Spartacus is a modern frontend for SAP Commerce that provides standard e-commerce store functionality and connects to the SAP backend through a set of REST API. It will eventually replace SAP Accelerators and become the standard frontend for all verticals. Today, SAP Spartacus has already got a sufficient maturity level to utilize it in B2C projects.
At the time of writing (March 2021) the most recent version is 3.1. However, it will still take years for Spartacus to finally implement the vision and make Accelerators obsolete. A full functional parity with the old storefronts will not be achieved before 2023.
With Spartacus SAP seems to enter an entirely new way of building their commerce platform.
Spartacus is, like very few other SAP modules, an open-source project. A welcome move by the giant and one that will surely make it popular in the community. It is hosted on Github, where it has 75 contributors and claims 500 stars its own. Not a bad start for a SAP project.
Despite it being open source there is no doubt about its SAP’s association. Most contributors are SAP Employees or contracted by SAP and the Readme.md states in the first line:
Spartacus talks to SAP Commerce Cloud exclusively through the Commerce REST API.
As the code hosting is different, so is the support. Thanks to the open-source nature of the project the Spartacus team can make use of more modern communication ways.
- StackOverflow questions and answers
- Slack channel for non-technical questions
SAP maintains a support team in an 18/5 model. Since March 2021 official support is offered for SAP Commerce Cloud license owners.
In our eyes Spartacus is a “maturing” solution. As of writing this article in March 2021, we consider it a solid production-ready product for B2C and we feel confident implementing it for major customers. That being said, it is not yet a product that can replace accelerators in all their facets and, as mentioned before, the full parity with accelerators is not expected to be achieved before 2023.
The functional scope is still rather limited and, while building a project, you must expect to implement and maintain a larger set of custom components. However, unlike with the accelerators, after upgrading libraries to a newer version you get a chance to replace those custom elements with standard.
The Spartacus team maintains a long-term roadmap for product development which can be found here.
The Roadmap only serves as general orientation. For instance, Spartacus 3.0 was planned for early September 2020 but it’s final release was at the end of the year.
Obviously, the general and ever valid rule for SAP Commerce roadmapping applies to Spartacus as well - you should never rely on SAP’s/Hybris roadmaps when planning your project.
Customer Experience expectations have changed so dramatically that there is just no point in sticking to old Accelerator storefronts. It’s only a matter of time before organizations build their new modern frontends and there is a legitimate, strategical question on the direction to take here.
But is Spartacus the only option or your best option?
Custom greenfield frontends. The abundance of modern easy-to-use JS Frameworks, the ease and speed of implementing with Angular, React.js or Vue.js leads many teams to building their own storefronts from scratch. It is, in fact, way less unreasonable that it may sound, particularly considering the still insufficient support by dedicated mature storefront-products on the market.
Agency frameworks. Larger and more tech-savvy agencies have developed their own frameworks and used those for multiple customer projects, leveraging synergies and a library approach of their own. They guarantee a faster time-to-market and more solid architecture than the greenfield approach.
Disclaimer: ENGINIETY built IPA.C - Integration Platform Acclerator for exactly the same purpose and with the idea of easily integrating various backends into one stringent e-commerce PWA frontend.
Frontend as a Service (FEaaS). Hosted frontend solutions, which in the future will allow for very fast building of the initial application, high agility, upgrade paths and business tooling, are shifting the efforts from developers to business users. The most notable provider is Frontastic.
Open source storefront frameworks. There is a range of open-source projects which aim at delivering ready-to-use shop applications for agnostic backends. They are still quite immature and, often, too tightly coupled with one particular commerce backend. We expect a lot from the development in this area in the next years but so far it’s been underwhelming.VueStorefront makes the most notable example here.
Summarizing the above list - we are still very early in the process of establishing solid PWA e-commerce products/frameworks and a lot can be expected in this area in the future. Considering this Spartacus seems to be at the right time and at the right place. It truly might be your best option if you decide not to open to any other backend and commit to SAP for years.
Here lies the biggest weakness of Spartacus. Its clear philosophy is to be the frontend for SAP Commerce and nothing else. It does not make any attempt to support other backends than SAP.
For instance, Spartacus relies deeply on SAP’s CMS (SmartEdit) and this integration is essential to presenting any of its pages. It’s not easy to plug into this logic, although there have been successful attempts to force an integration by commercial CMS providers (SAP partners). Even if this worked out, in our eyes it may not result in a solid future-proof solution. Spartacus' architecture is not designed with this particular extensibility in mind.
It’s not surprising that SAP has chosen the way of a proprietary backend integration for Spartacus. It will solidify its presence in customers systems and reduce the risk of its potential future replacement. However, from the customers perspective this increases the notorious vendor lock-in.
We can help
My name is Mirek Bartnik. I am the CTO of ENGINIETY with over 10 years of experience with SAP Hybris deployments. Drop me a line if you happen to be thinking about SAP Commerce Upgrade but don’t know where to start or you already got stuck in the process.
I will reply to you personally.