Home Virto Commerce blog Microservices eCommerce Architecture: How It Is Different from Modular and Atomic

Microservices eCommerce Architecture: How It Is Different from Modular and Atomic

May 1, 2023 • 6 min

A few years ago, microservices were one of the most discussed topics among businesses that needed a robust management system to control all business processes. Since the term appeared back in the 2010s, ecommerce businesses have started using the architecture to build modern ecommerce platforms consisting of small modules. However, the technology turned out to be quite complex and required some additional knowledge. Businesses started searching for something the same efficient, though simpler and easier to manage. 

In this article, we will dive into the use of ecommerce microservices architecture, talk about migration to microservices and the benefits the architecture can offer, and discuss the difference between microservices, headless, modular, and atomic architecture. 

What Are Microservices in eCommerce

Microservices in ecommerce architecture refer to a software architecture that builds applications as a collection of small, independent services. Each service features a separate function the application has. These services communicate through APIs and can be managed separately or together. The platform based on such microservices is flexible and scalable and can handle the complex business requirements of the business. 

Examples of such specific business functions provided by each service are product catalog management, order processing, payment processing, and shipping logistics. For example, an order processing microservice might receive a request from the front-end, do everything related to orders, from order validation to payment, and then send the data to the shipping logistics microservice for fulfillment. 

eCommerce microservices mind map

eCommerce microservices architecture example

Why Microservice Architecture Is Used for eCommerce

Microservice based architecture fits any complex business that must control many operations and features simultaneously. This approach can resolve several problems ecommerce can encounter:   

  • High traffic and data volume 

eCommerce websites handle loads of data and high traffic. A good example is Black Friday, when ecommerce systems have to proceed with thousands of orders simultaneously. In these situations, quick scaling up and down is needed. Cloud microservices ecommerce platform allows scaling at any level: from the smallest features to the whole system, without affecting the parts that should not be changed during scaling. This capability makes the entire process faster.   

  • Control over every feature

Many components, such as product catalogs, payment processing, and more, depend on each other, so the management process includes controlling parts of a system instead of monitoring one feature only. Each component can be developed, tested, and maintained independently with microservices. As a result, the system is managed easily, and the risk of failure drops to almost none. 

  • Rapid upgrades and feature development 

Staying competitive requires constant changes and growth. Microservices allow for developing specific features independently and then launching or upgrading them quickly. Once the business needs any new feature, it is easy to do when the system is built of separate independent parts. 

What Are the Benefits of Microservices Architecture?

Microservices can save you time, money, and effort. Moreover, the architecture offers other benefits ecommerce businesses need to grow and thrive: 

1. Scalability and flexibility

Microservices allow for better resource utilization and higher availability due to quick upgrades. This means the business can adapt easily when the market demands something new. 

2. Resilience and maintainability

Higher availability and reduced impact of system failures are possible since each part of the system exists separately. This means when one feature fails, it doesn't stop the whole system but requires maintenance of this exact service. Maintenance, in turn, can be done quickly, so the risk of failures is drastically reduced. 

3. Cost-effectiveness 

Microservices enable businesses to allocate resources and investments to specific services based on their importance and value. This means companies can optimize their costs by investing more resources into high-value services and minimizing investment in low-value services. 

4. Technology diversity 

Microservices operate independently, meaning that businesses can use separate technology or software for each service. 

5. Better customer and employee experience 

eCommerce microservices architecture is tailored to make each service perfect for use by both clients and employees. Clients get better support, leading to greater loyalty, while teams and departments collaborate to build cross-functional capabilities and stronger communication and teamwork. communication and teamwork. 

6. Faster time-to-market 

As each service can be developed and deployed independently, microservice based architecture enables businesses to release new features faster. And faster response to market changes and customer feedback lead to greater loyalty and marketability. 

7. Futureproofing 

Microservices can be easily replaced or upgraded as technology evolves. This means that by choosing this approach, businesses can avoid costly replatformings in the future and guarantee they will always be able to keep up with the market needs. 

