What’s the difference between PBCs and Microservices?

The shift from monolithic trade platforms to modular, MACH-based, composable services is well underway for many brands, manufacturers and retailers.

With the launching of Gartner’s report Composable Commerce must be Adopted for the Future of Applications in addition to the firm’s bold prediction that 30 percent of electronic commerce organizations will utilize packaged business capacities (PBCs) to construct their own application experiences by 2024, fascination (and confusion) about how microservices and PBCs play into modern trade architectures is growing.

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So what are packed company capabilities? Are they just the same as microservices? How do you navigate a landscape where transaction technology vendors use these terms somewhat interchangeably, and know what approach is fantastic for you?

PBCs are business capacities

A packed business ability, by Gartner’s definition is a”software component that represents a well-defined business capacity, recognizable as such by a business user…[and] includes a bounded set comprising a data schema and a set of services, APIs and event channels.”

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In simpler terms, a PBC is an application or service built around a specific business function. As opposed to the purpose being one part of a larger, monolithic application (such as an eCommerce platform, CRM or CMS), a PBC is decoupled from other providers and communicates with other parts through APIs.

If you’re thinking”PBCs look a fantastic deal like microservices” — that you aren’t far off. But by Gartner’s definition, a PBC involves a group of APIs (a bounded collection) that serve a specific company capacity, versus microservices which are more tightly scoped and granular (although microservices may also have many APIs and endpoints in them).


However, some microservices do match the standards for a PBC. If a microservice represents a business capability in a style that’s clear to a business user, it signifies. Martin Fowler, famous for coining the term”strangler pattern” as a metaphor for refactoring a monolith to microservices, asserts the focus on size could be misleading. In his talks, he sees a Variety of service sizes and prefers to refer to them as microservices, rather than argue over what constitutes”micro” #HowBigIsAMicroservice

Today, many vendors and developers use the vernacular term microservices to refer to the modular, loosely coupled services that they provide, regardless of size (or may use the terms microservices and packaged business capabilities interchangeably). As an application pioneer, it’s necessary to ask vendors the appropriate questions and eventually understand how any modular agency should fit within your composable application.

Why are PBCs preferred to granular microservices for Composable Commerce?

The 2 PBCs and microservices are headless, strongly encapsulated, loosely coupled, independently deployable and scalable. Therefore, they meet the tenet of modularity within the Composable Commerce paradigm. An application built PBC-first (focused on the business value of its modular components ) has many advantages over one constructed from hundreds of granular microservices:

Reduced complexity

A trade application comprising countless independent microservices, each with their own APIs and logic, requires monumental effort to stitch together — even when they come from precisely the same vendor. A intricate structure not only requires an advanced degree of technical maturity and governance, but also larger budgets and resource collections.

Because bounded sets of APIs within a PBC are installed as a device, first installation and maintenance is greatly simplified, as is changing business logic and integrating new components. This supports technical agility, hastens time-to-market (and time-to-revenue), and will reduce Total Cost of Ownership.

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Enhanced clarity

A composable architecture constructed with PBCs makes it easier for Business teams to get involved in the design and installation of new experiences. When components are easily recognized due to their function in the business, both Business and IT can articulate how requests and requirements translate into the application roadmap.

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By means of example, the firm might want a mobile self-checkout solution to promote social distancing in their physical stores, or to bring digital commerce to live events and trade displays. Business envisions Catalog, Pricing and Payments will join with Cart and Checkout with a innovative web application, integrated with their third party Personalization and Analytics applications.


Packaged business capabilities also make it a lot easier to provide user-friendly business tooling and dashboards for administrators, merchandisers, service agents and back office operations. Constructing these tools for highly granular microservices is not only a make-work undertaking, but is also far less practical than building UIs for PBCs like Catalog, Accounts, Pricing, Promotions, Inventory, Checkout and Payments.

Off-the-shelf vendors are more likely to supply out-of-the-box business tooling if their specific applications are PBC-first with a good set of core capabilities versus highly granular with innumerable microservices.

Are ecosystem applications PBCs?

Though arguably”modular” and part of a normal Composable Commerce environment, many ecosystem applications like Tax, PIM, Reviews, Search and Analytics do not match the criteria for packaged business capabilities. There are some exceptions, such as headless and API-first solutions like Voucherify for promotions.

Most ecosystem apps, extensions and”plug ins” are not API-first nor headless and are set up as monoliths — however modest. They supply APIs to promote integration, but their APIs are not configurable the identical fashion as PBCs’ are. Typically delivered as SaaS applications, each customer absorbs them in the exact same way as every other contributor beyond a predefined set of customizations that the ecosystem vendor controls. When it’s possible to expand the application to accommodate your specific requirements, it’s normally accomplished through shifting code (which the vendor owns), not logic in the API layer.

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The benefit of using third party, bolt-on applications is to leverage best-of-breed within a composable application. A Composable Commerce Enterprise need not reinvent the wheels of highly specialized purposes, and might benefit from a vendor’s own innovation and investment in scale. It’s important to be certain these third party solutions can be configured through your core set of packaged business capabilities through an extensibility framework.

Right-sizing PBCs

Exactly like microservices can be too micro and do not represent clear business capacity, PBCs run the danger of having little monoliths if they’re too large. By means of example, if tax capacities live within Payments, Cart or Checkout solutions, the organization may remove agility about expanding tax logic to the appropriate touchpoints. If tax logic needs to be continuously changed, this may impact agility. The application will also be essentially locked into the taxation solution as-is (or require duplication of services by hooking another Tax service to the structure ).

IT leaders have to have a holistic view of their Composable Commerce environment. The beauty of Composable Commerce is you’re never locked into a specific vendor or service, and you can leverage a combined portfolio of off-the-shelf PBCs and microservices, in-house suppliers and ecosystem apps. Anything that no longer serves the corporation may be swapped out for something that does. The ideal granularity of each PBC at any given time should be determined by business need, and balanced with cost, complexity and time-to-market.

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