Home Virto Commerce blog MACH Architecture: A Comprehensive Guide with Examples & Comparisons

MACH Architecture: A Comprehensive Guide with Examples & Comparisons

Jul 26, 2023 • 4 min

Since the mid-2010s, many organizations have migrated or are in the process of migrating from legacy and monolithic enterprise software to the MACH architecture as part of their digital transformation strategies.

Why is this happening? Customers are becoming increasingly digitally savvy, and to keep up with their expectations, organizations must be equally savvy, agile, and technically ready for any challenge that comes their way.

In this article, we will break down the key components of MACH architecture, as well as its strengths and weaknesses compared to monolithic software and other technology approaches, and show how it works, using Virto Commerce as an example.

Key Components of MACH Architecture

Let’s start with a short explanation of how MACH architecture can be understood. Here are four key components of MACH: 

  • Microservices 
  • API-first approach 
  • Cloud-native 
  • Headless CMS 

Microservices: keeping it simple

Thinking about microservices, you can imagine a set of separate small features ready to be used independently. Basically, this is true. Good examples are user service providing profiles and credentials support, product catalog service managing inventory of products, and more. This is the way to break the big task (or capability) into the smaller ones. 

The issue is that many microservice providers come up with an idea to atomize these big tasks. More and more users request smaller capabilities to connect to their solutions. It results in graining the solution into dozens and hundreds of small, hardly relatable capabilities. 

Even though microservices provide unparalleled flexibility compared to monolith solutions, they make the architecture of ecommerce more and more complex. The growing complexity requires more control and development/maintenance forces, potentially leading to the expense's growth.

Imagine playing with a LEGO toy. Usually, it is one single toy that is easy to play. If the toy, assembled once, cannot be disassembled into pieces, this is a monolith.

The capability to assemble your own toy is much better: you can build whatever you want, and different pieces allow for more flexibility in building your unique design. These are the modules that help you grow.

However, some toys are assembled of thousands of little pieces. When there are too many parts, you will need help assembling and managing them. That's what we mean by "complexity."

Guess what? More pieces require more money and effort to manage. So here comes the moment when you need to simplify everything to ensure everything works right.

For example, the Virto Commerce team has built a brand-new approach to microservices and modularity called Virto Atomic Architecture™. It collects core capabilities required by the customer and sticks them together into molecules and cells, creating convenient modules, easily manageable and transparent in the solution’s architecture.

Virto commerce atomic modular architecture

Virto Atomic Architecture Explanation

API-first approach: building your perfect ecommerce ecosystem

This one is a really good point of the MACH approach! No modern solution can exist without connecting to other systems and capabilities (including microservices!). Purchasing an OOTB solution offering "everything and anything" is insufficient. The world changes drastically, and every day might become a day when you need something new, but the “traditional” solution keeps you from making it possible.  

APIs allow you to connect to any third-party solution or system (most of them support working via APIs). This is more than just freedom to scale. Besides the seamless growth of your system, the API-first approach allows for building your new ecommerce step-by-step by connecting to the existing solutions with no need to purchase it all right now and replatform uncomfortably. 

APIs are important for working with a modular approach as well. Not only third-party apps are important here. When building the perfect ecommerce that will support any enterprise size, you will need to connect many modules, exchange them seamlessly, and update some capabilities while keeping others clear. The API-first approach allows building your solution like a LEGO castle: seamless and easy. 

Cloud-native: exploring the advantages of a seamless growth 

Not everything based on the cloud is cloud native. Let’s dive deeper to understand. 

Many vendors (including monolithic ones like SAP and Salesforce!) claim that their solutions are based on the cloud, which makes them perfect for enterprise ecommerce. That’s not true! Simply hosting your solution (like a regular SaaS) in the cloud doesn’t provide it with any additional enterprise capabilities. All it does is save your data and the whole solution, probably on the side of a vendor, not requiring you to purchase and maintain expensive servers on your side (making it serverless for you).  

Cloud-native solutions are not just “uploaded” in the cloud. They are initially designed to be deployed in the cloud seamlessly and quickly in response to the customer’s request. This guarantees rapid and frequent updates, a modern DevOps approach, and quick recovery. 

Moreover, cloud-native solutions allow enterprises to grow seamlessly and fast. For example, when there is a peak demand on your website, the SaaS solution will go down or require the purchase of additional server space that you would probably never use again. Meanwhile, cloud-native solutions just automatically add some necessary ready-to-use modules, expanding your capabilities, and after the peak demand is over, the system keeps using only the ones it needs without making you pay extra. 

Comparing MACH and Monolith Architecture

However, it is true to say that any MACH approach is better than the monolith one. Though robust and solid monolith solutions like SAP and IBM can be a great deal for small companies that need top-notch safety and full control and never need to change (e.g., governmental businesses), they will never be sufficient for enterprise ecommerce companies. 

