
#Building a backend agnostic architecture
Businesses operating using a legacy or monolithic infrastructure should consider a backend-agnostic architecture for an improved developer experience, future-proof scalability, and reduced vendor lock-in.
In order to build a backend-agnostic architecture for your business, it’s essential to migrate to a system that supports it. Hygraph not only offers a backend agnostic architecture but also Content Federation.
With Content Federation, it is possible to orchestrate content and data in one unified layer by aggregating it from different sources with one single API. This enables companies to remove existing silos between multiple systems, making integration easier as teams juggle multiple tools and technologies on the backend.
Learn key considerations that need to be made before, during, and after a CMS migration in our guide: The True Cost of CMS Migration.