What is MACH architecture?
According to the MACH alliance, MACH is an industry tech standard for modernising technology. It stands for:
Is MACH architecture a buzzword?
Yep. MACH is everywhere, but its principles have been the driving force behind the biggest innovators in technology in digital for some time.
Here's why MACH principles are nothing new.
The idea behind Microservices is said to have started in 2005 when Peter Rodgers first coined the idea Micro-Web-Services. Peters's statement sparked a new way of looking at the traditional software development model, encouraging others to strive for better flexibility and simplicity in architecture.
Fast-forward to today, everything we use to build software, from code to development practices or tools, is based on the idea of Microservices. Just look at DevOps; this is now a widely-regarding "best practice" in the development industry, which involves the modularisation of specific tasks, resulting in better business agility and quicker time-to-market.
The Microservices Architecture Market shows no sign of slowing down. A recent survey forecasts the market will touch USD 21.67 billion by 2030!
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have been around for almost as long as computer programming. Since the beginning, they have enabled organisations to facilitate communication between two (or more) pieces of software.
Salesforce, eBay and Amazon were among the first that saw APIs as an opportunity to expand their reach (and profit margins).
Since 2000 we've come a long way, and APIs are essential to a business technology stack and internal software development process.
Today, the most innovative enterprises, like Amazon, use API-first principles to accelerate growth in their industry and remain as agile as possible, ready for the next shift in consumer behaviour.
Adopting an API-first strategy is helping businesses in all industries, from start-ups to Financial Services, modernise their technology to offer richer, more personalised experiences.
Many technical buzzwords we hear today have been around since the 90s, and "cloud-based" is no exception.
The first major company to jump on the cloud
bandwagon was salesforce in 2008, with the launch of their customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Thanks to the cloud-based hosting platform, Azure' Airbnb was able to scale down its usage rapidly, which is not something it could have done if it had been "running its own gear"' (Datanami.com, 2022)
In 2023, 90% of large enterprises have adopted a multi-cloud infrastructure; the reasons to move to the cloud are hard to ignore.
Headless may feel like a relatively new entry to the market, but it is not.
The concept of headless architecture was first proposed by Roy Fielding in 2000 in his dissertation on Representational State Transfer (REST).
Headless is now a thriving marketplace, often marketed as a CMS type, such as a "headless CMS".
Whilst many CMSs are built explicitly to be headless, it is essential to note that a headless approach can be, and has been for a long time, possible with many CMS types.
In the ecommerce world, major corporations like Nike favour a headless approach to offer personalised experiences optimised for selling to the DTC (Direct to Customer) market. Of course, being headless is by no means the only way to provide a personalised experience.
Nevertheless, the growing trend of adopting the DTC approach drives customers online. Less time in-store and more online requires a digital-first mindset and a strong online presence for brands, says Bernard Marr, Forbes, 2022.
Learn more about the history of digital transformation trends.
There is a focus on architecture in 2023.
By now, we've established that MACH principles are nothing new!
Worldwide, we are more concerned about architecture now as businesses than ever, and the anagram MACH is the perfect way to illustrate that.
In 2023, we are asking Google more questions about MACH-based principles. The second MACH principle, "API-first", has become increasingly popular in the past five years.
Data source: Google Trends
The interest surrounding words like "API-first" ripples to other API development topics, like .NET core, ASP.NET and modern technology frameworks like Vue.js.
Why do these statistics matter?
Technology options have burst open for enterprise businesses used to playing it safe from the comfort of their proprietary systems.
The popularity of modern front-end frameworks like Vue.js and React.js, and others have surged (as illustrated above) as they can offer the personalised and rich experiences that some businesses need to stay afloat and thrive in today's market.
MACH architecture is composable architecture!
MACH principles and composable technology mean very similar things.
There are many definitions of composable on the internet. We like this one from Gartner's keynote a couple of years back; "Composable [...] means creating an organisation made from interchangeable building blocks".
Technically speaking, being "composable" means owning swappable architecture that allows digital solutions to adapt quickly as time changes.
MACH architecture principles (remember, Microservices, API-first, Cloud-based and Headless) are all composable elements that are pluggable, scalable and replaceable.
So, if "the future of business is composable", as Gartner predicts (Gartner, 2020), then the future of business is likely to be MACH architecture too.
The MACH alliance: the movement.
The good news is that a not-for-profit alliance is dedicated to making flexible and swappable technology a priority.
The MACH alliance say they are on a 'mission to future-proof enterprise technology and to propel current and future digital experiences with open and connected enterprise tech'.
Groups like the MACH alliance aim to move organisations to an intelligent (and fairer) way of building technology solutions, encouraging traditional enterprise organisations to start by making small changes, such as a monolithic way of working to a microservices approach, for example.
MACH architecture at a glance.
MACH architecture is not a single "thing" available to purchase. It can be a gradual introduction of swappable technology or a full-scale re-platforming project containing nothing but composable elements.
How and when leaders adopt these principles depends on the business budget and timeframe, but each introduction will help online businesses move with true agility and pace.
Below is an example of an ecommerce site that has achieved a full "MACH" stack based on Microservices, APIs, Cloud Native services and headless technology.
Each label in the diagram makes up a single composable element that can be easily updated and independently managed when the business needs to.
In the real world, the above diagram might translate as the following:
- The Content (CMS) might be an open-source, user-friendly CMS that works in headless mode.
- The "Search" might be a powerful cloud-based search that uses AI to deliver personalised experiences such as Elasticsearch or Azure Cognitive Search.
Now that moving away from monolithic infrastructure has been shown to offer more business agility, resulting in a competitive edge in the marketplace, the term "MACH" and the idea of flexible infrastructure will only gain more traction in the industry.
The bottom line is it's essential to understand the benefits of MACH architecture and explore options on how your industry can incrementally or fully introduce MACH architecture principles into your business.