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The role of the MACH Alliance in the rise of composable technologies

What is the MACH Alliance and its role in the rise of composable technologies.
Katie Lawson

Katie Lawson

May 27, 2024
The role of the MACH Alliance in the rise of composable technologies

Digital is an increasingly important part of business strategy, and as companies start turning to new online services, touchpoints, and customer experiences to gain competitive advantage, many are finding that their legacy technologies are holding them back.

The all-in-one suites purchased back when “digital” just meant a simple website aren’t flexible enough for teams to keep up with market changes —much less add innovative functionality and experiences. Businesses want to do more with digital, and the technology landscape has rapidly changed to support this.

#The MACH Alliance defines the technology principles of composable architecture

As an alternative to the monolithic suites, technology solutions started coming to the market in the 2010s, specialized in one part of the experience, and were designed to integrate easily with other tools. So, instead of being locked into a set of capabilities from a single vendor, companies could mix and match best-fit solutions for content management, search, eCommerce, etc. This “stacks not suite” approach gradually became known as composable architecture.

The MACH Alliance is a non-profit organization that advocates for and helps companies transition to a composable technology infrastructure.

The view of the MACH Alliance, and the meaning behind the name, is that solutions that effectively support a composable approach follow four main technology principles:

  • Microservices-based: Business functionality can be independently developed, deployed, and managed.
  • API-first: All functionality is exposed via APIs.
  • Cloud-native Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Fully leverages the cloud beyond storage and hosting, including elastic scaling and automatic updates.
  • Headless: Backend logic is decoupled from frontend presentation and can be adapted to any channel or framework.

MACH Alliance members include technology vendors with products that follow MACH principles, system integrators with experience implementing MACH architectures, and industry Ambassadors who have spearheaded MACH adoption within their business.

#The MACH Alliance helps companies navigate a complex technology landscape

Going from a single vendor suite to a tech stack of best-fit tools requires teams to rethink how they evaluate, purchase, and implement technologies. Navigating the composable marketplace can be a challenge, especially as the approach gains traction and more vendors claim to support it.

A primary driver of the organization, according to the MACH Alliance manifesto, is to help companies take advantage of MACH technologies to create a truly open, future-proof architecture. Some of the key ways they do this include:

Advocate and educate

Because it’s a relatively new approach and every company’s tech stack will be different, there is no defined roadmap for transitioning to a MACH architecture.

Through webinars, whitepapers, case studies, live events, and other resources, the MACH Alliance shares the latest technical knowledge and best practices. The MACH Ambassador program also allows businesses to connect with industry peers who have already been through a MACH transformation to get one-on-one advice and talk candidly about benefits and challenges.

All combined, these efforts also help increase the awareness of MACH on the market, making it easier for digital leaders to discover these solutions and convince their board to move to MACH.

Protect MACH principles with certification criteria

As the composable approach gains popularity, it’s not uncommon for vendors to use MACH terminology in their marketing when, in reality, their solution is a monolith wrapped in an API layer or an on-premise architecture that’s been lifted and shifted to the cloud. MACH Alliance certification helps buyers cut through the noise and find truly composable solutions.

The MACH Alliance has sometimes received criticism for having very strict certification criteria, but the high bar is intended to ensure that their stamp of approval is only given to technologies that offer the full benefits of the core MACH principles and to system integrators with sufficient experience to make MACH projects succeed.

Notably, to account for the rise of legacy vendors that have completely rearchitected products or acquired MACH solutions, the organization recently announced that certification will be expanded to recognize substantial independent offerings within larger vendors.

Encourage collaboration in the industry

For composable architecture to be successful, technologies need to work well together. Along with ensuring that certified technologies are open and flexible, the MACH Alliance provides interoperability standards, showcases joint use cases, and hosts community events to strengthen the partnership between members - and the joint power of their solutions. Helping members develop the experience and the prebuilt integrations to get MACH tech stacks up and running quickly.

For MACH to gain and retain a foothold in the market, the people behind the technologies must also be very open to working together to advocate for a collective, consistent definition of MACH principles and benefits. Members might compete in sales cycles but also collaborate on MACH Alliance councils and other initiatives to drive the movement forward.

#MACH benefits for enterprise business

As seen in the MACH Alliance’s annual research, a range of factors drive companies to transition to a MACH infrastructure.

