Mastering Composable Architecture: Build a Scalable, Warehouse-First Stack

Mastering Composable Architecture

Why is composable architecture the future of the modern tech framework? Composable architecture has been a growing tech strategy in the space, and has quickly gone from passing trend to competitive edge in a brand’s tech stack.

“Composable architecture” defines a brand’s technology environment, characterized by the use of storage and computation of a central data platform, with business applications that tap directly into the data—this means better security, efficiency, and performance for businesses, giving brands an agile, scalable best-of-breed approach rather than a monolithic legacy.

This introduction to composable architecture will give you the definition and essentials of composable architecture, its strategic advantages, and how it’s reshaping the future of tech, helping brands stay ahead in a dynamic digital economy.

Key Takeaways

  • Composable architecture breaks down locked up data silos and uses the data warehouse for centralization, storage and computation, with applications that tap into the data warehouse for activation.
  • Implementing composable architecture means understanding your current stack, defining scope and key capabilities and use cases, assessing readiness, and designing those components that contribute to this best-of-breed, warehouse-first approach.
  • Composable architecture offers significant benefits, and is expected to become a non-negotiable for any modern tech stack, integrating the best solutions and emerging tech with the data warehouse.
  • Leading Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) have adopted composable architecture that brings cutting-edge business applications straight to the data warehouse through query pushdown, to take composable architecture even further with zero-copy integration.

Understanding Composable Architecture: The Basics

In composable architecture, applications and warehouses are independent components that seamlessly integrate the central store of data with the business applications. It’s an approach where the complexity of traditional, monolithic systems that lock up data in each system are untangled into modular tools and solutions that deliver a best-of-breed approach, building on the data and intelligence stored in the data warehouse. Whether you’re an enterprise architect or IT manager designing your software systems or a business or marketing leader looking to future-proof your brand and build the best marketing campaigns, understanding the fundamentals of composable architecture is your first step towards building a better stack.

In a landscape that’s constantly changing, the ability to adapt quickly and build onto your central data store isn’t just an advantage – it’s a necessity. Composable architecture is the answer to this need, offering unparalleled flexibility and scalability. It empowers businesses to:

  • Extend their reach across multiple channels with an omnichannel approach
  • Respond to technological changes with ease
  • Optimize efficiency, with smarter integrations
  • Save costs associated with data maintenance across applications
  • Increase security by keeping the data securely where it lives in the data warehouse

Key Components of Composable Architecture

The center of composable architecture lies in an application or solution’s ability to integrate with the data warehouse. With solutions that connect to the data warehouse, they are all speaking to one another through the same data foundation, and operating with the same data, facilitating more flexible and consistent solutions that go beyond traditional infrastructure to best meet each unique business goal.

The modern tech stack is evolving into a set of composable entities and solutions that tap into the data warehouse. Having a modular design where you can use the applications you need is what enables businesses to quickly adapt their stack with changes to their business or the environment, like privacy changes, enabling businesses to scale their solutions and meet shifting demands with remarkable agility.

Comparing Composable Architecture with Traditional IT Approaches

The world of IT architecture is vast, with locked up, legacy structures that used to be the center of a business’s architecture. Composable architecture, however, breaks that mold by building applications as more modular, independent services that tap into the business’s data warehouse or lakehouse. This is in contrast to monolithic architecture’s single-unit structures that often become cumbersome to maintain, scale and evolve as data sources grow and proliferate.

Within the enterprise solution ecosystem, composable architecture is not just an alternative; it’s a leap forward. It constructs modular digital experiences that coalesce into a synergistic whole built on the data warehouse.

Composable architecture encapsulates a broader, more holistic approach to system building, leveraging composable architecture for enhanced flexibility and scalability.

Implementing Composable Architecture in Your Business

Implementing Composable Architecture in Your Business

If you want to move your stack towards a composable architecture, you’ll need to be strategic. and map your current data and technology strategy, understand your existing assets, and highlight areas where efficiency and speed to market can be improved with best-of-breed solutions that support seamless integrations to the data warehouse. Moving through a more strategic process gives you a chance to identify gaps, and build a blueprint for composable design, or a business capabilities map. In a similar vein, customer journey maps can help you visualize and optimize the experience of your clients.

