Data Orchestration: Developing The Missing Piece in Headless Commerce

Umer Sadiq

CTO @ fabric. Previously software development @ Amazon and Williams Sonoma.

June 28, 2022
data-orchestration

Part of the fun of leading engineering teams at one of the most promising and fastest-rising startups in digital commerce is the breakneck pace of innovation you get to experience with a prime front-row seat.

In the past few months alone, fabric marched into new verticals by introducing fabric Marketplace and fabric Commerce Platform for B2B, two vital product offerings that open up sizable opportunities for our mid-market and enterprise customers. My teams developed new commerce APIs and released a host of additional features for our current product lineup as well.

However, our next initiative is about to raise the bar higher. With our newest breakthrough, fabric is taking a major step forward by creating a first-of-its-kind data orchestration platform for commerce. By using a dynamic API mesh and a low-code/no-code workflow engine, companies will soon be able to instantly connect and integrate platforms like Shopify, Magento, and Salesforce with any e-commerce platform, service, module, or API of their choice.

This innovation will place fabric customers squarely at the forefront of the headless and composable commerce revolution. With a data orchestration platform purpose-built for commerce, companies will gain unparalleled visibility and control over every function of their technology stacks, finally unlocking the ability to create truly customized digital experience platforms (DXPs) by using only best-of-breed technologies.

The Next Evolution in E-Commerce

Data orchestration arrives at an exciting time. The extraordinary rise of headless commerce architecture has allowed companies to decouple their e-commerce storefronts (frontend presentation layers) from their backend commerce APIs, resulting in far greater flexibility and scalability compared with rigid monolithic platforms.

Furthermore, the use of increasingly sophisticated APIs that allow modern systems to talk to each other, exchange data, and share services has resulted in modern commerce tools that allow businesses to expand product assortment, offer competitive pricing, and improve inventory availability.

However, even with headless commerce architecture, today’s legacy commerce platforms still lack the following:

  1. Modularity
  2. Composability and orchestration
  3. Scalability with high performance
  4. Extensibility with low code

That’s why simply “going headless” within a legacy commerce platform is not enough for businesses to keep up in today’s hyper-competitive e-commerce environment.

The limits of legacy commerce systems

For example, developers often have to reinvent the wheel each time they need to push through small changes or make updates to their existing e-commerce platforms. What’s more, some of the simplest business operations can require a herculean effort by internal IT and development teams, making the systems prohibitively difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to operate.

Large-scale changes are even more taxing. For instance, implementing backend-for-frontend (BFF) architecture can turn into a massive undertaking that requires all hands on deck. Similarly, attempting to connect and monitor 20-30 disparate services for a typical e-commerce tech stack can quickly spiral out of control. The amount of “glue code” alone would make an IT team’s heads roll.

Faced with mounting stress on personnel and growing opportunity costs from delays, many companies have no choice but to overhaul their existing systems or migrate from one e-commerce platform to another. Both of these options are long and grueling processes that can be detrimental to growing businesses.

Building The Ultimate Platform

For all the reasons mentioned, replatforming is commonly viewed as a tax and a burden and not as an opportunity for companies to innovate and excite. That’s why our CEO, Faisal Masud, previously talked about the urgent need for a software agnostic “platform-of-platforms” to help even out the playing field. Its purpose would be to offer internet-level commerce services but also support the use of other e-commerce platforms through the use of APIs.

Having complete freedom and flexibility to simply choose your solutions would be the ultimate luxury in digital commerce. A scalable, service-oriented commerce platform would make it much cheaper and easier for companies to operate their businesses online.

Instead of allocating resources to building, integrating, updating, and managing increasingly complex commerce services, companies would be free to focus on what they do best: selling products, expanding their core IP, and building differentiating features for their brands.

It would also put an end to replatforming as we know it. Rather than deal with the expensive, risky, and time-consuming practice of migrating away from a legacy monolithic e-commerce platform, companies could quickly create a modern microservices-based tech stack by picking and choosing the best solutions to suit their specific needs.

The sweeping potential of such a breakthrough would be enormous. As a company, we predicted that a true “platform-of-platforms” would fundamentally change the game and become the next evolution in headless and composable commerce. But the critical piece that most e-commerce platforms have been missing is a data orchestration layer.