Drivers behind companies' transitions to MACH infrastructure

While the initial drivers to adoption may vary, some of the key benefits of MACH architecture are:

  • Differentiate with digital: Instead of limiting digital business to the capabilities of a single vendor, a MACH architecture lets you mix and match technologies, services, and frontend channels to drive advanced strategies and unique customer experiences.
  • Future-proof your tech stack: The core technology principles that make it possible to easily connect the functionality of different MACH tools also make it possible to scale, replace, or remove functionality as needed. Tech stacks can continuously evolve as market needs and business priorities change, with no great replatforming effort.
  • Ensure high performance: Built with leading development practices and frameworks, MACH solutions fully leverage the flexibility of microservices, the efficiency of APIs, the scalability of the cloud, and the omnichannel power of headless. This allows businesses to quickly take advantage of modern strategies to deliver highly performant experiences.
  • Increase team productivity: MACH technologies support agile DevOps practices, and the modularity of the architecture allows developers to reuse infrastructure, logic, and data to quickly launch new services, channels, and experiences. The API-first design of MACH tools makes it easy to provide integrated workflows, automation, and user interfaces that let non-technical teams work efficiently.

#Examples of enterprise success with MACH-certified vendors

A major advantage of the MACH approach is that you don’t have to fully replatform your architecture to start seeing the benefits. According to the MACH Alliance annual survey, 83% of organizations implementing MACH-like technologies are seeing evidence of Return on Investment (ROI). At the same time, on average, respondents consider 49% of their infrastructure to be MACH.

Businesses can make fast, substantial improvements by moving key parts of the experience to MACH solutions while gradually removing legacy architecture at their own pace.

Sennheiser moves to composable commerce in 11 weeks

When Sennheiser, the German audio equipment manufacturer, wanted to move their direct-to-consumer eCommerce shops to a unified, headless architecture, they had a few tight constraints. The solution needed to work with their existing Shopify commerce platform; it had to be launched and maintained with minimal internal IT resources, and the flagship store needed to go live in 4 months.

The team decided that custom development would prioritize bespoke frontend features like 3D product discovery and comparison tools. They turned to MACH solutions for content, search, and DevOps management to minimize the need for backend development. With this MACH stack, 90% of the hosting set-up and maintenance was provided out-of-the-box, making it possible to launch the new flagship eCommerce site in just 11 weeks.

This composable, mobile-optimized architecture has now been rolled out to over 25 global markets, handling over 200M API calls monthly. It has led to a 74% increase in add-to-cart functionality and a 136% increase in the eCommerce conversion rate.

MACH Alliance members involved:

Sennheiser's teck stack

Vision Healthcare streamlines omnichannel experience across multiple brands

Vision Healthcare is a digital-first company that connects consumers with a portfolio of health and wellness brands through webshops, mobile, marketplaces, catalogs, and other channels. They decided to move to a composable approach to unify the core architecture across brands while still having the flexibility to adapt each brand’s experience to the market it serves.

With MACH solutions for content, commerce, search, and payments, Vision Healthcare now has multiple brands running on a shared tech stack. A multi-tenant setup allows each brand to tailor content, shops, distribution channels, pricing, and taxes to their market and locals. As well as enable automatic permissions that simplify workflows by only showing people the content and data they need for their role.

In a testament to the flexibility of composable architecture, halfway through the project, Vision Healthcare found that the content management solution (CMS) they originally selected wasn’t working with the new GraphQL-based stack in the way they needed. They were able to seamlessly switch to Hygraph CMS and still launch on time.

MACH Alliance members involved:

Vision Healthcare Architectural Diagram.png

#Hygraph unifies content and data across your composable stack

Composing a tech stack from multiple vendor solutions requires orchestrating the data between them. Some companies do this by building custom middleware, but maintaining that middleware can be complex and time-consuming. According to a survey of 400 technology leaders, 88% of organizations find that managing integrations and middleware is an innovation bottleneck.

Hygraph is a headless CMS and a certified MACH vendor that offers a novel way of connecting content and data across the tech stack. Hygraph’s GraphQL-native CMS makes it possible to fetch data from multiple remote sources with a single API call, taking advantage of GraphQL’s efficient data querying, making it easier than ever for enterprises to successfully make the move from monolith to MACH.

On June 17 and 18, Hygraph will attend the MACH THREE conference in New York City. We look forward to connecting with partners and customers and exchanging knowledge with industry experts. If you want to meet us at the event, contact us.

Blog Author

Katie Lawson

Katie Lawson

Content Writer

Katie is a freelance writer based in Amsterdam who talks a lot about B2B SaaS and MACH technologies. She’s always looking for good book recommendations.

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