Once you’ve assessed your business’s needs in designing your composable architecture, you can continue by:

  1. Defining the scope and evaluating the necessity for such a transformation.
  2. Checking readiness, including inventory, use case priorities, platform selection, and establishing processes.
  3. Taking stock of the capabilities and contributions of your applications, to make sure that you’re building an architecture that meets your goals.

Analyzing Your Existing Architecture

Understanding and breaking down your existing architecture is a critical phase in designing composable architecture, that requires a deep understanding and categorization of your business’s data. This deep dive into your system and the different channels through which data is coming lays the groundwork for a successful transition to composable architecture, built on a data warehouse. By understanding the dependencies and interfaces, you can begin to envision how a modular, composable system that integrates seamlessly with a centralized data store could take shape within your organization.

Creating visual models or diagrams can turn this vision into a tangible roadmap. With a deep understanding of your organization’s ecosystem, characterized by the interplay of business functions and applications, you’re one step closer to adopting the composable architecture that will prepare your business for a more modern world. Each team plays a crucial role in this process, ensuring the alignment of strategy and execution, from marketing and business teams to data and IT teams.

Defining Solutions and Use Cases

One of the features of composable architecture is the concept of modularity. By selecting those applications that will deliver on your goals, you can build a custom stack, all on the same data foundation. Some key requirements of a composable solution should include:

  • Seamless warehouse integration
  • Unbundled capabilities

The delineation of these components requires a thorough analysis to make sure they will operate the way they should within a composable environment. By identifying and defining these smaller units of functionality, you set the stage for modularity, enabling components to be reused and recombined, much like LEGO blocks being snapped together to create new structures.

Building and Integrating New Solutions

Composable Architecture - Building and Integrating New Solutions

The construction and integration of components are where the composable architecture comes to life. It’s important to test and make sure that the solutions you bring into your composable architecture will integrate seamlessly with the data warehouse.

Building applications with a focus on performance means managing high-frequency actions. This will ensure the seamless operation and smooth user experience that composable architecture promises. The result is a system where components can be updated independently, maintaining the integrity of the whole.

Overcoming Challenges in Composable Architecture

Overcoming Challenges in Composable Architecture

Maintaining and Updating Systems

The beauty of composable architecture lies in its ability to evolve. Individual technologies can be modified or replaced with minimal disruption, saving time and resources during updates. A robust maintenance strategy includes automated testing, continuous integration and delivery, and a strong monitoring system for building software systems.

Security is obviously non-negotiable; a comprehensive strategy should include encryption, access controls, and regular assessments. With the right documentation and training programs, team members can manage the complexities of varying interfaces and data formats, ensuring the composable system remains in top shape.

How Composable Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) Work

Composable CDPs are customer data platforms (CDPs) that map to the data where it lives, such as a data warehouse, rather than forcing companies to make a copy of the data and store it somewhere else. This is great for IT and data infrastructure teams because they don’t need to worry about storing data in two different places, data getting out of sync, introducing more risk in data security and privacy, or long deployment cycles.

Composable CDPs accomplish this by using a zero-copy architecture with capabilities to eliminate local storage of data copies. A warehouse-agnostic approach offers flexibility so that teams can select their preferred cloud infrastructure while providing business teams with an advanced no-code interface, connecting directly to data warehouses like Teradata VantageCloud, Databricks, Snowflake, Amazon Redshift and Google BigQuery.

Activate Your Data Warehouse with a Composable CDP

Ensuring Interoperability Between the CDP and the Data Warehouse

Interoperability is the linchpin of a successful composable architecture. With the right approach and integrated solutions, different technologies from multiple vendors can function cohesively, avoiding vendor lock-in.

Going a step further than interoperability, some Composable CDPs tap directly into the data warehouse, zero copies required. But with “zero copy” emerging as a buzzword in composable architecture, it’s important to understand the differences in meaning.

There are different modalities by which an application can connect to the data warehouse and facilitate composable architecture, such as data sharing or query pushdown. For a Customer Data Platform (CDP), these could include:

  • Traditional ELT/ETL Pipeline. Batch copies of data come from the data warehouse into the application, through ELT or ETL pipelines.
Traditional ELT/ETL Pipeline
  • Reverse ETL Data Pipeline. In this case, the solution itself acts as a data integration pipeline between the data warehouse and destination.
Reverse ETL Data Pipeline
  • Data Sharing. A capability that allows a solution to access Data Warehouse data from another system.
Data Sharing
  • Query Federation. Allows the business user to access the data warehouse through business features like audience segmentation and orchestration, letting the data warehouse host the data and query computation.

