Optimizing Cross-Channel Content Experiences with Adobe Experience Manager and AWS
By Prakash Venkatesh, Sr. Technical Architect – Perficient
By Sathish Venkatraman, Technical Architect – Perficient
By Kenny Rajan, Vikram Mehto, Daniel Kim, and Matt Chastain, Solutions Architects – AWS
Tech-savvy consumers are reaching brands through various means and touchpoints, and this trend has made digital marketers accelerate content creation and delivery. With varying device types and screen sizes, however, delivering fast, secure, and seamless content creates complexity.
Perficient is an AWS Advanced Tier Services Partner and Adobe Platinum Partner with six specializations in Adobe Target, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Commerce, Adobe Marketo Engage, Adobe Experience Manager Run and Operate, and Adobe Experience Manager Sites.
From strategizing, implementation planning, building state-of-the-art user experiences, setting up infrastructure, and innovating custom product developments, Perficient helps businesses get personalized, content-led experiences into the market faster with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
In this post, we’ll walk through how AWS and Perficient enable customers to accelerate their digital content management with Adobe Experience Manager.
Digital Content Management Trends
Before the pandemic, consumers had the option of in-person shopping, traveling, doctor’s visits, and so on. During the pandemic, however, the demand for internet usage increased and many organizations saw consumer patterns change, with people turning to online shopping and virtual doctor’s visits and learning opportunities.
As customer expectations rapidly evolve, there is unprecedented audience demand for new content. With this comes several challenges for creatives and marketers:
- Streamline digital asset creation, management, and delivery. Customers want experiences that are consistent and connected across every touchpoint. For example, progressing from visiting a website to filling out an online form should be a seamless process, and navigating digital properties should be a frictionless journey.
- Deploy a powerful content management solution (CMS). This should leverage a scalable and highly available platform and shift focus from infrastructure management so IT teams focus on content delivery.
- Enables marketers to plan, predict, collaborate, and deliver their best work. Organizations need a platform for this that can connect people, processes, and platforms.
- Augment human-powered efforts by adding intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help marketers to create, manage, deliver, and optimize great content and experiences for their customers.
Creating a Consistent and Connected Content Experience
With Adobe Experience Manager, you can deliver connected and compelling cross-channel experiences across the complete customer journey.
AEM serves as a hybrid content management system that enables you to deliver and manage context-optimized omnichannel experiences. It gives marketers the ability to manage and optimize content across channels without external dependencies.
AEM integrated with Adobe Marketing Cloud products allows you to get personalized, content-led experiences into the market faster by combining digital asset management with the power of a content management system.
Adobe Experience Manager capabilities include:
- CMS to easily compose and deliver digital assets across online and digital platform.
- AEM Assets let you leverage automation and smart tools to rapidly source, adapt, and deliver assets across audiences and channels.
- Activate and manage multi-channel digital enrollment, onboarding, and customer communications with AEM Forms.
- Deliver dynamic interactive experiences across any screen, platform, and device with AEM Screens.
- Optimize the content experience with Adobe and AWS solutions and services like Adobe Sensei. This leading AI/ML solution reduces the time spent on tedious tasks like tagging, cropping, and adapting assets for each channel and device. With that, you can turn complex tasks into easy, automatic workflows.
Figure 1 – Optimizing the content experience with Adobe Experience Manager.
AEM Platform Overview
A standard Adobe Experience Manager architecture consists of three environments: author, publish, and dispatcher. Each of these environments consists of one or more instances.
- Author: The Author environment is used for creating and managing the content and layout of an AEM experience. It provides functionality for reviewing and approving content updates, and publishing approved versions of content to the publish environment.
- Publish: The Publish environment delivers the experience to the intended audience. It renders the actual pages with an ability to personalize the experience based on audience characteristics or targeted messaging. Author and Publish instances are Java web applications that have identical installed software; they are differentiated by configuration only.
- Dispatcher: The Dispatcher environment is a caching and/or load balancing tool that helps realize a fast and dynamic web authoring environment.
The Dispatcher works as part of an HTTP server, such as Apache HTTP Server, with the aim of storing (or caching) as much of the static website content as possible, and accessing the website’s publisher layout engine as infrequently as possible. For caching, the Dispatcher module uses the web server’s ability to serve static content. It places the cached documents in the document root of the web server.
Figure 2 – Standard AEM architecture.
Adobe provides three options to choose from when implementing AEM for a customer.
- Adobe Experience Manager Cloud Service (AEM CS): This is the newest and latest offering from Adobe where AEM runs as a cloud native product. It enables customers to accelerate time to value and is extensible to meet your unique business requirements. Customers are required to focus on custom development of their application hosted inside Adobe Experience Manager as CS. All AEM product maintenance and platform related activity is managed by Adobe.
- Adobe Experience Manager as Managed Service (AMS): Adobe also offers AEM as a managed service where AEM is hosted in a cloud platform and managed by Adobe. AMS enables customers to launch faster by deploying on the AWS Cloud, and by leaning on best practices and support from Adobe. Organizations and business users can engage customers in minimal time, drive market share, and focus on creating innovative marketing campaigns while reducing the burden on IT.
