Composable architecture: What it is, and why it’s worth considering

In the evolving landscape of business technology, companies are increasingly reliant on a number of applications to manage various aspects of their operations. Recent research indicates that, on average, companies are utilizing over 150 applications, a number expected to rise. This surge in app usage often leads to data silos and workflow inefficiencies, prompting IM leaders to reflect on this organization as business outcomes are affected. Composable architecture has emerged in response to these challenges, offering a unified model and system where data is accessible across diverse tools, and workflows can seamlessly interoperate through APIs.

What Is Composable Architecture?

Composable architecture, also known as modular or component-based architecture, is a dynamic and flexible approach to designing and developing software systems. This methodology involves breaking down large applications into smaller, self-contained components with well-defined interfaces. These components can be easily combined and recombined to create diverse configurations, fostering adaptability and efficiency in system development.

Key Characteristics of Composable Architecture:

  • Independence of Components: Each component functions autonomously, performing a specific task without reliance on other components. This modularity enables rapid development, adaptability to changing needs, efficient issue isolation, and cost savings. This approach also fosters collaboration, scalability, and streamlined testing processes.
  • Well-Defined Interfaces: Clear interfaces facilitate communication and data exchange between components. By having roles and interfaces defined at the design stage – rather than evolving over time – they are better optimized for the role they need to perform.
  • Flexible Combination: Components can be combined and rearranged to meet changing needs and requirements. Again, as this is through design rather than organic over time, it leads to better solutions.
  • Separate Development and Testing: Independent components allow for separate development and testing, enhancing development speed and efficiency. Issues can be more easily identified and resolved.
  • Building Blocks: APIs and Microservices. Composable architecture’s foundation lies in independent components, acting as modular building blocks. APIs define seamless interfaces, while microservices provide small, deployable units, enabling flexible and adaptable system development.

Explaining the building blocks of Composable Architecture in more detail

APIs: What are APIs and how are they used in composable architecture?

APIs serve as sets of protocols, routines, and tools for building software applications. In composable architecture, APIs define interfaces between components, enabling seamless communication and data exchange. This ensures interoperability, allowing components to be easily combined to create diverse configurations.

Microservices: What are microservices, and how are they used in composable architecture?

Microservices are small, independent units of functionality designed for autonomous development, deployment, and maintenance. Composable architecture utilizes microservices to build individual components, creating a modular and adaptable system.

 

Why Is Composable Architecture Gaining Popularity?

Composable architecture addresses multiple needs (listed above) by providing flexibility, efficiency, and adaptability. The implementation curve of integrated architectures, and the unintended consequences such as high cost, low agility, low adaptability, mean that enterprises are looking for a more dynamic architectural solution.

 

Our advice when considering composable architecture:

The core strengths of composable architecture are its flexibility, allowing swift adaptation to evolving requirements through the reuse of existing components. But it isn’t without it’s downsides and considerations. Use our guide to make sure you are taking the necessary steps:

 

Step 1: Identifying the key business outcomes you want to achieve, now and in the near future

Step 2: Determine the key components you will need:

  • Examine system functions and features.
  • Break down the system into small, independent, and reusable components.
  • Create a detailed documentation of each component, including functionality, dependencies, and requirements.

Step 3: Define the inter-component relationship: Understand how components interact and depend on each other. Identify dependencies and define interfaces between components.

Step 4: Chunk the elephant. Develop components individually, and migrate functionality as a process. Ensure both parts, and the whole, of the ecosystem operate functionally and interoperably.

Step 5: Plan for challenges and complications. Here are some of the key considerations:

  1. Complexity of implementation: Implementing composable architecture, especially in large systems, can be intricate, and requires careful planning and coordination.
  2. Ensuring interoperability: Integrating components from different sources or technologies may pose challenges in ensuring seamless interoperability.
  3. Evolution over time: Each component needs to have its own evolution roadmap to ensure the component, integrations, and ecosystem move with the technology and business landscape. This should be proactive, not reactive
  4. Maintenance over time: Ongoing maintenance and updates demand meticulous planning to avoid unintended consequences on the overall system.

Is Composable Architecture the Future?

Yes – and the present. Composable architecture is positioned to play a crucial role in the future of enterprise software architecture. Its ability to speed up development, reduce costs, and enhance system scalability means that many IM and IT functions see this as a strategy for the future.

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