By John Williams, CTO, Amplience
How can you tell if the software you are looking as is a modern headless system? They all have the same key attributes:
Complete API coverage - The ability to do everything (and I mean everything) using an API. If a feature is only available in the UI, via a support ticket or by writing custom code, the platform is not API first. This is fundamental for delivering a consistent user experience across all your touchpoints and avoiding creating silos. (watch out for the statement ‘API first not API only’. This is a meaningless phrase used to excuse full API coverage)
Multi-tenanted Cloud - This is where everyone is on a single version of the platform in the cloud. None of that nonsense of dedicated server instances (single tenanted), choosing a version to start on and expensive upgrade projects to move to later versions. True multi-tenanted platforms address head-on the scale required to run every one of its customers across a globally distributed system. (A dedicated instance is a massive warning label, a cyclops in the cloud is still a monolith).
Scale - The latest multi tenanted headless cloud systems are designed from the ground up as a set of APIs for thousands of tenants. They are designed to accommodate industry peaks, provide automatic scaling on demand and support the continual growth of businesses on the platform. They often come with superior reliability with robust SLAs (99.99% SLA) and better security as a result.
Continuous upgrades - Through the implementation of practices like Continuous Integration and DevOps processes, a Headless provider should be able to provide you with a constant stream of improvements and additional functionality. All of this should without requiring any development and with no down time (we did 152 releases last year and this required no downtime). Imagine, one day you log in and a whole new set of workflow options appear, or new scheduling functionality.
Developer Freedom – So after dealing with a monolithic cyclops for several years you at last get a modern new headless system. You can choose the language / framework you want to use and are not forced into using proprietary technologies that no one else on the planet uses. If this is not the case, then it’s a Cyclops imitating a headless system
But surely these five attributes can be dealt with using an existing system like a traditional Web CMS that has had decades of development? Surely, they can cut off the head and add some APIs, and surely they can mutate from a cyclops to a hydra? At first glance it seems possible and many of the old web CMS vendors are using the term ‘Hybrid’ to refer to a ‘best of both worlds’ solution. But care should be taken when assessing these Frankenstein solutions. Let’s unpick some of the details:
In conclusion if your customer experience is evolving into a hydra with an ever increasing number of heads supporting your experience across a variety of channels, devices and apps, you need to consider moving towards the headless architecture approach. But be very careful that you are not implementing a monolithic cyclops that is pretending to be a Hydra. Later I will discuss how to strangle a Cyclops Architecture and grow your own Hydra User Experience. See my last article.
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