Blogs
J. Todd Bennett
Vice President of Marketing

Demystifying DXP and MACH Architecture

Mar 14, 2022
By: J. Todd Bennett

According to Gartner, CEOs nowadays want three things, “growth, digitalization, and efficiency.” For CTOs and IT leaders tasked with bringing that vision to life, turning to the underlying architecture powering the tech stack is usually the first port of call. 

As more and more companies consider ridding themselves of monolithic and legacy platforms that hinder their ability to deliver value for customers, digital experience platforms and MACH architecture are being increasingly discussed in all corners of enterprise businesses.

These modern architectural approaches to building technology stacks have recently been on several companies’ radars. However, there may still be some questions about what they are, how the two fit together, and whether or not they can co-exist. To help answer those questions, in this article, we’ll explain what each approach is and shed some light on what tech leaders should be looking for when deciding on a platform to help them capitalize on each approach. 

What Is a DXP?

Digital experience platforms (DXP) support organizations in composing, managing, and optimizing digital experiences. A DXP is simply the next stage of content management software, evolving from the web CMS and building on the foundations set by headless CMS platforms. DXPs are built to manage the multichannel world we live in and provide an integrated set of tools to help marketers, developers, and others throughout the organization orchestrate better digital experiences. 

There are two categories of DXPs, monolithic DXPs and composable DXPs, and the differences between them are crucial for understanding how DXPs and MACH can co-exist. 

Monolithic DXPs are suite tools that offer various tools as a complete package. These different services are all managed by a single vendor, which often leads to increased complexity and difficulty integrating with tools outside of the suite. 

Composable DXPs, on the other hand, are digital experience platforms that are built from a set of easily integrated best-of-breed tools. Composable DXPs provide more flexibility and customizability than monolithic DXPs since they follow a modular architecture. With this approach, various tools can be combined using APIs, allowing them to work together to create digital experiences. 

Read More: What Is a Composable DXP?

What Is MACH?

So, we’ve touched on DXPs, but what is MACH all about? 

MACH architecture is a set of principles that center around the ethos of composability, and the acronym stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. 

Let’s break these down a bit further.

Microservices

Microservices are individual pieces of business services developed, deployed, and managed independently. Unlike monoliths that view software as a large unified block of code, microservices break software applications down into smaller modular services. 

API-first 

Software application functionality is exposed using APIs. This allows these systems to integrate with other best-of-breed tools to build a flexible tech stack. 

Cloud-native

Applications are deployed to the cloud as SaaS products that use the cloud for storage and hosting and provide elastic scaling and automatic updates, which leads to more innovation and better economies of scale. 

Headless

Content management in the backend is decoupled from the front-end delivery or presentation later using headless technology. With the headless approach, omnichannel content delivery becomes a reality, and developers can choose any framework they need. 

How MACH & DXPs Can Co-exist

The principles on which MACH is built– microservices, API-first, cloud, and headless– are precisely the same principles of composability adopted by composable DXPs. By breaking down the monolithic DXPs into smaller modular pieces, organizations can build a composable DXP by selecting any best-of-breed tool they desire. 

Once that’s done, they can use the cloud-hosted headless CMS as the center of the DXP to deliver content to any channel using an API-first approach. These APIs also enable the composable DXP to integrate with additional software tools as necessary, including platforms for eCommerce, analytics, digital asset management, and more. 

Platforms that abide by MACH principles and composable DXPs have many of the same benefits.

Flexibility

Adaptability is a necessity in our modern world for businesses in every industry. A composable DXP built using MACH principles provides flexibility to respond to changes in the market faster and without placing restrictions on those using the platform. 

Faster Speed to Market

By leveraging the agile architecture of a composable DXP, businesses can release new products and campaigns to market faster. Companies can build and launch MVPs faster and get feedback from their customers. 

Best-of-Breed Tool Selection

Businesses can choose from any of the top tools on the market rather than relying on subpar features that might come with a monolithic DXP. This allows them to stay competitive and remain flexible. 

Future-proof Architecture

As new tools and technologies are released, companies using legacy architectures will continue to wonder if it’s time to re-platform or make another purchase. Building using MACH and composability means not having to re-platform as the architecture is future-proof, removing the need for cumbersome upgrades and connecting seamlessly with the latest software. 

Omnichannel Content Delivery

Customers are consuming content in several ways, from their desktops and laptops to tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, smart speakers, and other IoT-connected devices. The headless capabilities of a composable DXP that leverages MACH means that delivering content to these channels is easily done, allowing for omnichannel experiences that customers enjoy. 

