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Composable Architecture: How to Master Modularity in 2024

August 21, 2023

Mieke Houbrechts

Composable architecture is the new kid on the block in software development. Learn how your SaaS product team can use it and go to market faster.

The future of business is composable. According to Gartner, more and more businesses build their organization with modularity. Everything can be swapped, from product offerings that are no longer relevant to technologies that no longer fit your stack.

But what does composability mean for SaaS products? In this article, you’ll learn what composable architecture is, and how this approach can help you scale your SaaS business quicker.

What is composable architecture?

Composable architecture is new approach to software design. In this approach, developers are stringing together small, self-contained software units to build complex products and digital experiences. 

Imagine composable architecture like Lego blocks for developers. You can re-use the same pieces to build new solutions, which makes it much easier to roll out new features or products, and seize market share quickly.

It’s not to be mistaken with The Composable Architecture (TCA), which is a well-known example of this approach, developed by Point-free. TCA is a framework for Swift - a programming language for for Apple app development (iOS) - and comes with a library of tools to build modular, testable applications.

In this article, however, we will focus on composable architecture as a wider software development movement.

The principles of composable architecture - MACH

For many modern-day software builders, the traditional approach to development no longer works. A monolithic architecture with everything in one single codebase is difficult to maintain. One part of the codebase needs to be updated, you run into dependency after dependency, and in the end, you’re updating the entire application just for one simple change.

MACH is a group of principles and technologies to modernize the architecture of enterprise apps. It fits perfectly with the idea of composable architecture. MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless. Let’s have a look at each of these principles, and what they mean.

The principles of composable architecture (MACH)

Microservices

Microservices are small, independent services you can couple together to build software applications. Each represents one business capability, whether it’s authentication, search, recommendations, or analytics. You can develop, deploy and scale each little piece independently.

In short, developers have way more flexibility to change or scale certain parts of their application, without affecting other parts.

API-first

In API-first applications, the Application Programming Interface (API) is designed before the actual software and user interface. This also means that the API can often do more than the user interface. New features are added and documented with the API first, followed only later in the user interface.

By prioritizing the API, it will become easier to build a consistent user experience, because it’s clearly defined how certain software components work together.

Cloud-native SaaS

Cloud-native is a way to build and run responsive and scalable apps anywhere, whether it’s in public, private, or hybrid clouds. An app is "cloud native" if it is built from the ground up to exist in cloud environments. Cloud-native apps are more scalable, flexible, and easily manageable with automatic updates.

Headless

If your architecture is “headless”, it means the frontend is decoupled from any backend logic. So, no matter which programming language or framework is used, the way certain things are presented in the front-end can vary across devices or use cases. 

Benefits of composable architecture

Organizations who are building their apps with modular building blocks have saved countless hours of time on development and maintenance.

From a technical point of view, using a composable architecture has many advantages for engineering teams.

  • Adaptability. Developers have more flexibility when making changes, because you can replace or modify specific modules without changing your entire system.
  • Scalability. You can grow your application by linking small building blocks together, rather than creating one super complex structure.
  • Smoother testing. Writing tests for individual components is easier and faster than for large codebases, and so is the debugging process. State management becomes easier because each component has its own local state.
  • Faster development. Developers have access to reusable components, saving them days or even weeks of development time along the process.

Besides more efficient workflows for engineering, your go-to-market teams will also reap the benefits of a composable software architecture.

  • Faster time-to-market. With reusable components, developers can deliver on new features quicker, and produce more features in less time. 
  • Better user experience. Developers can create custom UIs for web, mobile, etc., but linked to the same backend - which leads to tailored but consistent customer experiences.

Challenges of composable architecture

Although composability has many advantages, it comes with some challenging side effects as well. If you’re considering a modular approach to building apps, here are the most common pitfalls to watch out for.

  • Complexity. Although it’s easier to maintain a small component on its own, having to deploy, monitor and manage a large number of components separately can also be complex.
  • Integrations. Making sure that you ecosystem of components integrate natively and communicate with each other can be a challenge. When neglected, it can worsen your user experience.
  • Learning curve. It can take time to learn the ins and outs of new technologies and tools you need to build out specific components.

5 software tools to add to your composable tech stack

With a composable architecture, it becomes easier to add new functionalities that aren’t necessarily core to your platform. However, these add-on functions can be a huge value-add for your customers, leading to higher satisfaction, more expansion revenue and a higher LTV.

Especially with powerful low-code software that exists today, you can simply plug in new building blocks in days, instead of months. Below, you’ll find 5 examples that fit perfectly into a composable stack.

Auth0 - for authentication

Auth0 is a drop-in solution for authentication and authorization for web apps. You can manage social logins, single sign-on, multi-factor authentication and more, all from a central dashboard. It integrates seamlessly with your existing stack, allowing your DevOps team to maintain security best practices without building a custom solution.

Auth0 as composable building block for authentication
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Luzmo - for dashboards

Luzmo is an embedded analytics platform that adds reporting capabilities for end-users to any SaaS product. Build interactive dashboards with simple drag and drop, and integrate them seamlessly as a component in any web app or SaaS platform. You can even embed a full BI interface, so that customers can mine insights according to their specific needs.

Luzmo as composable building block for dashboards
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Content stack - for content management

Contentstack is a headless CMS, which fits perfectly with the idea of composable architecture. Contentstack takes care of content creation, storage, and delivery via API. But how you present that content is completely up to you and your development team! Use any front-end technology you like to integrate content where and how you want. 

Contentstack as a composable building block for content management
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Algolia - for search

Algolia is a cloud-based tool for adding search functions to websites and SaaS applications, without having to build it from scratch. It’s a modular component that integrates seamlessly into any tech stack, and scales independently as you need more (or less) search functionality.

Algolia as a composable building block for searcj
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Twilio - for communication

Twilio lets you add communication capabilities directly into any software application without building them from the ground up. Whether you need a chatbot, or send 2FA passcodes, or notifications via SMS and other channels, Twilio takes care of your communication across the entire customer journey. And it comes with plenty of automation options too.

Twilio as a composable building block for communication
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Getting started with composable architecture

SaaS builders who are using a composable architecture are speeding up their product development drastically. Instead of spending months on developing an add-on, they go live with new features in days by using plug-and-play building blocks.

If you’re looking to add interactive analytics in record time, look no further than Luzmo. Get in touch with our product experts to see how our composable analytics can fit your tech stack. Or even better - put it straight to the test with our free 10-day trial!

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