Why Microservices Architecture Loses Its Popularity

While offering excellent capabilities, microservices are losing their popularity due to significant drawbacks that many businesses do not like. Here is the list of the most important ones: 

1. Increased complexity 

As a system is broken down into many smaller components, it might be hard to define the level of responsibility of each service. Businesses may require more people and teams with greater expertise to control it all. Many teams and experts can lead to increased operational overhead and resource consumption. 

2. Network latency and reliability 

The speed of all the actions that the system does must always be high. As microservices use a network to communicate, some latency can appear and show potential points of failure. This means additional resources are needed to ensure communication is always correct. 

3. Data consistency 

Building a consistency strategy can sometimes be challenging as data may vary in different services. The business needs a strong data collection and management system to collect it all. 

4. Team coordination 

You must build solid cross-departmental communication as each service belongs to its own department and team. To get a great-working product that aligns one feature with another, you have to coordinate your teams' efforts and collaboration. 

5. Security and compliance 

Being independent, the services offer different levels of security and accessibility. Choosing this type of architecture, the business has to ensure all data is isolated and each of the many services complies with the safety requirements. 

6. Increased learning curve 

While monolithic architecture is clear and transparent, businesses need to provide their employees with extensive training when moving to microservices. 

7. Challenging testing 

Testing is complicated due to the need to test each service individually, check their interactions separately, and ensure it all aligns to form the correct working system. 

8. Potential over-engineering 

Sometimes, the architecture can be more complex than necessary, causing additional overhead. This happens when the company uses microservices for the first time and has no idea how to split and group these services. 

Microservices vs. Monolithic

Monolithic architecture supposes that the application is built as a single, self-contained unit. All the application's functionality is bundled together into a single codebase, database, and interface. The good side of this architecture is the easiness of implementation and use. However, it cannot be scaled as quickly as the modern market demands. 

In contrast, microservices are a collection of small, independent services. Each is designed to perform a specific function and communicate with other services through APIs. While adding complexity to the system, this approach helps businesses to develop faster. 

Here are some of the key differences between microservices and monolithic architecture: 

Multi-cloud platform examples



Requires scaling the whole system.  Enables each service to be scaled independently 
Flexibility  Changes to one part of the application can have ripple effects throughout the system.  Every service can be changed separately. 
Resilience  Failure of one part can lead to the failure of several services or the whole system.  Failure of the feature doesn’t affect other parts of the system. 
Maintenance  All parts are interdependent. Maintenance of one item requires stopping or fixing other services as well.  The feature can be fixed without affecting other services. 
Time-to-value  Slow systems that are not agile enough to keep up with the market demands.  Can track all the moves competitors make and quickly adapt to changes. 

Though most companies move from monolithic to microservices, businesses may still need to prefer monolithic. These are the businesses with simpler applications, straightforward functionality, low speed of the internet, and no need to grow due to some reasons. 

eCommerce microservices vs. monolithic mind map

eCommerce microservices vs. monolithic mind map

Microservices vs. Headless

Both architectures are related to APIs but have completely different meanings. eCommerce microservices architecture is a collection of small, independent services. At the same time, headless ecommerce refers to the approach where the front-end and back-end of an application are decoupled, allowing for greater flexibility and agility. 

Microservices, Modular, Atomic: What Is the Difference

Microservices, modular, and atomic seem to be similar, as all of them can be described as different approaches to software development. However, they are not interchangeable, as each approach uses different architecture building ideas. 


Microservices ecommerce architecture is, basically, a collection of small, independent services. Each service is designed to perform a specific function. For example, when the client buys your products, they go through the ordering process first (Microservice #1), the payment process (Microservice #2), and then you ship it (Microservice #3) and account for your revenue (Microservice #4). Basically, each of the actions is a separate service provided by a separate structure in your system. 

