Headless vs. Monolith in B2C/B2B eCommerce, Performance and Innovations

In many industry reviews, you've come across the claim that headless ecommerce platforms are faster than monolithic systems. In this post, we will explain why, using simple visuals.

We argue that an ecommerce portal’s performance over a period of time is determined by the development of new technologies and the possibility of their implementation into the platform. In other words, how often new technologies are implemented into the platform is the rate of changes, modifications and updates.

As an allegory, one can think of a monolithic system as a military convoy of ships whose overall speed is determined by the speed of a slowest ship (let’s say, moving with 1X speed). Even if you add the most modern fast ships into the escort, the convoy will still arrive at its destination with speed the biggest and slowest ship.

Allegory of headless vs. monolith improvement rate

Allegory of headless (1-10X) vs. monolith (1X) improvement rate

Also, as an allegory, headless can be thought of as a civilian shipping line, on which different types of ships move independently at their maximum speed; fast ships (aka apps) for the front end (10X speed), slower for the middle layer apps (3-5X speed) and very slow (1X) for the back end. And since the vessels do not depend on each other, the shipping company can engage a new vessel at any time and put it on the line to increase the speed and volume of the traffic.

Delivery rate of new functionality and improvements

Delivery rate of new functionality and improvements

So, the headless architecture allows to implement separate updates of technologies at any part of the ecommerce platform (front end, back end, middleware) independently and can therefore respond quickly to new technological trends.

In contrast, when new technologies arise for the monolithic system, this system must be changed almost entirely or needs a complex and time-consuming redevelopment.

What else affects the performance of the ecommerce portal in conjunction with the pace of updates? This is the ability to scale the resources for different parts of the platform, or scalability, in other words. Suppose there are not enough resources for some operations on the ecommerce platform. In that case, the ability to easily add software instances and server resources provides a significant gain in productivity and flexibility.

For a monolith, implementing scalability and load balancing are difficult and complicated tasks and sometimes require taking the system off-line for an update. For a headless ecommerce platform, you can add software instances, server power into the desired layer as much as needed without fear of a system disruption.

Besides, with the headless architecture, the load can be distributed across the platform (marked on the diagram with the load meter) — mostly to the fast front end, by unloading the middleware and especially the back end. This functionality is linked to business expectations and deliver product data faster to the end user.

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Conclusion

The possibility of multi-speed updates and scalability make headless architecture a promising trend for commerce. The technology update rate is not uniform, faster on the front end. This Lego-like style of system architecture provides fast implementation of new business ideas to drive profitable ecommerce.

We, at Virto Commerce are ready to provide you with professional consultation and migration from a monolith to a headless ecommerce platform and any other updates.

Book a quick one-to-one call with one of our experts to learn more about Virto Commerce Headless ecommerce platform.

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Oleg Zhuk
Technical Product Owner