Composable, MACH, microservices... it’s a confusing world out there in tech. And it seems to get more confusing every month.
I tip my cap to all of you technical leaders who have to keep on top of all this stuff. Amidst the swirling whirlpool of tech terms, composable architecture has started to emerge from the rest, especially for larger organizations, with our friends at Netlify even holding the first true “Compose” event.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve gone where no person has willfully gone – the archives of technology jargon – to figure out what composable actually means to the industry, to Directus, and to our customers.
What I found is that there are a lot of companies trying to define it, but there’s still a clear chasm between what’s ideal and what’s tangible in the context of migrating to a fully composable approach.
Adapt or Design? Conway's Law for Composable
Of everything I came across, the concept of Conway’s Law applied to how internal teams – both technical and non-technical – solve challenges was the most enlightening.
It sheds light on the perpetual “buy vs. build” debate, illustrating a spectrum of choices companies face when it comes to software solutions.
On one end, there's the allure of buying a ready-made tool to swiftly address a problem. It’s a path often preferred by non-technical teams.
The equation is simple: find a tool that solves the problem, buy it, and move on. Speed is the chief advantage here, but the downside is the creation of siloes of tools and data that necessitate working "around" the tooling.
On the opposite end, the build approach resonates more with technical teams. I haven’t met a developer who hasn’t thought, “Oh, I could build that,” at least once.
The beauty of building is that you tailor solutions to your team’s exact needs. It’s entirely customizable and proprietary, but the time spent on building and maintenance can extend indefinitely, veering into the very bad, no good realm of scope creep.
As Ben mentioned in our previous article about composable architecture, the magic of a composable approach lies in blending the best of both worlds. It's about offering as much customization as possible without sacrificing technical time. The goals are clear:
Establish a unified foundation for your teams, offering the flexibility to use various frameworks like React or Vue.
Reduce costs and dependency on third-party software and SaaS which can pile up over time.
Roll out minimal viable products swiftly and scale them effectively.
Embrace both building and buying, integrating mission-critical tooling seamlessly, thereby eliminating separate siloes or missing data.
By advocating for a balanced approach, composable architecture nudges organizations away from the rigid binary of Build vs. Buy. Now, you can Buy AND Build, making the most of both approaches to foster a more adaptive, efficient software ecosystem.
Old World vs. New World: A Tailored Suit, Delivered To Your Doorstep
In the conventional software landscape, every problem encountered often lands you at a crossroad: to buy or to build?
This conundrum isn’t new; it’s like needing a suit for an event by the end of the week.
You have two choices.
You can grab a suit off the shelf; it’s quick and easy, but the fit is hit or miss.
Or, you opt for a custom-tailored suit. It fits like a dream, but there’s a solid chance it won’t be ready in time for your event.
This scenario mirrors the traditional trade-off in software solutions: speed versus fit.
But what if you didn’t have to choose? That, in essence, is what composable solves for your business in overcoming technical challenges or building tools/apps internally.
It's like having that well-tailored suit delivered to your doorstep in 1-2 days. You’re no longer bound by the usual trade-offs; you don't have to sacrifice speed for a perfect fit.
The 3 Pillars to Enable a Composable Approach
The pivot towards a composable approach hinges on three pivotal components:
The Framework (a no-code/low-code platform)
Consider this your playground. It's a space where technical and non-technical teams alike can roll up their sleeves and mold solutions to fit precise needs, or seamlessly integrate pre-built solutions, all without the shackles of complex coding.
The Data Layer (global API management)
Envision this as the conductor of an orchestra, ensuring every instrument (your software tools) is in sync, facilitating a harmonious flow of data in real-time. It's the adhesive that binds your software assets, whether they are bought or built, into a cohesive, well-orchestrated system.
The Infrastructure (cloud or on-prem)
As I’ve alluded to a few times, the core tenet of this approach is flexibility. Not dichotomy. That means you should be able to self-host or use a cloud-hosted service, with your full composable is 100% about choice, not compromise.
By integrating these components, the composable approach transcends the traditional Buy or Build dichotomy, propelling organizations into a realm where customization meets efficiency, and where speed has a secret handshake with a perfect fit.
A real-life example with a major airline
Theory is cool. But what does it actually look like in practice?
We began collaborating with a major airline last year, initially working on an internal CMS to streamline communication within their teams.
Fast forward to this year, they replaced their main marketing site CMS with Directus. The impact? Page load speeds plummeted from 6 seconds to a mere 1-2 seconds. Recently, this airline embarked on using Directus to create MVP internal tools.
This isn’t a Directus advert (I am in marketing, after all 🙈), but a real-world demonstration that the composable ethos isn’t just a whimsical theory.
It's a practical approach that is starting to resonate with and benefit larger organizations, providing a robust yet flexible foundation to not only manage content but to build and scale solutions tailored to precise needs.
Through a composable lens, organizations can build AND buy, eliminating the traditional trade-offs that once stifled innovation and efficiency.
Say Goodbye to Tech Stacks, Say Hello to Your Own Operating System
We've been listening, learning, and iterating alongside our community at Directus.
Today, we're more than just a platform; we're a toolkit for teams hungry to break free from the traditional molds. And it’s clear that tech stacks are evolving into operating systems, which is a perfect segue way into an exciting new pre-built OS our team recently rolled out:
Introducing AgencyOS, our initial offering in this realm. It's a testament to the boundless possibilities when you marry the principles of composable architecture with the tools and frameworks at your disposal.
AgencyOS isn’t just a product; it's a glimpse into a future where software bends to your will, not the other way around. It's about empowering you to craft full, comprehensive software that ties together multiple applications, enhancing efficiency and innovation.
As we unveil AgencyOS and step into this new era, we invite you to join us. Explore, build, and share in a composable future where creativity meets technology. 🚀