The State of the Jamstack in 2021

For the second year running, Luminary has partnered with Kentico Kontent to produce The State of the Jamstack report. Here are our thoughts one year on.

Andy Thompson pulling a funny face

By Andy Thompson & Adam Griffith, 6 minute read

A few years ago, Jamstack was something of a buzzword. One short year ago, we wrote that it was time for the Jamstack to shine. A lot can change in twelve months! Let's take a look at the state of the Jamstack in 2021.

Jamstack for Enterprise

Increasingly, digital teams of all shapes and sizes are migrating toward the Jamstack as a web technology platform. While it's been popular for smaller websites for years now, Enterprise-level decision makers such as CTOs, CIOs, and CMOs are now coming to us with a microservices + Jamstack architecture in mind.

The Jamstack consists of three key elements: JavaScript, APIs, and Markup. Often overlooked is the API component, which represent the rich ecosystem of SaaS platforms, third-party integrations, and custom APIs behind any Jamstack project of reasonable complexity. This is even more true for Enterprise users who typically have varied and complex integration requirements beyond simple web publishing.

In the past year, we've also seen a group of Enterprise technology vendors band together to get behind a new acronym and variation on the Jamstack: MACH

MACH is short for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless. This architecture approach is very similar to, and espouses most of the same benefits as the Jamstack, but it places a greater emphasis on these critical services providing the grunt behind the Markup and JavaScript, particularly cloud-first Headless CMS or Content-as-a-Service providers. 

A year of trade-offs

In recent years, the '6 Ss' - Speed, Stability, Scalability, Security, Serviceability, and Simplicity - have been compelling reasons, or benefits, for organisations to consider the Jamstack as an Enterprise platform. However it has almost always involved a number of trade-offs in these areas, often due to the reliance on these 'behind-the-scenes' APIs and third-party services. 

For example, the scalability benefits of being able to instantly scale and respond to massive spikes in traffic, versus the bottlenecks experienced when scaling up a site's content library from hundreds to thousands or tens of thousands of pages. Or the lightning speed page loads of a statically-generated website, versus the necessary delay in publishing while that static website is re-generated and re-deployed.

Maturing services

While the intrinsic benefits of the Jamstack remain as strong as ever, it is in the innovation and evolution of these 'behind-the-scenes' APIs and supporting services that we have seen the biggest leaps forward in the past year.

A couple of years ago, hosting a Jamstack site meant simply dropping the static files on any cheap hosting platform you like. Today, there are emerging leaders in fit-for-purpose Jamstack DevOps and hosting platforms, that handle everything from build and deploy through to high performance hosting and even serverless functions for your custom APIs. Niche providers such as Netlify, Vercel, and Gatsby Cloud, and even the biggest names in town are getting on board, such as Microsoft with its Azure Static Web Apps offering and its deep integration with GitHub Actions.

Similarly, more and more integrated services are treating Jamstack as a first-class citizen by going 'API-first', including long-term holdouts such as eCommerce providers, and even traditional, monolithic CMS platforms.

Revisiting the '6 Ss'

While they were already key strengths of the Jamstack as a platform, there's always room for improvement! A year later, the biggest leaps forward have been in the areas of serviceability, speed, and simplicity.

Serviceability

Serviceability refers to the degree to which the servicing of an item can be accomplished with given resources and within a specified timeframe. The Jamstack improves serviceability by essentially opening up the option of selecting 'best-of-breed' tools and services, so each individual task that a content editor, developer, marketer, or product manager might need to perform can be done in the best tool for the job.

This disconnect between services can tend to introduce some disadvantages however. For example, an 'all-in-one' system such as Digital Experience Platforms can potentially provide a more unified and easy to learn or use interface, compared to a 'suite' of separate tools.

Headless CMS or Content-as-a-Service platforms have seen huge improvements in serviceability for Jamstack websites in the last year. Where before, using a Headless CMS could mean having to tolerate being disconnected from your web channel and having to hope things looked right when you published them, the leading vendors are now offering impressive features that bridge the gap between headless and traditional content management, such as real-time web page preview and on-page editing.

Simplicity

In previous years, producing a Jamstack website with all the options available could mean cobbling together a disparate set of potentially confusing tools and being left with something of a 'house of cards' architecture that could fall apart if any of its components ran into trouble. Now there are a number of fit-for-purpose, dedicated frameworks and services specifically for developing, building, testing, deploying, hosting, and monitoring Jamstack websites with Enterprise levels of security, performance, support and SLAs.

Integration scenarios can also get extremely complex and fragile in a microservices world, with data flow diagrams starting to resemble a plate of spaghetti. While integration options are unlimited once every service exposes fully-featured APIs, it can also mean that Solution Architects are required to design and maintain a large number of integrations. Now, software vendors are increasingly supporting 'out-of-the-box' integration scenarios with each other, or intermediary integration platforms such as Zapier, Azure Logic Apps, or Pipedream

Speed

Site speed is unquestionably a major advantage of the Jamstack architecture. However, to get those instant page loads and incredibly quick page transitions, there is always a trade-off to be made. Commonly, this comes in the form of a publishing delay, while you wait for your Static Site Generator (SSG) to be rebuilt and deployed after content has changed in your CMS or one of your other connected data sources. Or if you're using a Single Page App (SPA) that needs to load and render quite a bit on initial page load, you could be running into issues with Google's Core Web Vitals metrics.

This year we've seen major releases from leading SSGs Gatsby.js and Next.js targeting drastically decreased site generation time. Tight integration with CI platforms such as Netlify and Vercel allow for smart caching and incremental page generation which can get publishing times down to mere seconds, making them as fast or even faster than traditional CMS publishing.

Frameworks such as Next.js support a hybrid of static and dynamic site generation, allowing you to run a real-time secure preview site linked to your CMS, but also generate a static site for your production environment that comes with all the benefits of the Jamstack, giving you the best of both worlds.

Enhancements in the actual Jamstack front-end rendering frameworks in use are also unlocking some of the latest techniques and modern browser as as dynamic component import, and native lazy loading.

A mature platform

With the advancements and innovation in the Jamstack ecosystem in the past year, we strongly believe that the Jamstack is ready for Enterprise. It's now over to Enterprise organisations to ask themselves if they are ready. A move to the Jamstack requires change across the organisation, and organisations need to take this change seriously or risk missing out on some, or all, of the benefits that come with an effective Jamstack architecture. 

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