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Adobe Experience Manager in the Cloud


Organizations around the world are rapidly adopting public clouds. Either by moving legacy applications, building their own cloud-native applications, purchasing off-the-shelf software, or consuming Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications that leverage underlying public cloud infrastructure.

Cloud Adoption

There are many reasons for moving to the public cloud: Scalability, elasticity, op-ex versus cap-ex, infrastructure discounts based on prepaying or large spend, enterprise agreements, cutting-edge technology like Kubernetes, and many others. Some organizations have strategic initiatives to move to the public cloud driven by an incoming CEO or CTO. Others no longer want the burden or the capital-intensive costs of managing their own data centers.

With the speed that AWS®, Microsoft®, and Google® are putting out new features and products, it just makes sense for many organizations.

Adobe Experience Manager Licensing

So, we know public cloud adoption is extremely popular these days. Now let’s talk about Adobe┬« Experience Manager (AEM). AEM is an industry-leading Enterprise Content Management System (CMS) or Digital Experience Platform (DXP) that has been sold as an on-premise license for many years, going back to the Day Software Communiqu├ę and later CQ5 days. Adobe purchased Day Software in 2010 and quickly renamed the CMS software to CQ5 and later Adobe Experience Manager.

Many Adobe customers, who have been savvy enough to keep their legacy licensing models, still retain on-premise licensing. These customers are typically not comfortable with Adobe hosting the software for them on AWS or Azure® via their Adobe Managed Services (AMS) offering. They typically have very complex configurations that require full control of the infrastructure, operating systems, and AEM software.

I’ve recently seen customers on Adobe Managed Services make the move back to an on-premise licensing model and move their AEM deployments over to a public cloud managed by Rackspace.

There is currently a strong push from Adobe to move AEM customers from an on-premise licensing model to their AMS hosting platform or ever their new AEM as a Cloud Service product. Some customers give in and make the move from on-premise, and others choose to keep their on-premise licensing.

By keeping their on-premise licensing, they can deploy and manage AEM on their own cloud platform on their own terms. The Adobe hosting models do make sense for a certain customer profile, but for others, it’s just not an option due to things like access, security, data privacy, and code deployments.

Adobe said that there won’t be an on-premise version of AEM past 6.5, but I really think it will be hard to push all of their large Enterprise customers to their cloud offerings given their bespoke requirements.

AEM in the Cloud

I often get asked by our Public Cloud Architects on opportunities: Is AEM even cloudy? Well, not really, but it’s getting there with the introduction of things like the Oak Composite NodeStore. You can also do things like auto-scale AEM Dispatchers and AEM Publishers with some custom automation, but AEM isn’t really a cloudy or cloud-native application by nature.

So AEM isn’t that cloudy, but this is okay. You can still deploy AEM on the public cloud and see many great benefits. Public clouds like AWS, Azure, and GCP have proven to be stable and highly performant deployment options for AEM if architected properly with performance and security top of mind. The key is knowing how to architect AEM properly and how to architect each public cloud for the highest level of availability and redundancy.

Rackspace designs each AEM customer’s deployment in the pre-sales process, leveraging our best practices from both an AEM and public cloud perspective. We currently have best practice AEM solutions for AWS, Azure, and, more recently, GCP.

How we can help

So how can Rackspace help you with AEM? Rackspace has been deploying, managing, upgrading, migrating, monitoring, and hosting AEM environments for customers since 2012. We did have many AEM(CQ5) deployments before then, but there was no official application-level support offering around it.

On-premise AEM deployments naturally found their way to Rackspace around 2010 due to our industry-leading hosting services that included support for Java®, Linux®, networking, storage, and private cloud infrastructure. We started to see a heavy demand for AEM application-level support on top of our already solid hosting model. So, we decided to create a product offering around it, which launched in 2012 and is still going strong today.

Rackspace takes the burden of deploying and managing infrastructure off the customer while also managing and monitoring their AEM application from an operations perspective. This service enables our AEM customers to focus on creating content, pushing new code, and creating overall great end-user experiences for their customers. Currently, we manage around 500 AEM servers for our install base. Our AEM customer profile is typically a long-term customer with higher than average NPS scores. We’ve assisted these customers with upgrades from 5.x all the way to the current version of 6.5. We’ve also helped our customers with their own transitions from dedicated hosting to the public cloud.

AEM on AWS

We have seen great success in deploying the AEM application on AWS and Azure. For example, leveraging AWS S3 storage for very large datastores has proved critical. We are currently managing AEM datastores from the 10 TB range to the 200 TB range. Rackspace manages one of the largest, if not the largest, AEM content repository globally, and we leverage AWS S3 storage to do it. While we could leverage a dedicated storage array for these use cases, it is much more cost-effective to leverage AWS S3 storage.

AWS also has many other technical benefits, including EBS Snapshots for durable backups, multi-region AWS deployments for Active/Active scenarios and Disaster Recovery capabilities, and highly performant EC2 instances and Elastic Block Storage.

Lastly, AWS allows for customers to consume cloud computing in a very cost-effective way. By leveraging upfront or partial upfront Reserved EC2 instances, customers can see huge cost savings on their compute infrastructure required to run the AEM application.

AEM on Azure and GCP

We have seen great success on the Azure cloud leveraging Azure Site Recovery (ASR) for AEM Disaster Recovery environments. Azure has also proven instrumental for some of our customers who have Enterprise Agreements with Microsoft and must use the Azure cloud. AEM runs great on Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) compute instances using either Red Hat Enterprise Linux® or CentOS®.

Lastly, although we are very early in using GCP for AEM, we expect to see great results from these deployments based on our early testing. GCP has proven to be a very high performant public cloud with very cost-effective pricing.

AEM on VMware

And let’s not forget the private cloud. Rackspace has a long history of deploying and managing VMware┬« private cloud solutions for our AEM customers and customer base in general. For some of our customers, such as financial institutions, private cloud is a hard requirement due to their shared-nothing requirements. Rackspace can provide dedicated physical networking, compute, and storage solutions to meet each customer’s performance and security requirements.

Rackspace AEM Roadmap

Looking towards 2021, we have a premium support offering for the AEM application, advanced monitoring tools from industry-leading application performance monitoring vendors, and support for the major public clouds. This offering, paired with our optional advanced security offerings, gives our customers highly performant, highly secure best-practice AEM application and infrastructure deployments.

But we don’t stop there. We also continue providing ongoing day-to-day AEM and public cloud operations support for our AEM customers. Multi-region, Active/Active, and Disaster Recovery solutions are also commonplace with our Enterprise AEM customer base.

Looking into 2021, Rackspace plans to support AEM deployments that are not hosted on Rackspace managed public or private cloud solutions. We are currently investigating supporting Adobe Managed Services (AMS) deployments, AEM-as-a-Cloud-Service deployments, and AEM deployments running in customer-owned and or self-supported clouds.

You can download our whitepaper on RAS for AEM. You can also check out our RAS Digital Experience Application Operations Customer Handbook.

Learn more about our Adobe Experience Manager services.

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John Jubela

John Jubela is an AWS Certified Senior Solution Architect on the Rackspace Application Services Team at Rackspace. John has over 10 years of experience in the cloud hosting industry and has been working with customers on deploying their AEM applications since 2012. When John isn’t providing fanatical support to Rackspace customers, he spends time with his family most likely hiking, riding bikes, or enjoying another outdoor activity. John currently lives in San Antonio Texas and has been a Racker for over 10 years.

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