Here is a short comparison of why MACH is better than the monolith: 

Scalability Scales as a whole. If you need to scale or upgrade some functionality, you have to upgrade the whole system. Can be scaled step by step. Each module is upgraded separately, not affecting other processes. It is cheaper and faster. And less risk!
Flexibility Changing the functionality of a solution requires long preparations. High vendor dependency. If you need to change anything — you can change it ASAP. For open-source solutions, you can even change it on your side and offer it to your vendor.
Maintenance Mostly performed by a vendor. All parts are interdependent. Each part can be fixed separately, sometimes without asking a vendor to do it.
Security High level of security, though all data are stored in one place. High level of security due to separate frontend and backend. Role-based access is available.
Time-to-value Slow growth and really slow innovation. Rapid changes of whatever you need. 
Integration  Integration with other systems and solutions is complicated or impossible. Easily integrates with any solutions.

Comparing Traditional MACH Architecture with Modern Solutions

Now as we know the key components of MACH, it’s time to compare it with the modern solutions providing even more capabilities for our MACH architecture commerce ecommerce. Here we go.

Traditional MACH
New MACH approach with Virto Commerce
Microservices Services and capabilities may be downgraded to the smallest particles, making the whole system hard to control.  In Virto Atomic Architecture™, all the capabilities are consolidated as specific modules and parts of the system, making all processes easier and more transparent. 
API-first approach   The systems might use a limited number of different API kinds, which makes it hard to connect to some systems and requires middleware.  Almost all types of APIs are supported. Virto can connect to literally everything. 
Cloud-native infrastructure  Sometimes, vendors offer cloud-based solutions which cannot be deemed as cloud-native.  True cloud-native solutions are initially created to adaptively evolve in the cloud. 
Headless  The headless approaches can be chaotic and lead to clustered solutions.  Now the MACH architecture. Headless approach is transparent due to easy connection via APIs with no expensive middleware needed. 

The MACH approach is definitely great, though it needs some deeper understanding than just applying it as is. The idea of each key part can be slightly changed following market requirements. As all we strive for is innovation, sticking to the latest technologies is key.

Understanding headless architecture in the MACH framework

Going headless is a new trend. And for a reason! Old monolithic platforms cannot deal with the growing need for flexibility anymore. A separated back and frontend allow for more upgrading capabilities, safer data, transparency, and flexibility in adding something new. Changing something in the backend will never affect the Storefront immediately, which means your users are safe from go-downs and failures. 

Sounds great! However, just like it happens with the wrong use of the microservices, the incorrect use of the headless capabilities can lead to an overwhelming amount of backends connected to the frontends via the middleware, and all this mix of the solution parts becomes hard to control. To avoid affecting your security, data control, and extra spending on more and more middleware solutions, you must learn to use headless efficiently. 

Standardly, headless architecture embraces three layers:  

  • The Presentation Tier (your Storefront). 
  • The Application Tier (the server connecting it all to the backend). 
  • The Data Tier keeping all the data safe and in order.  

Now multiply it all by the number of solutions enterprises need to connect to their systems via APIs. 

A new headless is needed to beat these struggles. Here’s what Virto does to resolve the issue. There is no rough Storefront, Middleware, and Backend in Virto like we used to understand it. Virto’s headless approach is based on having a separate business logic, commerce modules (and atoms!), best-in-breed apps that are used often and sometimes exchanged with something new that appeared in the market, Storefronts and all the customer-accessed parts, and 3rd party apps. While it sounds a bit complicated, when it comes to real life, you only have to connect all the apps you need to the solution without copying and pasting endless expensive middleware and the same Storefront or backend.

MACH Architecture in Action

Virto Commerce is definitely the MACH solution enhanced with some more value. Here is how it works in Virto:

mach architecture diagram

MACH architecture explanation

The powerful platform has already brought value to Heineken, which has created a 24/7 ordering transfer system with a headless API approach. Virto has also let Bosch Thermotechnik build their own loyalty portal based on Virto Atomic Architecture™ and more. Other success stories are available on Virto’s website.

Benefits of Adopting MACH Architecture

MACH-based architecture (when you use it the right way) can bring your business many exceptional MACH architecture benefits that outdated monolith solutions can never provide. Here, we discuss only a few of them; much more to unveil: 

  • Enhanced flexibility and scalability 
  • Improved development speed and agility 
  • Increased system integration capabilities 
  • Efficient content management and delivery 
  • Future-proofing and adaptability 
  • Readiness for innovation 
  • Unique enterprise ecommerce capabilities and individual features 

The headless architecture and API-first approach enable businesses to deliver a consistent and personalized shopping experience. You can start with a simple storefront and come to the multivendor ecommerce solutions across a wide range of platforms. This level of customization and omnichannel capability can significantly enhance the user experience and boost customer satisfaction and loyalty. 


Whatever way you choose for your enterprise ecommerce, MACH solutions are always a better option to choose. But be careful: even the best MACH approach can lead to many issues if used wrongly. 

Always seek a perfect solution for you, consider different options, ask your vendors questions, and never forget that the true goal of any real MACH solution is to stay with you for years, not making you replatform, constantly innovating, and bringing more and more MACH architecture benefits. 

Virto Commerce strives for these things. And if you need to learn more about the solution or find some more insights into where to start, just let us know, and we will contact you soon with a detailed free demo

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