What Is The MACH Alliance? Kristopher Sandoval March 22, 2023 The tech space is full of flavor-of-the-week solutions — that’s why it’s so exciting when a particular style becomes widely accepted, supported, or standardized. One such effort, the MACH Alliance, has brought together some major partners since its founding in 2020 and promises to deliver a strong solution to some of the most pervasive web technology problems. Below, we’ll explore the MACH Alliance and discuss some of its core concepts. We’ll look at what it means to build in the MACH style and highlight some of the organizations supporting this concept. What is MACH? MACH is a conceptualized ecosystem of technology that stands for Microservices based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless. The fundamental idea is that by adopting the MACH style, organizations can become more composable, making each constituent part scalable, extensible, replaceable, and changeable. When everything is MACH, the argument follows that everything can be plugged into an agile development process to grow and change against new needs. MACH as a concept is also backed heavily by the MACH Alliance, a group that was launched by commercetools, Contentstack, EPAM Systems, and Valtech. It has since grown to include a wide array of companies and individuals. The organization engages in both certification standards for MACH integration and thought leadership and event operations designed to increase the influence and share of MACH principles. MACH Benefits Explained With all of this in mind, it begs a simple question — how does the MACH approach improve the current state of affairs in the digital era? Let’s break apart each element of MACH to consider the benefits of its adoption. Microservices Based The first part of MACH is to design around microservices. Microservices are a collection of many smaller services that, when paired together in a mesh of services, result in a sum greater than its parts. You can think of microservice-based development as you would an organism. Each microservice is like an organ performing a specific function, and when added together, they result in a more complex organism. One of the main benefits of a microservices approach is that systems are innately more scalable and extensible than a monolith, in which a single entity contains all functions and domains in a singular instance. Since microservices allow iteration to occur independently from other services, development is more rapid and efficient. API-First API-first is the idea that the development of the API and its consumption model should be the first consideration engaged in during the development of a service. In the MACH context, this makes the API the central flex point of the system, allowing for greater extensibility and scalability as its core, helping drive all logic from a common focal point. While API-first seems simple in the abstract, it becomes more complicated in practice. APIs don’t exist in a vacuum, and often, they are a means to enable business functionality. In such instances, it’s common for organizations to think of business logic first, product-first, or privilege various other focuses first. Cloud-Native SaaS Cloud-native SaaS combines two core concepts — cloud-native development and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). In a typical SaaS situation, a software system is licensed and delivered on a subscription basis from a centrally hosted system and repository. As the needs of a system change, the SaaS which underpins it can elastically expand and contract to meet those needs. Cloud-native systems are built natively for cloud computing — it’s all in the name of course, but what this really means is that components are built to scale and tolerate complexity utilizing cloud entities. It’s entirely possible to create something local-first and only leverage the cloud as an afterthought. Instead, cloud-native software is built for the cloud from day one, not simply plugged in at a later date. A cloud-native SaaS, then, is a Software-as-a-Service that allows for extensible and scalable entity creation as a core function of its underlying systems. It should tolerate the faults and complexities of the interconnected systems in modern API development, allowing for rapid iteration and development. Headless The concept of headless is quite simple — the decoupling of the frontend user experience from the backend systems. In non-headless approaches, the UI often mirrors the backend closely, with the UI reflecting the backend nomenclature, organization, demands, and so forth. In doing this, however, the experience is intrinsically tied to what the backend provides, limiting extensibility. If the backend is malleable, then anything can be enabled on the frontend through the use of interconnections, shims, Backend-for-Frontends (BFFs), and other such systems. By not prescribing the frontend, headless can support multiple client platform types using the same backend. How is the MACH Alliance Progressing? The MACH Alliance believes in these principles so strongly that they are constantly growing and evolving their advocacy in the market. In the MACH Alliance manifesto, they state that their efforts will be guided through the following steps: Sharing technical knowledge about MACH, and why and when it is better than what a suite can offer. Creating best practices that show organizations how to transition to a MACH architecture, as well as its products and services, by leveraging case studies and peer-to-peer networking between organizations planning to make the transition with those that already have. Listing and explaining selection criteria for enterprises, such as what to ask for when RFP’ing best-of-breed tech vendors and what criteria to use during the selection process. This information will be provided in the form of white papers, events, articles and more. Publishing technical documentation, such as architectural blueprints and other technical content, demonstrating how to integrate MACH technologies. Developing and hosting MACH Alliance events and serving as a collective resource at key events to demonstrate and educate the industry on the benefits of adopting an open, cloud-native, API-first headless architecture technology ecosystem. To push these efforts forward, the MACH Alliance has several bands of advocate types, including vendors that operate MACH technologies, system integrators, “enabler” vendors that support MACH architecture, and ambassadors for the larger community. MACH Alliance Backing The MACH Alliance has several high-profile members, including companies like Amplience, Cloudinary, Deloitte Digital, and Zaelab. It counts enablers as AWS, Google Cloud, MongoDB, Netlify, Vercel, and Webscale. There is a large Board, several Heads of Council, and an Advisory Board, all working towards the goal of wider MACH adoption. The backing behind MACH makes sense considering the ultimate goal. When everything is MACH, it will, by definition, allow for more extensible development. The blockers that often exist to stop new iteration and development are largely solved by this concept, as interchangeable and consumable systems improve engineering efforts considerably. Conclusion MACH is a great concept for solving a wide-ranging issue. But perhaps the best argument behind MACH is that it’s a conceptual solution rather than a prescription or standard. Time will tell whether MACH becomes more ubiquitous along the lines of RESTful development paradigms, but given its backing, the future looks very bright. What do you think about the movement toward MACH development? What about the MACH Alliance? Let us know in the comments below!