MACH Is a Beautiful Thing for Heavy Building Materials Tech

Robin Adams

An interview with innovator Todd McPartlin, Director of Engineering at Command Alkon

The earliest cloud adopters and migrators know. They just know. If you ask, they’ll tell you how their teams are far more synchronized, and their companies save thousands in IT costs after making the migration.

It’s been the better part of two decades that companies have been steadily transitioning their daily operations. It’s an evolution that Todd McPartlin has been more than merely witness to. As the director of engineering at Command Alkon, Todd has been an integral part of advancing the company’s cloud vision and a driving force behind innovation; making it more accessible to businesses of all sizes. If you ask him, he’ll say ‘it’s come a long, long way and it’s not just for enterprise companies anymore.’ He’ll also share how his dad and brothers are all in construction. Seems fitting that Todd finds joy in a career that also enables his family to do more – faster and more securely – with the innovations Todd and his team facilitate.

Focused on technologies that make the heavy building materials industry more productive, Command Alkon was among the first in the industry to deliver cloud-native innovation. The company’s flagship solutions are designed to be serverless, which is atypical in most industries. Command Alkon is fully invested in progressive technology – think Machine Learning, AI (before it became a household name), and the opportunities that come from operating in the cloud. And today, in the world of software design and deployment, that looks like MACH architecture.

Who Gives a MACH?

MACH is a novel architectural pattern. An acronym that gets its namesake for being Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. Just like baking a cake (because who doesn’t love dessert), a MACH-based application is made up of different parts that work together to create a whole (cake). Microservices are the individual cake ingredients that are independent units that can be mixed and matched. The API-first is the recipe that tells you what ingredients you need and how to mix them together. The cloud-native is the oven which provides the environment for the cake to be baked. And headless is the icing that adds flavor and decoration. Combing these different ingredients creates an app that’s more flexible, scalable, intuitive for users, and easy to maintain compared to traditional monolithic apps.

Cake aside, MACH structures applications as a collection of services organized around a specific business need or technical capabilities. This makes it an ideal strategy for the evolving needs of heavy building materials infrastructure. It works its magic by enabling both in-house and third-party applications to work ‘better together’, making them more adaptable – pluggable, replaceable, scalable, and independently deployed and improved. Essentially MACH enables heavy building materials applications to be better collaborators.

It's flexible. MACH makes it easier to change and update individual components without affecting the rest of the application.

It’s scalable. MACH apps can be scaled up or down easily since each component is independently adjustable.

It’s resilient. Given that each component may be developed and deployed independently, the continuous integration and continuous delivery doesn’t affect the rest of the application.

Faster Customer Response

No doubt you’ve been hearing a lot of companies talking about their API-first (Application Programming Interface) strategies. Acronyms aside, when baking…er, um…designing using MACH architecture, developers reuse code and avoid duplicating effort between applications. It gets programmed faster. This accelerated development translates to faster response times in an industry that’s keenly centered on optimizing productivity down to the very minute. Perhaps one could say we’re bringing innovations to the industry at “MACH” speed. 

All joking aside, Todd says, “We’ve always been API-centric. The difference with those earlier APIs is that they’re more like what we now refer to as experience APIs.” More like the icing on the cake. However, using a MACH-based approach helps by bringing partner technologies together – and it can be done faster because there’s less code overlap and less disruption to other components of the application.

Since Command Alkon is 100% serverless running on Amazon (AWS Lambda), its cloud solutions are cloud-native – literally born to live and thrive in the cloud. Cloud native is not to be confused as cloud based, but that’s for another story.

What MACH architecture is enabling the company to do is allow industry partners to combine their own front ends with all the smarts of the heavy building materials tech that Command Alkon provides. All in the name of elevating and streamlining the end-users’ experience. Quite literally, users just click a button, the data is sent to an API, and all the logic is there to execute precisely what’s been requested. And Todd knows this is how Command Alkon is going to gain speed and deliver more timely responses to its customers.

But it doesn’t stop there. Arguably one of the biggest advantages for its customers is that the company is better able to get information to the people who need it. The people in the field. So, whether someone needs to know the status of an order, or where their truck is at, the years Command Alkon has invested in being cloud-native (not cloud-based) and its more recent deployment of MACH architecture are culminating into some of the most forward-thinking innovations available to the industry today.

Much like the earliest adopters of cloud, businesses that embark on the MACH journey with Command Alkon are going to reap the rewards. They’ll find that their teams are far more synchronized and collaborative – in particular for the people in the field for whom every single minute matters. They’ll talk about how they’re saving hundreds of hours in productivity gains. Ultimately, getting more time back in their days to…bake a cake?

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