Netcentric’s CTO Conrad Wöltge shares his expert insights on AEM as a Cloud Service

AEM as a Cloud Service (AEM-CS) has transformed the way brands manage their digital content while creating impactful customer experiences.

As Netcentric’s CTO, and following 10 years as a Principal Architect at Adobe, Conrad Wöltge, has led multiple AEM-CS deployments and quickly been established as a thought-leader on the AEM-CS landscape.

In recognition of his expertise, Conrad was approached by Adobe to share his unique insights on the benefits of leveraging the cloud-native architecture’s modernized software deployments.

Here, he shares his vision for the future of CX delivery with Adobe’s cloud-native AEM at its core.

Read Conrad’s full interview below.

How would you compare AEM as a Cloud Service (Sites & Assets) vs. a typical on-prem or ‘self-managed’ CMS or DAM deployment?

Where typical on-prem or ‘self-managed’ CMS is installed and run on-site, with AEM as a Cloud Service this architecture has changed fundamentally. It was born as a Cloud-native system so it provides companies with even more capabilities than using on-premise or self-managed systems. It also reduces complexity and costs. There are 3 ways it does this.

Firstly, as the new cloud-native architecture leverages more automation, processes that could be time-consuming and not as efficient with on-premise CMS or DAM deployment, are now much easier. For example, with AEM as a Cloud Service, the upgrade cycle is turned around entirely. Instead of getting a service pack every three months, you get weekly updates from Adobe that have already been tested against your code so they don't break anything in your environment. You simply make a change, observe any breakages, and fix the backend yourself before it even makes it to production.

Secondly, with Cloud-native AEM, you can also test new versions of your code easily and quickly as it streamlines A/B testing (also known as blue/green or black/red deployments). You can run new versions on 5% of your traffic and analyze the performance. If the traffic doesn’t match your expectations, you take it down and try to figure out why. In short, AEM as a Cloud Service enables you to achieve data-driven results. Say, for example, an online retailer deploys a new ‘shop’ button on their site. If the button produces more traffic and conversions, great! They can go forward and run it on 100% of their traffic. If it doesn’t, there will be a drop in conversions, so, they’ll take it down and have a closer look. Thanks to real-time data analysis, anomaly detection, and advanced automation, brands are told in real-time whether something is or isn’t running as it should be.

Thirdly, AEM as a Cloud Service offers true cluster for authoring and Adobe I/O integration. In the new architecture, the authoring environment provides more scalability — you can add a lot more nodes working in parallel as many of the tasks that traditionally ran in one instance are now serverless. For example, if you want to upload multiple videos there is no longer the risk of a “self-inflicted DOS attack”. With the new architecture, instead of uploading them, you point to an S3 bucket, and a serverless call is made to this with cloud-only calculations. Even if you have a long queue, it doesn't matter. You can launch a lot of these services in parallel and you’d still have the same processing time, making it much more efficient.

What has been the impact from AEM as a Cloud Service and Cloud Manager for enabling multi-site, multi-language personalized experience creation for our customers?

AEM as a Cloud Service has had a huge impact on the ways brands create multi-site, multi-language personalized experience. With AEM, you can roll out across markets in multiple languages, with content that is already localized to the point where only minor adjustments are needed. Now, with AEM as a Cloud Service, there are all kinds of new capabilities baked into the system, and in a very smart and very unobtrusive way.

The cloud-native system optimizes both translation processes and rollouts to different countries. The general translation and domain-specific language translation processes are also highly automated which means it’s more efficient and much more precise. This is important in legal terms and also ensures that your customers understand you no matter where they are in the world.

Is there direct business impact from adopting such new highly agile and resilient technology?

Leveraging AEM as a Cloud Service has an enormous business impact as it makes the organization itself much more agile, resilient, and cost-efficient. Currently, large enterprises running a server environment often pay hundreds of thousands per year. Even those that run on AWS or Azure still need the right people to manage the servers. So, while hardware expenses might be less, there’s still the cost of managing, updating and making it flexible. With a cloud-native system, such complexity and costs are reduced significantly.

What’s more, when you’re running on-premise, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an international website on a server landscape or a small website of just 20/30 pages — your deployment, updates, risk assessment, etc. are going to cost the same. That’s why AEM as a Cloud Service, and specifically, our DigitalXn package, has a sizable business impact for SMEs. DigitalXn is a cloud-native service that’s been built entirely for the midmarket. We often see that companies with the budget for a bespoke solution, don’t necessarily have the expertise and capability to manage the complexity behind it, so we’ve ensured it’s affordable in terms of cost but also in terms of complexity.

DigitalXn brings Adobe products to midmarket brands in a way that means they don’t have to deal with tech or face complicated decisions. It’s a digital foundation of solutions that allows you to apply proven best practices and blueprints to your organization. We give companies 95% of what they need for exceptional experience creation with extension points, so it’s standardized but customizable. Then we make it run smoothly and without unnecessary complexity. Initial costs are much lower so businesses can start with just 20% of the previously required budget. They can also get up and running significantly quicker than with on-premise or self-managed CMS which can have around 6 month deployment plans.

Are there any specific project examples you would like to share?

One of our key clients is an international brewery which has been heavily impacted by Covid. They wanted a way to get better digital asset management at a lower cost. So, we introduced them to the combination of AEM as a Cloud Service with our accelerator blueprint on top for digital asset management. We also added a couple of nice gimmicks that enabled direct marketing customization and delivered the solution very quickly, so they were able to get rid of additional agency and technology costs.

This project demonstrates just how important it is for brands to stay agile during these unprecedented times, and how crucial leveraging a cloud-native AEM is to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape.