Blogs
J. Todd Bennett
Vice President of Marketing

MACH Plus: Demystifying DXP and MACH Architecture

Jun 28, 2022
By: J. Todd Bennett

As more and more companies consider ridding themselves of monolithic and legacy platforms, they are looking towards modern approaches. According to Gartner, “[enterprises] are accelerating IT investments as they recognize the importance of flexibility and agility in responding to disruption.” However, while microservices, APIs, cloud-native software and headless are key building blocks for a modern tech stack and embracing agility, they aren’t the only things a business needs. So the question is, are you making the right investments?

Enterprise companies on the lookout for the right foundation for their tech stacks will undoubtedly have heard about DXPs and MACH architecture by now. A move away from enterprise suites towards future-proof technology that enables organizations to be both agile and nimble. 

However, there may still be some questions about what they are, how the two fit together, and whether or not they can co-exist. Not to mention, businesses looking to handle their content management needs may need to look beyond MACH as it could leave them still struggling with developer-dependency and other issues that cost them dearly. Instead, a hybrid CMS that blends traditional ease-of-use with headless ingenuity is necessary. 

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. 

Read More: What is MACH Alliance?

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. 

Where Pure Headless and MACH Fall Short

Headless CMSs are the standard bearers for the modern digital experience. By decoupling the frontend from the backend, these platforms can connect to more than just a website. With the rise of IoT-connected devices and a growing need for content delivery across multiple devices to support omnichannel experiences, a headless CMS is more crucial than ever. 

Platforms built on MACH architecture have the flexibility and agility to connect to these multiple channels, providing the best-of-breed support that enables connections with additional software tools as well. However, while these platforms provide everything that developers need they are lacking in support for other departments within the modern enterprise, which can consequently have negative impacts on the business in the long-term. Here’s how pure headless platforms and the MACH approach falls short. 

Closed Source, Closed Ecosystem

Take a look at the vendors pushing MACH as the answer to enterprise problems. None are open source, and none offer an extendable, plugin-driven ecosystem. Instead, they offer a lightweight microservice, which you, the enterprise, must build on top of and customize—which will be difficult if you’re dealing with a closed source vendor. 

No Frontend, No Fun

On top of having to choose from a list of closed sources, MACH CMS, you’ll also need to navigate around the fact that frontend delivery tiers aren’t part of the package. In some cases, you’re getting APIs, and not a lot else. 

In some ways, having the flexibility to build whatever frontend you want is precisely what an enterprise craves. But shouldn’t that flexibility be an option, rather than an obligation? After all, being forced to build frontend experiences in-house comes with its own risks, mainly in the form of developer over-dependency. 

Developer Dependency is Pricey, in More Ways than One

Most headless CMS platforms were built with developers in mind. 

The flexibility to connect to different channels benefits the user experience, but it doesn’t make it easy to create as frontends need to be built from scratch. When adopting a pure headless CMS, enterprises have to rely on a developer team to build totally bespoke delivery layers, integrations, and additional functionality. 

While MACH technology removes the price tag of a traditional, monolithic, suite CMS like Sitecore or Adobe AEM, those same fees may return in the form of a large development team that now needs to build and maintain an entire ecosystem from scratch, without the benefits of open source technology or a plugin architecture.

To make matters worse, if your developers move on, you’re left with a fairly bespoke code base, which perhaps makes use of new, cutting-edge frameworks which may be difficult to hire for. So not only was it costly to build and run, it will cost more money and a lot more time to hire developers who have the skills to continue where their predecessors left off.

Talk about raising your total cost of ownership in more ways than one. 

A False Start: MACH Is a Great Starting Point With a Variety of Flaws

MACH-focused technology is great for stepping into the future but it doesn’t solve everything a business needs. By definition, MACH vendors are designing products that act as microservices within a broader ecosystem. 

So once you go MACH, you’re going to need a strategy, a budget, and a lot of time to select all the right microservices to build the digital experience platform you had in mind at the very start of your MACH journey.  

Furthermore, CMS platforms are primarily used by marketers and less-technical personnel. With the headless CMS, developers were given the flexibility to do more when it comes to front end experiences, but they aren’t the ones creating, editing and managing content for your audience. Plus, with most MACH CMS vendors, those content authors have little autonomy to design, preview, and edit content without depending on their IT teams. 

MACH-based systems provide a great technical foundation for the business, helping many traditional organizations digitally transform and embrace future technologies, but without support for content authors, these systems will still be lacking. That’s why enterprises should look beyond MACH. 

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+: MACH Without the Downsides

dotCMS brings the agile benefits of MACH, PLUS…

Hybrid Content Management

MACH allows you to manage content through APIs, but with dotCMS you get the tools you need to manage even more. Your team can manage layouts, templating and routes for an SPA. In fact, dotCMS comes with: a visual editor (Edit Mode Anywhere), personalization engine, workflow and approvals management, multilingual and localization features, a built-in CDN, DAM and image processing and plugin architecture.

With these tools and functions out-of-the-box, you can go headless yet manage all of the components of the page, wherever those components will be delivered. With dotCMS’ lightweight digital asset management you can manage all of your digital assets, build personalized experiences and deliver component or block-based content such as a portion of the experience on your eCommerce website. 

Marketing Flexibility & Visual Editor Capabilities

Driving engaging brand experiences is front and center. Marketers need to have the right tools at their disposal to avoid having to call on developers anytime something needs to get done. They need access to page templates, the ability to create content types, create content approval and publishing workflows and reorder navigational elements and achieve a fast time to market. 

With dotCMS, marketers can 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. 

Content Orchestration

Digital experiences aren’t only meant to be created, they need to be orchestrated as well. This means having a single unified editor interface that enables enterprises to remain agile. Whether using a headless component or not, marketers need the flexibility to preview, make changes to templates, use drag and drop tools and personalize content experiences, regardless of the type of content application. 

dotCMS can act as a content repository and delivery tier. With headless implementations it can be difficult to know where to deliver experiences, dotCMS can solve this challenge and more. It also acts as an integration point, you only need to choose the option you need. You can add single sign on (SSO) and other security measures to give permissions to specific content assets and more. 

Known Costs

dotCMS doesn’t charge per content object, per content type, per asset, per API call, site or space. A dotCMS cloud installation can manage and deliver hundreds of content objects, sites, or assets.This is achievable since dotCMS is built to scale and helps you avoid the unknown costs.

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 Cloud uses AWS to provide the many supporting services, but dotCMS can be deployed on any cloud whether Azure, Google Cloud or any other cloud your enterprise needs. 

You have 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.

Future-Proof Freedom

There is no need to roll out the development and operations team when a new digital initiative is requested. Marketers and other less-technical users can get up to speed quickly, enterprises achieve a faster time to market and launch new initiatives and campaigns without depending on developers. 

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. Ready to embrace MACH+ and benefit your marketers as well as your developers? Discover more about dotCMS by reading: The Ultimate Checklist for Choosing a Headless CMS.

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Did the pandemic expose your company's outdated technology? When brick and mortar closed and the world went online, some companies were able to adapt quickly while others found themselves frozen in time. Many are still struggling because of monolithic legacy systems that are: -difficult to integrate -expensive to maintain -reliant on IT staff -unable to deliver modern customer experiences Join us and our partner Content Bloom for a webinar where we explore modern approaches to accelerate your digital strategy and enable your organization to adapt in the face of the next seismic shift.

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