The shift to “Digital 3.0” is bringing a new technology into focus. Get ready for composable commerce.
The term has a lot to do with technical infrastructure, but it is essential knowledge for all online retailers. As companies of all sizes try to keep up and stay ahead of the digital consumer, composable commerce will make it possible to share and scale resources for firms that might not have the existing infrastructure to deal with the new eCommerce surge.
According to Computer Weekly, composable commerce is “a system architecture that disaggregates some of the hardware of a traditional server into pools of resources. The thinking behind this concept is that the appropriate resources can be pulled together under software control to deliver a system that precisely matches the requirements of the workload it is intended to operate.”
A good way to think about composable commerce is to compare it to the cloud. When companies had legacy data warehouses, storage capacity was quickly reached, or there was capacity not being used. In other words, the system was inefficient. When moving to the cloud, data could be virtualized so it took up minimal storage, and whatever storage was needed was available. Capacity became a non-issue because storage was a shared resource.
Composable commerce is a similar concept. eCommerce applications can run when needed and take only as much computing power as necessary. If it’s a regular Monday morning in August, not much storage or power is necessary. But for Cyber Monday, a retailer that has not experienced a sales spike on the current infrastructure will need more capacity. Composable commerce makes that possible.
The goal is to reduce underutilization and overprovisioning while creating a more agile data center, said Ric Lewis, senior vice president and general manager of the software-defined and cloud group at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
“When a customer logs onto a public cloud, they grab a set of resources: compute, storage, fabric. ‘I need this much stuff to be able to run this application. Please give that to me,’” Lewis said in a Network World report. “’I’ll run this application, and when I’m done, I’ll give it back to you and you can use it with somebody else.’”
Composable commerce is making headlines primarily because of the new momentum behind digital commerce, and also because it is being touted as one of the main value propositions behind a company called Elastic Path.
"We have a complex and dynamic business, so embracing composable commerce will be key to our ability to achieve our digital commerce vision in a way that enables us to move fast, support our unique business requirements and delight our customers and partners," said Rebecca Hicks, senior manager of digital experience for glass manufacturer and distributor Pella Corporation, in a statement.
Elastic Path sees composable commerce as stemming from the design concept of composability, through which components can be selected and assembled in various combinations. In contrast to the closed-loop architectural approaches that have dominated eCommerce, Elastic Path sees several key tenets of the approach. For retailers, it sees the new system as fully modular, meaning that each eCommerce application is a self-contained system rather than part of a “one-size-fits-all” approach. It also sees a shorter journey to innovation because components are shared.
“Composable commerce is based on open standards, integration patterns and extensibility models that encourage interoperability and customization of both third-party and proprietary API services designed by technology vendors, the business themselves, or their solution and integration partners,” according to a statement from Elastic Path.