You don’t need to be Google or Netflix to deliver complex digital services at scale

The content economy is thriving. Recent estimates predict it will grow globally at a CAGR of more than 9% over the coming years, to top $24bn by 2027. And businesses of all shapes and sizes want in. They might be a global telco wanting to build a large streaming platform for tens of thousands of users. Or a local cake shop looking to publish its recipes online. Yet unless you are an Amazon or Netflix, most businesses simply haven’t had the money or resources to overcome development bottlenecks and deliver complex digital services at scale. For example, Netflix has built its own highly scalable microservice architecture and has developed in-house a federated API layer to give its backend developers flexibility and service isolation.

Yet that argument is rapidly becoming as obsolete as monolithic content management systems (CMSs). With content federation and fully hosted GraphQL, even smaller developer teams can punch above their weight and deliver the personalised content-rich experiences that their customers increasingly demand.

The innovation bottleneck

The emergence of composable architectures in recent years has shifted the dial for developers. From a content perspective, the technology enables teams to stitch together their favourite CMS, product information management (PIM) and digital asset management (DAM) tools with public/private APIs that link third-party data sources, proprietary databases, and more. Yet while composability is theoretically designed to drive agility, often it does the opposite.

That’s because businesses are forced to build custom middleware to pull data from these individual systems and then expose it in a unified way to fixed web, mobile, and other environments. The problem is this middleware is both essential to modular architectures, but also difficult and expensive to build and maintain. From design and development to maintenance and security, it’s a highly technical and skilled process which can overwhelm many smaller teams who don’t have the developers and architects to spare.

A better way forward

Now, for Google, this is not a problem. They have the money and development resources to overcome any technology and scaling issues. But until now, these issues have created what is effectively an innovation bottleneck for smaller firms.

Just as the headless CMS disrupted the market a decade ago, content federation is today. The idea is relatively simple: connect siloed content from disparate sources across the software stack via a single API. This is where GraphQL federation comes in. It’s a relatively new architectural approach that enables the integration of various GraphQL services—referred to as subgraphs or federated services—into one cohesive schema or API. Using GraphQL, a federated content provider could connect content from diversified back-end systems and then distribute it to various front-ends—in a “many-to-many” architecture. This minimises the operational effort required to build middleware, and if the federated content provider hosts, caches and secures the middleware too, it could make the service even more affordable and pain-free for organisations.

This novel approach to content unification and distribution allows product teams to compose services up to 10 times quicker than current methods, and at a fraction of the cost. Its simplicity also means non-technical users could self-serve. Putting them in direct control would in many cases be better for business outcomes and free internal IT teams to work on higher value tasks.

The sky’s the limit

Organisations playing in sectors as diverse as retail, biotech and hospitality realise much of their future growth will come from the content economy. But creating the content that customers demand increasingly requires them to break down traditional silos in a cost-effective and future-proof manner. Software and applications are levelling the playing field for smaller firms and helping them to overcome the people and process barriers that composable architectures throw up in front of them.

It opens a whole new world of opportunity to combine, curate and deliver new content experiences for customers, in an affordable and hassle-free way. With the pace of technology change showing now sign of slowing, organisations of all sizes will only be bound by their own creativity and ambition.

Michael Lukaszczyk is the CEO and Co-Founder of Hygraph, the next-generation headless Content Management System (CMS) for the era of composable architectures.

Hygraph powers a many-to-many relationship between different content sources and devices that enables content creators to rapidly build and deliver tomorrow’s connected digital experiences at scale.

Hygraph is headquartered in Berlin, Germany, and currently works with 400+ customers globally including Dr. Oetker, Shure, Samsung and Philips.

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