Testing each component’s interoperability is a critical step during implementation, guaranteeing that the stack performs and scales within a new connected ecosystem.

Real-World Examples of Composable Architecture Success With a Composable CDP

The proof of composable architecture’s potential is evident in the successes of companies like Northwestern Mutual, who adopted a Composable CDP to streamline their process, from data to marketing activation. By leveraging a composable content stack, Saks Fifth Avenue, also, designed a stack that met their goals to scale the customer experience with a Composable CDP.

Businesses are quickly embracing digital experience platforms that utilize composable architecture, allowing them to swiftly adapt to market conditions and deliver better experiences to their customers. This approach to building applications is no longer a futuristic vision; it’s a reality that’s reshaping the digital landscape through digital transformation strategies.

Case Study: Turning a Data Warehouse to a Customer Experience Engine With Composable Architecture

The team at Northwestern Mutual knew something was wrong when they were seeing a proliferation of fragmented data with their on-prem database, with about 200 data labs scattered throughout the organization. They wanted to achieve proper data lineage with all of the classifications of data, and all the security measures — they knew it would be easier to do that and cut down copies by putting it all in one place.

They decided to adopt the data lake and move to Databricks as their central store of data for a centralized data lakehouse with an activation engine — enter ActionIQ.

ActionIQ’s approach balances the practicality that many enterprise organizations will likely have data outside of one single system, even if the goal is to get it all in the lakehouse with the lakehouse as the center of gravity, organizations get a flexible approach with pre-built integrations. A hybrid composable strategy brings it all together in the most flexible way possible — like a choose your own adventure. For Northwestern Mutual, over the last few years of evolving their tech stack with Databricks and ActionIQ, Northwestern Mutual has increased their flexibility and speed to be ready for anything — without wasting any downtime.

Lessons Learned from Successful Implementations

Adopting a composable architecture in the business world brings tons of benefits to businesses like Northwestern Mutual. This includes:

  1. Simplify data footprint and reduce handoffs
  2. Ensure governance and compliance
  3. Streamline operations and speed to market

Furthermore, the architecture’s modularity allows for the adaptation of a tech stack without disrupting system functionality. This independence ensures that updates or scaling efforts in one component do not throw the entire system off balance, maintaining an equilibrium for a business’s continued success.

The Future of Composable Architecture: Trends and Predictions

The trajectory of composable architecture points towards a future where it becomes a cornerstone of enterprise software. With emerging technologies like generative AI, IoT, and blockchain, the potential for innovation and personalized experiences is boundless.

The Rise of Composable Enterprise

Businesses are evolving into composable enterprises, bringing the agility and flexibility needed to scale. These enterprises can quickly respond to market shifts and consumer behavior changes, with security measures woven into their technological fabric. As Gartner predicts, those utilizing composable architecture will outpace competitors in the implementation of new features, a testament to the architecture’s ability to:

  • Decentralize operations into self-sufficient teams
  • Enable rapid response to market shifts and consumer behavior changes
  • Incorporate security measures into the technological fabric


We’ve looked through the landscape of composable architecture, uncovered what it’s all about, explored its implementation, and reviewed real-world implementations of composable architecture.

Embracing composable architecture is more than a technological choice; it’s a strategic approach that enables businesses to pivot with the times, design a better stack with best-of-breed tooling, and ensure future success. To discuss more about how to design a composable stack with a CDP, reach out to our team.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary benefit of implementing composable architecture in my business?

The primary benefit of implementing composable architecture is the flexibility and scalability it offers to your business. It allows for quick adaptation to changing demands and seamless connection to a centralized data storage and computation, extension across multiple channels, and maintenance of security across modular components, ensuring efficiency and adaptability for future growth.

Can composable architecture be integrated with existing systems?

Yes, composable architecture can be integrated with existing systems by analyzing current IT functions, understanding dependencies, and creating a transition plan to modular design, allowing for a gradual integration.

What does the future hold for composable architecture?

Composable architecture is expected to see increased adoption across industries and integrate with emerging technologies like AI, IoT, and blockchain, driving innovation and agility in businesses. It’s a bright future ahead for composable architecture.

Michael Trapani
Michael Trapani
Head of Product Marketing
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