Why DXPs Aren’t Always MACH

While composable DXPs can be considered to have MACH architecture, the same can’t be said of monolithic DXPs. These platforms follow the principles of legacy architecture, and while they may offer APIs, cloud-based infrastructure, and headless capabilities, they are still based on monolithic principles. As a result, the underlying architecture can’t be considered MACH.

For example, one of the primary suite platforms in the headless and DXP space, Sitecore, as well as other suite solutions, have been championing their approach to composability and MACH. For enterprises wondering if this is feasible, the reality is at this stage, monolithic legacy systems claiming to be MACH are simply MACH from a marketing standpoint. Architecturally, these all-in-one suites haven’t changed much, continuing to offer numerous tools in an out-of-the-box set up and are likely a few years away from truly being considered MACH or composable. 

A true composable DXP that embraces MACH is built using a headless CMS foundation that doesn’t lock businesses into one vendor. Thus allowing them the flexibility and freedom to select the additional pieces of their DXP as they see fit. 

It’s Time to Go MACH+

MACH architecture can co-exist with a composable DXP as both follow similar principles. Yet this architectural approach isn’t the only thing that modern enterprises need. Marketing teams need the freedom to not have to rely on developers when trying to create and edit content. 

Unfortunately, many headless platforms only offer support for developers, with limited capabilities for non-technical users. While these platforms enable MACH and composability, they restrict marketing teams and increase the total cost of ownership as companies need a larger team of developers to help build digital experiences. But there is much more!

dotCMS: MACH+ Unifies Everything

The principles of MACH and composable DXPs promote organizational agility and efficiency. dotCMS takes these principles a step further with what we call MACH+. Let’s take a look at how dotCMS fits into a MACH architecture PLUS the additional benefits it brings to a digital enterprise. 

Where does dotCMS stand in a MACH world? 

Microservices
dotCMS operates seamlessly in a microservices-oriented architecture with no restrictions. We go where you want to go with your composable platform.

API-first
dotCMS has been an API-first, decoupled CMS since its inception. It is standardized on REST and GraphQL, offering a Scripting API to build custom endpoints and a built-in Playground for GraphQL. We make it easy for developers to innovate in the front-end framework of their choice. The dotCMS APIs and API tooling empower the composable DXP.  

Cloud-First
dotCMS is architected and engineered for cloud stacks. Period. dotCMS is cloud-stack agnostic and fully containerized to power your digital experience platform on any cloud-stack. No drama. 

Headless
dotCMS was headless before some of you were born. Being a decoupled and API-first platform, dotCMS offers developers the agility needed in a MACH architecture, but with a twist. dotCMS was also built for traditional visual content authoring from its inception, making it a true hybrid by design. 

MACH+

dotCMS brings the agile benefits of MACH, PLUS

Visual Editor Capabilities
Driving engaging brand experiences is front and center. Marketers don’t need to struggle to create content for numerous channels and can instead leverage a drag and drop experience builder with inline editing and preview mode for the ultimate user-friendly experience. On the technical side, developers can have the freedom to choose the front-end frameworks most appropriate for the job at hand. 

Extensibility
Integrations are great, but what if you want to extend the core software? Most headless products are pure SaaS-players and put restrictions on what you can do on top of the core software. APIs can only go so far. dotCMS has a plugin architecture framework that enables developers to extend the core software and support the business-critical use cases of their digital teams. 

Personalization & Content Targeting
Beyond simple page-level personalization, dotCMS embraces granular personalization that enables unlimited content variations for different audiences. Personalization can be further enhanced with external data provided by your marketing automation, commerce, digital asset management and customer relationship management systems. 

Flexible Cloud Options
dotCMS offers the flexibility to run dotCMS Cloud on the cloud-stack controlled by your in-house DevOps team for enterprises who require it, whether by corporate design or industry-specific regulations. 

Performance and Security
Hyper-personalized digital experiences require a scalable and secure foundation. dotCMS Cloud comes with a global content delivery network (CDN) for lightning-fast performance, anywhere. In addition the included web application firewall (WAF) ticks all the security boxes. For added peace of mind, dotCMS Cloud is SOC 2 Type II compliant, maintaining effective controls over security, availability, and confidentiality.

If you’re looking to embrace MACH and composability, but also give your business more than just a solid architecture, a MACH+ hybrid platform like dotCMS is your future-proof foundation. 

Discover more about how dotCMS provides the foundation for MACH + and composability: Headless dotCMS: The New Standard for a Modern CMS.

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