Modular architecture

The modular architecture is similar, but to make all the processes easier, services are bundled together in interchangeable modules that can be combined to create different configurations of the application. This low-code approach doesn't require deep knowledge of the software, never leads to over-engineering, and is easier to perform. This allows for the same great flexibility as microservices offer but with lower complexity, simple testing, higher security, and reliability. 

Virto Atomic Architecture™

As Virto Commerce sticks to a modular approach but supports all benefits microservices offer, we came to the idea of Atomic Architecture™ — something in between but perfectly combined to get rid of the drawbacks we mentioned. We took core capabilities (atoms) and bundled them together in microservices (molecules). Then, instead of working with each microservice separately, we packed them in ready-to-use modules (cells). This means that you can still use the benefits of microservices while building a system of fully functional modules easily.   

eCommerce microservices architecture diagram

The difference between microservices, modular and atomic architecture

Examples of Microservice Architecture for eCommerce

As the market evolves, many globally known giants move to the microservices-modular system to get the best features first and disrupt the market. Here are a few examples of businesses that have made their choice already. 

How Netflix uses microservices 

Netflix is a good microservices ecommerce example, a pioneer company that adopted microservices architecture and started using cloud infrastructure. Instead of using one giant application, the company breaks it down into many independent, self-contained services. Each of them performs is designed to be highly scalable and resilient. This way, Netflix reduces costs and simplifies deployment, focusing more on building and delivering great content and customer experience. 

Does Amazon use Microservices architecture?

Amazon also uses microservices based architecture extensively. The company used microservices for ecommerce architecture to build Amazon Prime, Amazon Alexa, and Amazon Web Services. The approach enabled Amazon to scale rapidly and improve these services' performance and reliability.  The architecture enables the company to innovate quickly, scale its services as needed, and provide a great user experience. 

Does eBay use microservices?

It sure does! Since 2011, eBay has used this architecture to improve its scalability, agility, and resiliency. A large number of services that are responsible for specific functions, such as search, recommendations, payments, and shipping. With these technologies, eBay is able to scale its services independently, quickly deploy new features, and improve its reliability. 

How to Migrate to Microservices, Modular or Atomic

Replatforming from monolithic to microservices based architecture and designing a microservices architecture for an ecommerce website can be complex due to the high difference between systems. Here are some strategies and considerations to think about before you replatform:   

  • Get a clear understanding of your existing monolithic architecture: how it works, how different parts depend on each other, and what you need to change. 
  • Identify the components you want to be extracted and run as independent services. Define those requiring significant refactoring to be able to operate independently. 
  • Define the boundaries and interfaces of each service to ensure that they are modular, cohesive, and have a clear separation of concerns. 
  • Build APIs that can be used for both modules and separate microservices you are going to use. The important part is to make them able to communicate with external systems as well. 
  • Consider having a ready-to-use open source ecommerce microservices platform that offers all the features you need and capabilities to create new ones. 
  • Plan the migration in detail and run it step by step, ensuring each service becomes independent and doesn’t affect others. 
  • Monitor and optimize the performance, and continuously refine your architecture as needed. 

Why Virto Commerce Is a Better Option

As we can see, microservices are a great way to move from the heavy-manageable old-fashioned monoliths to composable ecommerce, better management, growth capabilities, and more. When trying to find out more about microservices, businesses can encounter discussions of many drawbacks, such as increased complexity, challenging testing and communication, and more. In this case, consider a modular Virto approach and Virto Atomic Architecture™. The system fully supports the microservices approach, making it more convenient to use. Here is what you can get by packing your microservices in modules:   

  1. Mixing and matching components as you wish.  
  2. Quick onboarding as managing such a system is easy.  
  3. Fast development and upgrades inevitably lead you to faster time-to-value.  
  4. Ready B2B scenarios.  
  5. Logical architecture that brings value both to your team and your customers. 

Starting out with Virto is easy: just contact our team or request a free demo to see how easy it is to make your business thrive.

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