This post is part of our guest blog series and was written by our GraphQL native Headless CMS partner, GraphCMS, who specialise in building digital experiences with all the backends, frontends, and services, working together in harmony.
What are modular tech stacks?
Modular tech stacks consist of best-of-breed services that are connected via their APIs. These services are fine-tuned to expertly present a solution to a small part of the broader tech stack, such as content management or personalisation.
Teams can choose from the vast expanse of microservices to build their modular tech stack and have the opportunity to use cutting-edge, proven technology to build out their stack. With each system being responsible for only a small portion of functionality, teams can get the feeling of working with a completely custom tech stack, without the necessary time investment of building and maintenance of one.
Modular tech stacks differ from traditional monolith tech stacks in a couple of ways. The latter ones offer a suite of functionality out of the box from a single provider. Sometimes teams can add on more functionality if the provider has created a solution or integration for the necessary functionality. With modular tech stacks, teams can choose the breed service that best fits their use case and connect them via API. There are not the same limitations of having to make an out of the box solution work for you. Instead, teams can choose which solutions work for them, considering features like team size and regions, workflows, and price.
Monolith tech stacks often provide a wide range of services or solutions that may not apply to every use case. With modular ones, you can only choose the services that are relevant to your use case, cutting down on costs and keeping the systems more lightweight. They also help keep teams agile and flexible to changing circumstances over time.
Each use case has its requirements for services that must be included in the stack. There are, however, many overlaps into what systems are required to build a performant tech stack and what services are essential parts of building modern web experiences.
The benefits of modular tech stacks
Here we break down a few of the most important benefits and how they can help your team.
1. Vendor Agnostic
With a modular tech stack, teams are no longer tied to a single technology provider. This allows them to choose specialised systems that are working towards building a single product that best meets the needs of their users; rather than developing broader solutions. It also gives them the opportunity to work with technologies that they are passionate about and that best suit their needs.
2. Customisable Size and Weight of Technologies
Another great benefit is that teams can select the systems required to satisfy their core needs, such as a content management system (CMS) or digital asset manager (DAMs), and then evaluate the best auxiliary services, such as personalisation tools and analytics. After teams choose their core systems, they can better evaluate how much time and investment they want to place in each additional one. This gives them more flexibility to place a higher investment in the core services and can also design a system that has a custom feel, without the investment needed to build one.
3. Cost-Effective Solutions
Because you don’t have the hefty price tag of a monolith suite at the core of your tech stack, teams can choose a mixture of commercial and open source solutions that will enable a highly functional system without breaking the bank. They can also prioritise their core systems or splurge on best-of-breed services that meet the needs of their specific use case.
4. Flexible systems
With modular tech stacks, teams remove vendor lock-in. If their needs or expectations change, they can easily adapt by adding or removing microservices, making it easy to scale with their infrastructure. Content federation and feeding data between APIs reduce the time needed to migrate data from one system to another.
Why do modular tech stacks make teams more flexible
The benefits of modular tech stacks also show just some of the ways that they enable teams to be more flexible in both the short term and how the tech stack can become a reliable partner as the team continues to scale.
Make experimentation easy
With a modular tech stack, teams can experiment with various workflows, tooling, and approaches easily. As hard as we may try, we never account for all of the unknowns in the first iteration of a project or those needs may change as a project grows and matures. Modular tech stacks remove vendor lock-in and make it easy for teams to adapt their stack to new experiments. They also enable them to maintain an agile approach to content and user engagement without the toolstack being in the way.
Accommodate growing teams
As teams grow, the tools that were reliable in the early phases of the project may be too limited for larger team sizes. Some actions that were left to bots in the early days may be taken over by people to provide a more personal touch. Because the systems in a modular stack are connected via API or fed into a content API via content federation, it is easy to adapt to potential changes. Whether it be choosing services and tools that scale with you or choosing the more luxurious tools as your budget grows, modular tech stacks make it possible to accommodate a growing team without a second thought.
Utilise proven, cutting-edge technology
In web development, there are always new tools to try. Sometimes these tools lead to wide community adoption and they become industry standard and in other cases, they are a fad that quickly becomes obscure. Modular tech stacks enable development teams to take risks on newer technologies and if those risks don’t pay off, choose a new solution with minimal interruption.
Enable teams to build workflows that work for them
Teams have the ability to choose the tooling that matches their needs and use cases, instead of using predefined workflows that are present in a software suite. Want to test out a new channel with A/B testing and personalisation? No problem, there are plenty of tools that can help create this workflow and allow your team to reuse content by pulling it from the existing APIs.
Modular tech stacks accommodate changes in the team and enable them to maintain an agile mindset. With workflows that are customised to their use case and a lack of vendor lock-in, teams can toe the line between using technology that suits them in the present and planning for the future without a lot of hassle with the migration process. API driven architectures allow teams to work efficiently and make use of existing solutions to development challenges.