What Is Data Orchestration?

Data orchestration describes the process of connecting data across an increasingly complex ecosystem, combining it, and preparing it for data analysis.

Similar to the maestro of an orchestra, a data orchestration platform can coordinate and standardize multiple commerce APIs to communicate with each other. This communication allows companies to control data from different first and third-party sources, monitor systems, and gain real-time insights into various data streams.

fabric is building a data orchestration platform that focuses on modularity, composability, scalability, and extensibility. The two key components of our orchestration platform include:

  1. An API Mesh: which will allow the combination of APIs from multiple data sources and gives users the ability to build powerful APIs to support unique use cases.
  2. A low-code/no-code Workflow Engine: which will allow the orchestration of processes that span APIs, microservices, business decisions and rules, human work/manual operations, and other repeatable patterns.

These critical components will allow our platform to vastly simplify integrations. As a result, businesses will no longer have to move heaven and earth to unite different commerce services together.

How fabric’s Data Orchestration service will simplify e-commerce

By adding fabric’s data orchestration layer to an existing commerce platform, developers can soon use minimal coding to create integrations with any number of products, services, modules, platforms, or APIs. Furthermore, users will be free to build multiple responses or amalgamate integrations into a single unified response, making them remarkably simple to configure and control.

Meanwhile, developers will be able to swiftly create custom connectors in minutes, rather than days or even weeks. These can be published privately within a customer’s domain, which would allow business owners to use and configure them for internal purposes only.

The platform will offer powerful tools for non-developers, too. The simple, self-service UI can allow anyone to choose from an exclusive inventory of pre-built integrations and connectors that instantly connect existing systems with popular platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and others.

Adding or swapping services will also take minimum effort. Once a customer incorporates their own or chooses a solution from fabric’s extensive app library, the process will be as easy as flipping a switch, and early testing shows that our platform reduces the time to connect and execute integrations by at least 50%.

Lastly, the orchestration layer will provide cache configuration as well. The quick access to “warm data” will optimize and improve the overall performance of its API orchestration.

Easy integrations, endless possibilities

When combined, these features will enable seamless integrations with some of the industry’s leading e-commerce technologies. These can include:

  • An intelligent pricing engine that delivers instant, personalized, and competitive prices through real-time calculations
  • An inventory management system (IMS) that connects seamlessly with a warehouse management system (WMS) to track inventory across all locations
  • A modern order management system (OMS) that enables omnichannel fulfillment across multiple stores, sales channels, and online marketplaces
  • And other services such as a product information manager (PIM), payments solution, dropshipping platform, and many more.

Fully-customized tech stacks can soon be easily replicated and scaled with third-party technology, freeing up engineering resources to create truly differentiating features.

Our API orchestration will also remove the need for risky replatforming projects and let customers augment or replace existing custom and monolithic SaaS platforms such as Shopify Plus and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

Additionally, the platform will drastically reduce the time-to-value for launching new features, significantly improve their ROI, enable companies to grow their assortment of SKUs, and finally unlock true omnichannel selling capabilities. For mid-market and enterprise companies, this will open up a world of possibilities that simply never existed for their businesses in the past.

The Beginning of True DXP Modularity and Composability

With fabric’s newest creation, truly customized digital experience platforms (DXPs) are becoming a reality. API orchestration takes modular and composable commerce to the next level and allows for endless possibilities that businesses can test, refine, and update until they find the perfect solution that fits their individual needs.

The rise of orchestration will also signal the beginning of the end for replatforming. The arduous and expensive process of switching from one platform to another will soon become a thing of the past as we continue to accelerate development and release new features. Because of the lack of practical and innovative solutions available from legacy commerce providers, building out extensive capabilities is both a top priority and the right thing to do for our customers.

In fact, fabric’s platform will finally do for commerce modules what AWS has done for internet infrastructure. It will enable companies to focus their efforts on innovating and creating differentiating experiences rather than deal with the technological complexity, system diversity, and budget challenges that come with managing complicated commerce platforms.

In other words, our previous prediction of a future “platform-of-platforms” for commerce is starting to take shape. With data orchestration’s upcoming arrival, we’re set to usher in the next evolution of headless and composable commerce.

Umer Sadiq author CTO @ fabric. Previously software development @ Amazon and Williams Sonoma.

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