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AEM to Cloud – is it time to make the change?

With Content Management Systems in the cloud looking to become the standard in years to come, are you ready to make the switch?

Adobe has moved to the cloud with its Enterprise CMS, Adobe Experience Manager. With Content Management Systems in the cloud looking to become the standard in years to come, are you ready to make the switch and why is now the time to do it?

In this series of three blogs, we will look at some of the benefits and challenges of making this change, and why it may be a 'no brainer' decision for some of you.

Cloud computing, cloud services, cloud everywhere - almost everyone is currently talking about "the cloud". What exactly does this term mean?

Essentially, 'the cloud' is computer resources such as storage or computing power in a data centre which can be accessed via the Internet. Nowadays more and more services are offered via the cloud including some of our favourites: Netflix, Spotify and Google's G-Suite - which enables collaborative work entirely from the cloud. In these examples, and all cloud-based platforms, software is no longer installed locally on your computer or on a server in your data centre, but the user obtains a service from the cloud. With the announcement of AEM as a Cloud Service 12 months ago, Adobe has now established its Enterprise CMS as a service from the cloud.

With on-premise customers experiencing no obvious limitations with the existing product, what advantages does AEM as a Cloud Service offer?

General

  • Optimisation of innovation cycles, faster time-to-market
  • Lower costs through product innovation, best practices and automation
  • Operation, availability and security are part of the service
  • Improved user experience & performance

Always On

  • No downtimes & content freezes necessary
  • Protection against cloud disasters & failures through automatic health checks

Always at Scale

  • Ensuring performance of the overall solution through autoscaling
  • Faster processing of assets (e.g. generation of metadata or different image sizes) through microservices

Always current

  • Latest features are available through automatic product updates
  • No more big-bang upgrades
  • Necessary code adaptations are continuously implemented in small agile steps

Always learning

  • Automatic performance & security updates
  • Native access to Adobe Sensei (Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence Service)

Who should make the move to AEM as a Cloud?

This depends on various factors, which we’ve categorised below: 

  • Existing on-premise customers need to consider whether they want to continue to host and operate AEM themselves. Because Adobe is putting the engineering power into AEM as a cloud service, features will be available there first. If at all, they will be backported to the on-premise version at a later date. These benefits have the potential to reduce the total cost of ownership, which in turn should be of interest to many customers. 

  • Customers who require features that are not currently compatible with AEM as a Cloud Service need to evaluate the different solutions. Together with Adobe, they must determine if, and when, the appropriate features will be available. 

  • For customers for whom AEM is not yet running on version 6.5, it is now necessary to decide whether the migration step to version 6.5 should be made or whether the switch to AEM as a Cloud Service should be made directly, if possible. 

  • If AEM is already operational on version 6.5, AEM as a Cloud Service should be considered as the next major release, upgrading accordingly. 

  • New AEM customers should implement their project with the target architecture AEM as a Cloud Service. Depending on the system requirements, it might be possible that the project is initially started on a managed service environment and then migrated to AEM as a Cloud Service at a later date. 

What are the risks, challenges and limitations that need to be considered before committing to the move?

Various on-premise upgrade projects have shown that with solid preparation, any project can be migrated. Even when switching to AEM as a Cloud Service, there are technical challenges that can be overcome with good project management. 
 
By moving to the cloud, part of the autonomy is also outsourced. It requires trust in the cloud provider and the software partner coupled with contractual safeguards. It is also important to be aware that unforeseen situations can arise if, for example, due to geopolitical interests, a service is not available in a region at all or suddenly no longer available.

What does it mean for companies wanting to switch to AEM as a Cloud Service?

From the authors' point of view, most things remain the same. There is no need for retraining because they already know the user interface (touch UI). The improved performance enables them to create experiences even more efficiently. The operation of AEM is now ensured by Adobe and as a result, the focus of the teams that have taken care of it so far is expected to shift to the development of the custom solution. Through the CI/CD pipeline via Cloud Manager, there are clear code requirements that must be met. These include security, reliability and maintainability ratings, code coverage and a clear separation of content and code. The basis of AEM remains the same, so developers can continue to use the full potential with familiar tools and patterns.

What should I do if I want to switch to AEM as a Cloud Service?

Both technically and organisationally, a project of this scale must be professionally planned and implemented. Therefore, start the initial planning phase with your trusted partner to define all necessary steps.  Business cases will, of course, vary and we have a clear ROI calculator and risk assessment matrix to help you make your decision.

What requirements must be met to make my company cloud-ready? (Technical, cultural etc.)

Experience shows that the question is not whether to switch to the cloud, but when. The decision must however be supported by your IT strategy. In order to ensure the connection of peripheral systems and interfaces, a solution-oriented cooperation between internal IT and Adobe is required. Furthermore, it is helpful if the development and project team knows the mindset of DevOps.

Is cloud the only real option for future planning?

Adobe's ambition is clear: all on-premise customers should rely on AEM as a Cloud Service. It is also conceivable that Adobe will change its strategy so that AEM as a Cloud Service can also be operated in the private cloud. Even though Adobe is currently focusing on AEM as a Cloud Service, there are still many on-premise customers who cannot or do not want to go to the cloud. This makes it possible to consider a scenario like Adobe Campaign, where two variants continue to be developed.

Will I lose if I don't switch to the cloud? When was this supposed to happen?

Efforts are underway at all levels of the market to move services to the cloud. In the context of Adobe CMS, one must also take a look at the End Of Life Matrix from AEM. Core support for AEM 6.4 will end in April 2021, but end of support for AEM 6.5 is not yet known. Adobe have hinted at releasing quarterly service packs for an indefinite period. With features like auto-scaling, CDN and continuous automatic product updates, you get a strong overall package at very attractive terms. Therefore AEM as a Cloud Service should be set as the target architecture and the existing system should now be developed in this direction.

Take the next step

In summary, an AEM cloud migration project may seem daunting, but with the right support, both from internal stakeholders and your AEM partner, it doesn’t have to be.  Moving your AEM instance to the Adobe cloud will reduce the dependency on your internal IT teams and improve the scalability of your services.  This is especially important for our retail clients who have seen dramatic increases in traffic during the current pandemic.   So, not only will you get the scale you need during periods of increased demand, you can also be confident that your websites are always up to date with the latest security patches. 

It’s important to inform your AEM cloud migration plan with data and insights specific to your business landscape and CX ambitions. Merkle now offers a complementary AEM to Cloud Migration ROI Assessment to companies considering this move – you can begin this process or learn more about it here.

Beyond AEM, Merkle is an expert across the full Adobe universe and we’d love to help you. Get in touch to learn about the many ways we help customer drive CX transformation with Adobe.

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