Working with Remote Fields to Connect your Services

Emily Nielsen
Emily Nielsen

December 21, 2020

Working with Remote Fields to Connect your Services

Earlier this month, we released remote fields. This is a piece of the puzzle we like to call Content federation - enabling teams to build optimized, data-rich applications, where teams can use existing services paired with new microservices to build user-friendly applications with a single content entry point. Teams will be able to load data from a single, manageable interface, sparing developers from having to create custom middleware.

What is a remote field?

A remote field is a custom resolver entry point for your schema and allows data to be sourced from an external third party web service and accept field values from other GraphCMS fields as arguments. Remote fields empower teams to enrich their GraphCMS projects with data from external services easily and programmatically. Our release of the latest Management SDK makes it easy to add remote fields to your project schema.

You can find detailed documentation on how to add remote fields here.

Remote fields are the first step in enabling content federation. With remote fields, teams are already able to extend the GraphCMS content API which allows teams to source data from external services. This powerful feature saves developers time by creating a reliable stream of up to date information that is available from the content API and gives teams greater flexibility to model content that will suit the needs of their projects. Teams are not limited to a single remote field, but instead can connect their ecosystem of microservices, eliminating data silos and creating a truly flexible system.

What are the benefits of content federation?

Content federation pushed teams to connect multiple best of breed services to provide rich, reusable content that is modeled for a single intended outcome. The best-of-breed approach ensures that teams are using the services which are the best fit for their needs and that they aren’t weighed down by extra functionality teams do not use. Content federation empowers teams to query the data from the various services from a single source, GraphCMS, to have all fragmented content unified. Just some of the benefits of content federation include ridding projects of content silos, using the most reliable data for a project, and using existing content without the need to maintain copies.

Rid projects of Content Silos

Content silos can sometimes feel like an inevitable byproduct of a microservice architecture. Content federation, however, eliminates content silos by sourcing data from existing services directly from the headless CMS, in this case, GraphCMS. This keeps teams from having to migrate data from old systems to the CMS and ensures that the frontend has the most current version of data.

Use the most reliable data

Because the data is being sourced directly from all systems when requested, the data will always be accurate. Teams are no longer copying and pasting from various services. With content federation, unconscious copying errors cannot happen and teams never need to worry about using data that is out of date. This is critical as teams scale because datasets will become larger and more complex.

Improve workflows

By connecting multiple best of breed services, teams have the functionality they need without time-consuming workarounds. Teams no longer need to manually pull data together into the CMS from several services. Instead, content federation allows teams to focus on creating new content and optimizing the larger project. With access to better data with more time on their hands, teams can create optimized workflows that increase productivity. Take for example if in an eCommerce project the inventory of a specific product managed in a PIM drops below a certain level, this information is updated in the CMS could trigger a team member to add a “Low Stock tag” to be displayed to the end-user. This new workflow is rapidly accelerated by content teams not needing to check several systems to see the updated inventory numbers.

Use existing content that is modeled for a specific purpose

Teams are no longer weighed down by time-consuming data entry processes. The existing content which lives in other services but is not in an ideal format for an end-user is still valuable when it is sourced from a headless CMS via content federation. In the CMS, the content can be modeled to suit the specific use case. Data from several services can be brought together to build data-rich content models. Reusing puts the power back in the hands of the team to decide how to build their tech stack and enables them to choose services with the functionality they need without the deadweight of features they don’t need.

How can content federation benefit my team on a practical level?

On a high-level, content federation can be exciting, but it is even more impressive when you see a practical application of federation and how it unlocks the ability for teams to build more powerful applications. One of the most straightforward illustrations of how content federation can give your project a boost is with an eCommerce project. Ecommerce projects rely on accurate, current data, clean UX, and straightforward UI.

Content federation ensures that you can easily connect services from PIM, to Payments, to Content and centralize it to a single content hub, instead of all of this data living in separate systems. The central content hub enables content teams to see the most up to date information regarding inventory, current promotions, and branding refinements. In creating a confluence of data streams in GraphCMS, teams can model projects so that they best suit the needs of the project, without weeks of manual work, gluing systems together.

Jesse takes an in-depth look at how content federation could look for an eCommerce project using Commercelayer below.


Is content federation reliable enough to build a business on?

Content federation can easily become the backbone of companies that are looking to build infrastructure that will scale with them or meet the needs of their demanding existing businesses. In creating a central content hub where data flows easily between services and is reflected in a single interface, teams will be able to optimize time, workflows with ease. Not only is content federation a reliable approach for companies to take, in many cases it is a necessary one. Teams that are struggling to scale because they have not yet implemented the core processes to grow in the long term. Content federation allows services to source the most up to date information directly from GraphCMS. The central hub of data will give teams quickly, programmatic access to data that typically lives in a plethora of different systems, eliminating data silos, removing the glue code, and saving teams time and headaches.

Remote fields are only the first step to the broader content federation story. In the coming months, GraphCMS will enable you to manipulate data that is stored in other services from this central content hub. Paired with Remote Fields, you will be able to easily create a whole new world of project types with this seamless two-way information flow. Teams will no longer have to take extensive resources to develop an error-prone middleware software; instead, using content federation, be able to use GraphCMS as the flexible system where you can distribute all your data and model content.

To get started with using remote fields and understanding how content federation can accelerate your business goals, get in touch for a demo.


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