1. The Microfrontend Revolution: Module Federation in Webpack 5
  2. The Microfrontend Revolution: Module Federation with Angular
  3. Dynamic Module Federation with Angular
  4. Building A Plugin-based Workflow Designer With Angular and Module Federation
  5. Getting Out of Version-Mismatch-Hell with Module Federation
  6. Using Module Federation with (Nx) Monorepos and Angular
  7. Pitfalls with Module Federation and Angular
  8. Multi-Framework and -Version Micro Frontends with Module Federation: Your 4 Steps Guide
  9. Module Federation with Angular’s Standalone Components

Multi-Framework and -Version Micro Frontends with Module Federation: Your 4 Steps Guide

This article shows an approach for using different frameworks and versions together. It also discusses the pros and cons.

  1. The Microfrontend Revolution: Module Federation in Webpack 5
  2. The Microfrontend Revolution: Module Federation with Angular
  3. Dynamic Module Federation with Angular
  4. Building A Plugin-based Workflow Designer With Angular and Module Federation
  5. Getting Out of Version-Mismatch-Hell with Module Federation
  6. Using Module Federation with (Nx) Monorepos and Angular
  7. Pitfalls with Module Federation and Angular
  8. Multi-Framework and -Version Micro Frontends with Module Federation: Your 4 Steps Guide
  9. Module Federation with Angular’s Standalone Components

Most articles on Module Federation assume, you have just one version of your major Framework, e. g. Angular. However, what to do if you have to mix and match different versions or different frameworks? No worries, we got you covered. This article uses an example to explain how to develop such a scenario in 4 steps.

Example

Please find the live demo and the source code here:

Pattern or Anti-Pattern?

In his recent talk on Micro Frontend Anti Patterns, my friend Luca Mezzalira mentions using several frontend frameworks in one application. He calls this anti pattern the Hydra of Lerna. This name comes from a water monster in Greek and Roman mythology having several heads.

There’s a good reason for considering this an anti pattern: Current frameworks are not prepared to be bootstrapped in the same browser tab together with other frameworks or other versions of themselves. Besides leading to bigger bundles, this also increases the complexity and calls for some workarounds.

However, Luca also explains that there are some situations where such an approach might be needed. He brings up the following examples:

  1. Dealing with legacy systems
  2. Migration to a new UI framework/ library
  3. After merging companies with different tech stacks

This all speaks right from my heart and perfectly correlates with my "story" I’m telling a lot at conferences and at our company workshops: Try to avoid mixing frameworks and versions in the browser. However, if you have a good reason for doing it after ruling out the alternatives, there are ways for making Multi-Framework/ Multi-Version Micro Frontends work.

As always in the area of software architecture — and probably in life as general — it’s all about trade-offs. So if you find out that this approach comes with less drawbacks than alternatives with respect to your very architecture goals, lets go for it.

Micro Frontends as Web Components?

While not 100% necessary, it can be a good idea to wrap your Micro Frontends in Web Components.

Micro Frontends wrapped in Web Components

This brings several advantages:

  • Abstracting differences between frameworks
  • Mounting/ Unmounting Web Components is easy
  • Shadow DOM helps with isolating CSS styles
  • Custom Events and Properties allow to communicate

The first two options correlate with each other. We need to display and hide our Micro Frontends on demand, e. g. when activating a specific menu item. As each Micro Frontend is a self-contained frontend, this also means we have to bootstrap it on demand in the middle of our page. For this, different frameworks provide different methods or functions. When wrapped into Web Components, all we need to do is to add or remove the respective HTML element registered with the Web Component.

Isolating CSS styles via Shadow DOM helps to make teams more self-sufficient. However, I’ve seen that quite often teams trade in a bit of independence for some global CSS rules provided by the shell. In this case, the Shadow DOM emulation provided by Angular (with and without Web Components) is a good choice: While it prevents styles from other components bleeding into yours, it allows to share global styles too.

Also, Custom Events and Properties seem to be a good choice for communicating at first glance. However, for the sake of simplicity, meanwhile, I prefer a simple object acting as a mediator or "mini message bus" in the global namespace.

In general, we have to see that such Web Components wrapping whole Micro Frontends are no typical Web Components. I’m stressing this out because sometimes people confuse the idea of a (Web) Component with the idea of a Micro Frontend or use these terms synonymously. This leads to far too fine-grained Micro Frontends causing lots of issues with integration.

Do we also need Module Federation?

Module Federation makes it easy to load parts of other applications into a host. In our case, the host is the Micro Frontend shell. Also, Module Federation allows for sharing libraries between the shell and the micro frontends.

It even comes with several strategies for dealing with versions mismatches. For instance, we could configure it to reuse an existing library if the versions match exactly. Otherwise, we could instruct it to load the version is has been built with.

Loading the discussed Micro Frontends with Module Federation hence gives us the best of both worlds. We can share libraries when possible and load our own when not:

The Best of Both Worlds

Implementation in 4 steps

Now, after discussing the implementation strategy, let’s look at the promised 4 steps for building such a solution.