Cloud Manager, part of the AMS offering, is a self-service portal that further enables organizations to self-manage AEM in the cloud. It includes a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline that lets IT teams and implementation partners speed up the delivery of customizations or updates without compromising performance or security. Cloud Manager is only available for AMS customers.
- Self- or partner-managed AEM deployment: This is a traditional model where the customer owns the responsibility of both AEM and the application. This offering can be either on an enterprise data center or hosted on the AWS Cloud.
Figure 3 – Adobe Experience Manager deployment options.
Reusable Infrastructure Setup
Leveraging AWS, Perficient is building an automated and reusable infrastructure setup solution for AEM with MongoDB or TarMK for the primary storage implementation (available in AEM 6).
The Tar storage uses tar files and stores the content as various types of records within larger segments. Journals are used to track the latest state of the repository. The MongoDB storage leverages MongoDB for sharding and clustering. The repository tree is kept in one MongoDB database where each node is a separate document. At a high level, Tar MicroKernel (TarMK) is used for performance and MongoDB is used for scalability.
In this solution, reusability and flexible deployment templates are key. This solution can be adapted to suite customer enterprise architecture with less technical implementation knowledge about AEM. Customers can benefit and reap the return of investment with this solution within a few days rather than waiting weeks.
Figure 4 – AWS architecture for AEM self-hosted implementation.
The suggested architecture provides high availability while providing capabilities to scale up/down as needed. This re-usable, automated infrastructure setup solution for Adobe Experience Manager deploys following AWS components:
- Amazon Route 53 provides domain name system (DNS) configuration.
- AWS WAF is a web application firewall that protects AEM against common web exploits.
- Amazon CloudFront is a fast content delivery network (CDN) that speeds up distribution of static and dynamic web content.
- AWS Certificate Manager provisions, manages, and deploys public and private SSL certificates required for AEM.
- Internet-facing Application Load Balancer distributes traffic to AEM dispatcher instances across multiple AWS Availability Zones (AZs).
- AEM dispatcher installed on an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance is an Apache httpd-based static webserver that provides caching, load balancing, and application security.
- AWS Lambda provides scaling logic in response to scale up/down events to pair/unpair dispatcher-publish instances, update the replication agent (reverse replication, if applicable) between author-publish, and update AEM content health check alarms.
- AEM Publish is an AEM installation on Amazon EC2 that serves published content to Public instances. Publish always uses TarMK as a node store.
- Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is the preferred shared datastore for binary content for AEM Publish and Author instances.
- Use virtual private cloud (VPC) endpoint to provide private access to S3 from Author and Publish instances.
- AEM Author is an AEM installation on Amazon EC2 used to author content and administer the website. TarMK (on Amazon EBS I/O optimized disk) is the preferred node store for performance. MongoDB node store is for scalability (multiple author instances to handle 100+ concurrent authors).
- AEM Author cold standby is used for high availability. Lambda can be used to automate the failover logic, while an AEM replication agent on Author instances replicates the tar files to the standby instance.
- Optional: Author-Dispatcher instances on EC2 improve authoring performance, while Lambda provides scaling logic for Author-Dispatcher similar to Dispatcher-Publish scaling logic. Author-Dispatcher has caching disabled.
Adobe Experience Manager on AWS and Beyond
Running AEM on AWS provides customers with the benefits of easily integrating third-party solutions for auxiliary experiences and providing additional tools for supporting mobile delivery, analytics, and big data management.
You can integrate the open and extensible APIs of both AWS and AEM to create powerful new combinations for your firm. Also, AEM can be used to augment or create headless commerce architectures seamlessly.
Figure 5 – Augment headless commerce architectures with AEM.
- Today’s consumers are not looking for choices as search results, they are looking for accuracy of results to make decisions. This can be delivered using machine learning-powered tools like Amazon Kendra that provide intelligent search capabilities. For more information, read this AWS blog post.
- Increase call center operation efficiencies by using Amazon Connect to interact with AEM to prepopulate AEM Forms. To integrate voice response experience for driver’s license renewals with the DMV, for example, you can build renewal forms using AEM’s responsive web forms and dynamic workflows that use Amazon Connect to prepopulate the appropriate forms to establish an appointment without engaging the call agent.
Customers can also utilize a digital signature using Adobe Sign for any digital signature needs as part of this interactive voice response (IVR) workflow. With this use case, you can implement the fully-automated voice experience without agent involvement.
- You can connect AEM Sites to your e-commerce engine running on AWS to make content-rich, interactive shopping experiences and quickly scale them across your digital properties.
Running Adobe Experience Manager on AWS provides a secure and scalable foundation for delivering great digital experiences for customers.
As you prepare for your AEM self-hosted migration to AWS or planned implementation of AEM managed service or AEM cloud service, Perficient can help simplify the deployment and integrations steps.
Perficient – AWS Partner Spotlight
Perficient is an AWS Advanced Tier Services Partner and global digital consultancy transforming how the world’s biggest brands connect with customers and grow their business.