Step 1: Wrap your Micro Frontend in a Web Component

For wrapping Angular-based Micro Frontends in a Web Component, you can go with Angular Elements provided by the Angular team. Install it via npm:

npm i @angular/elements

After installing it, adjust your AppModule as follows:

import { createCustomElement } from '@angular/elements';
[...]

@NgModule({
  [...]
  declarations: [
    AppComponent
  ],
  bootstrap: [] // No bootstrap components!
})
export class AppModule implements DoBoostrap {
  constructor(private injector: Injector) {
  }

  ngDoBootstrap() {
    const ce = createCustomElement(AppComponent, {injector: this.injector});
    customElements.define('angular1-element', ce);
  }

}

This does several things:

  • By going with an empty bootstrap array, Angular won’t directly bootstrap any component on startup. However, in such cases, Angular demands us of placing a custom bootstrap logic in the method ngDoBootstrap described by the DoBoostrap interface.
  • ngDoBootstrap uses Angular Elements’ createCustomElement to wrap your AppComponent in a Web Component. To make it work with DI, you also need to pass the current Injector.
  • The method customElements.define registers the Web Component under the name angular1-element with the browser.

The result of this is that the browser will mount the Application in every angular1-element tag that occurs in your application.

If your framework doesn’t directly support web components, you can also hand-wrap your application. For instance, a React component could be wrapped as follows:

// app.js
import React from 'react'
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom'

class App extends React.Component {

  render() {
    const reactVersion = require('./package.json').dependencies['react'];

    return ([
        <h1>
          React
        </h1>,
        <p>
          React Version: {reactVersion}
        </p>
    ])
  }
}

class Mfe4Element extends HTMLElement {
  connectedCallback() {
    ReactDOM.render(<App/>, this);
  }
}

customElements.define('react-element', Mfe4Element);

Step 2: Expose your Web Component via Module Federation

To be able to load the Micro Frontends into the shell, we need to expose the Web Components wrapping them via Module Federation. For this, add the package @angular-architects/module-federation to your Angular-based Micro Frontend:

ng add @angular-architects/module-federation

This installs and initializes the package. If you go with Nx and Angular, its more usual to do both steps separately:

npm i @angular-architects/module-federation -D
ng g @angular-architects/module-federation:init

In the case of other frameworks like React or Vue, this all is just about adding the ModuleFederationPlugin to the webpack configuration. Please remember that you need to bootstrap your application asynchronously in most cases. Hence, your entry file will more or less just contain a dynamic import loading the rest of the application.

For this reason, the above discussed React-based Micro Frontend uses the following index.js as the entry point:

// index.js
import('./app');

Similarly, @angular-architects/module-federation is moving the bootstrap code from main.ts into a newly created bootstrap.ts and imports it:

// main.ts
import('./bootstrap');

This common pattern gives Module Federation the necessary time for loading the shared dependencies.

After setting up Module Federation, expose the Web Component-based wrapper via the webpack configuration:

// webpack.config.js
[...]
module.exports = {
  [...]
  plugins: [
    new ModuleFederationPlugin({

      name: "angular1",
      filename: "remoteEntry.js",

      exposes: {
        './web-components': './src/bootstrap.ts',
      },

      shared: share({
        "@angular/core": { requiredVersion: "auto" },
        "@angular/common": { requiredVersion: "auto" },
        "@angular/router": { requiredVersion: "auto" },
        "rxjs": { requiredVersion: "auto" },

        ...sharedMappings.getDescriptors()
      }),
      [...]
    })
  ],
};

The settings in the section shared make sure we can mix several versions of a framework but also reuse an already loaded one if the version numbers fit exactly. For this, requiredVersion should point to the installed version — the one, you also find in your package.json. The helper method share that comes with @angular-architects/module-federation takes care of this when setting requiredVersion to auto.

While according to semantic versioning an Angular library with a higher minor or patch version is backwards compatible, there are no such guarantees for already compiled code. The reason is that the code emitted by the Angular compiler uses Angular’s internal APIs semantic does not apply for. Hence, you should use an exact version number (without any ^ or ~).

Step 3: Perform Workaround for Angular

To make several Angular application work together in one browser window, we need some workarounds. The good message is, we’ve implemented them in a very slim add-on to @angular-architects/module-federation called @angular-architects/module-federation-tools.

Just install it (npm i @angular-architects/module-federation-tools -D) into both, your Micro Frontends and your shell. Then, bootstrap your shell and your Micro Frontends with its bootstrap method instead of with Angular’s one:

// main.ts
import { AppModule } from './app/app.module';
import { environment } from './environments/environment';
import { bootstrap } from '@angular-architects/module-federation-tools';

bootstrap(AppModule, {
  production: environment.production,
  appType: 'microfrontend'  // for micro frontend
  // appType: 'shell',      // for shell
});

Step 4: Load Micro Frontends into the Shell

Also, enable Module Federation in your shell. If it is an Angular-based shell, add the @angular-architects/module-federation plugin:

ng add @angular-architects/module-federation

As mentioned above, in the case of Nx and Angular, perform the installation and initialization separately:

npm i @angular-architects/module-federation -D
ng g @angular-architects/module-federation:init

In your webpack configuration, define which libraries to share with the Micro Frontends:

// webpack.config.js
[...]
module.exports = {
  [...]
  plugins: [
    new ModuleFederationPlugin({

      shared: share({
        "@angular/core": { requiredVersion: "auto" },
        "@angular/common": { requiredVersion: "auto" },
        "@angular/router": { requiredVersion: "auto" },
        "rxjs": { requiredVersion: "auto" },

        ...sharedMappings.getDescriptors()
      })

    }),
    [...]
  ],
};

Other settings provided by the ModuleFederationPlugin aren’t needed here.

After this, all you need is a lazy route, loading the Micro Frontends in question:

import { WebComponentWrapper, WebComponentWrapperOptions } from '@angular-architects/module-federation-tools';

export const APP_ROUTES: Routes = [
    [...]
    {
        path: 'react',
        component: WebComponentWrapper,
        data: {
            remoteEntry: 'https://witty-wave-0a695f710.azurestaticapps.net/remoteEntry.js',
            remoteName: 'react',
            exposedModule: './web-components',

            elementName: 'react-element'
        } as WebComponentWrapperOptions
    },
    [...]
]

The WebComponentWrapper used here is provided by @angular-architects/module-federation-tools. It just loads the Web Component via Module Federation using the given key data. In the shown case, this react application is deployed as an Azure Static Web App. The values for remoteName and exposedModule can be found in the Micro Frontend’s webpack configuration.

The wrapper component also creates an HTML element with the name react-element the Web Component is mounted in.

If you load a Micro Frontend compiled with Angular 13 or higher, you need to set the property type to module:

export const APP_ROUTES: Routes = [
    [...]
    {
        path: 'angular1',
        component: WebComponentWrapper,
        data: {
          type: 'module',
          remoteEntry: 'https://your-path/remoteEntry.js',
          exposedModule: './web-components',

          elementName: 'angular1-element'
        } as WebComponentWrapperOptions
    },
    [...]
}

Also, in the case of Angular 13+ you don’t need the remoteName property. The reason for these two differences is that Angular CLI 13+ don’t emit "old-style JavaScript" files anymore but JavaScript modules. Their handling in Module Federation is a bit different.

If your Micro Frontend brings its own router, you need to tell your shell that the Micro Frontend will append further segments to the URL. For this, you can go with the startsWith matcher also provided by @angular-architects/module-federation-tools:

import { 
    startsWith, 
    WebComponentWrapper, 
    WebComponentWrapperOptions 
} 
from '@angular-architects/module-federation-tools';

[...]

export const APP_ROUTES: Routes = [
    [...]
    {
        matcher: startsWith('angular3'),
        component: WebComponentWrapper,
        data: {
            [...]
        } as WebComponentWrapperOptions
    },
    [...]
}

To make this work, the path prefix angular3 used here needs to be used by the Micro Frontend too. As the routing config is just a data structure, you will find ways to add it dynamically.

Result

The result of this endeavor is an application that consists of different frameworks respective framework-versions:

Example

Whenever possible, the framework is shared. Otherwise, a new framework (version) is loaded by Module Federation. Another advantage of this approach is that it works without any additional meta framework. We just need some thin helper functions.

The drawbacks are increased complexity and bundle sizes. Also, we are leaving the path of the supported use cases: None of the frameworks has been officially tested together with other frameworks or other versions of itself in the same browser tab.

What’s next? More on Architecture!

So far, we’ve seen how to decompose a huge client into several Micro Frontends that can even use different frameworks. However, when dealing with enterprise-scale frontends, several additional questions come in mind:

  • According to which criteria can we subdivide a huge application into sub-domains?
  • How can we enforce loosely coupling?
  • How can we make sure, the solution is maintainable for years or even decades?
  • Which proven patterns should we use?
  • Which other options from Micro Frontends are provided by Module Federation?
  • Shall we go with a monorepo or with multiple ones?

Our free eBook (about 120 pages) covers all these questions and more:

free ebook

Feel free to download it here now!

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Unsere Angular-Schulungen

  1. The Microfrontend Revolution: Module Federation in Webpack 5
  2. The Microfrontend Revolution: Module Federation with Angular
  3. Dynamic Module Federation with Angular
  4. Building A Plugin-based Workflow Designer With Angular and Module Federation
  5. Getting Out of Version-Mismatch-Hell with Module Federation
  6. Using Module Federation with (Nx) Monorepos and Angular
  7. Pitfalls with Module Federation and Angular
  8. Multi-Framework and -Version Micro Frontends with Module Federation: Your 4 Steps Guide
  9. Module Federation with Angular’s Standalone Components

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