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Sitecore XM Cloud

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Over the summer Sitecore released Sitecore XM Cloud, a SaaS-version of the core Sitecore Experience Manager offering which had previously only been available on a PaaS basis. This represents a significant milestone in Sitecore’s recent journey to fully support a headless publishing model and a composable architecture, with the platform now making available its centre piece on a SaaS basis. It also includes some new features such as a revamped editing experience.

In this post we’re going to do a bit of a deeper dive into Sitecore XM Cloud, looking at what it is, its features, it’s advantages and disadvantages, and the potential impact on existing Sitecore customers.

What is Sitecore XM Cloud?

Sitecore itself positions XM Cloud as “Sitecore’s cloud-native, modern CMS empowering brands to create, manage, and deliver relevant content at lightning-fast speeds.”

It is a Sitecore’s core CMS reinvented as a Software-as-a-Service offering which can be integrated with other offerings within the Sitecore platform that are already available as SaaS like Sitecore Content Hub. It is also a fully headless CMS, so is fully decoupled from front end experiences.

XM Cloud in context

The release of XM Cloud has been mooted for a while and a is logical step in Sitecore’s strategic move to SaaS and support for a composable architecture. Traditionally Sitecore’s core platform has been available only on a Platform-as-a-Service (Paas) basis and as a monolithic, highly integrated offering.

But arguably a SaaS-based platform with different services and features available individually, offers marketing teams more flexibility, scalability and better performance to operate in a fast-moving, omni-channel world. It also offers more options for new customers to use specific elements of the Sitecore platform.

Up to now, most of Sitecore’s offerings that were available on a SaaS basis had come from acquisitions of companies with existing SaaS products. These include Content Hub, which came from the acquisition of StyleLabs. A further four companies were bought in 2021, with SaaS products rebranded as new Sitecore offerings including Sitecore CDP (Customer Data Platform) and Sitecore Send, an email marketing platform.

Sitecore XM is different, in that it has been fully developed by Sitecore as a SaaS evolution of their existing PaaS-based CMS. It also completes the picture by effectively making the whole of the Sitecore platform available on SaaS, with the CMS clearly a central part of this. .

What is included in Sitecore XM Cloud?

XM Cloud incorporates Sitecore’s core CMS features. However, Sitecore has taken the opportunity to revisit the editing experience and include a new page-editing experience called Sitecore Pages. This includes some references from the Horizon Editor experience and includes drag-and-drop to make it more intuitive and easier for content owners and marketing teams. It’s designed to be more “visual” and intuitive than the existing Experience Editor which has never been ideal.

Overall, the authoring interfaces in XM Cloud have been overhauled to make site and content management easier. This includes a component builder where teams can create new components which can then be reused. XM Cloud also includes support for developers with some tools built-in to support DevOps and deployments. There’s also a “cloud portal” interface which makes it easier for admins to access the different Sitecore SaaS products they subscribe to.

What are the potential advantages of Sitecore XM Cloud?

One of the advantages of Sitecore XM Cloud is that you can use it transition to headless publishing. Going headless has various advantages including:

    • Greater flexibility and scalability
    • Quicker time to market
    • Potentially improved performance with modern web experiences
    • More support for multi-channel approaches with the ability to reuse content across multiple experiences
    • Reduced costs in the long run.

XM Cloud provides an opportunity to put Sitecore at the centre of your headless set-up, but it can also be the start of transitioning to a composable DXP in the longer run, where you assemble a whole DXP ecosystem based on best-of-breed or favourite tools.

Because Sitecore XM Cloud is a cloud-native, SaaS product it is also much easier to manage than the traditional PaaS offering. Upgrades, patches and other management processes are all taken care of by Sitecore as part of your subscription, and the total cost of ownership may be overall reduced.

There are also plenty to like for both business users and IT teams reflected in different features. For marketer, the new Pages editor in XM Cloud is much improved through the drag-and-drop interface, and Sitecore is likely to prioritise investment with further enhancements to come. For developers, there’s the better support for DevOps built into the product, and full support for JAMstack front-end experiences.

What are the potential disadvantages of Sitecore XM Cloud?

While there are plenty of positives, there are also some disadvantages that need to be considered relating to XM Cloud.

Firstly, a SaaS offering does not offer the opportunities for customisation that have previously been available with the PaaS version of Sitecore and where digital agencies have often added value. This could be an issue, for example, where an organisation has specialist components that are integral to the customer experience or custom workflows relating to content management.

A second potential issue is around costs, particularly upfront. Transitioning from an existing Sitecore PaaS site to SaaS may involve a lot of work and involve rebuilding the site, so will feel more like a replatforming Moreover, moving to headless may also require access to some additional technical resources and skills that again will accrue an extra cost.

Thirdly for many, headless publishing and the “composable DXP” aren’t for everybody. Many teams like the convenience of all-in-one solution and are happy with their existing integrated Sitecore instance. Moving to headless will require a learning curve both for marketers and developers, and there could be an overriding feeling of “why change something that isn’t broken”.

What is the impact for existing Sitecore customers?

If you’re an existing customer using Sitecore’s PaaS experience platform and you’re thinking of transitioning to either a headless or composable architecture at some stage but want to keep on using Sitecore, XM Cloud now offers a potential route, although as we have said elements of any project to transition may feel more akin to a full re-platforming to a new CMS.

Otherwise, at the moment existing Sitecore customers are not impacted at least for the foreseeable future. However, the longer-term future for Sitecore’s availability on a PaaS basis is not clear. The marketing material and strategic statements from Sitecore and its leadership indicate that the priority is as a fully cloud-native, SaaS-based platform. It is conceivable that at some stage the PaaS offering will be discontinued, although this may be some time off. The impact on licensing arrangements – for those with a perpetual license for example – is still to be confirmed.

It also may be that there are some moves to make it more attractive and easier for customers to transition over to the SaaS product including new licensing arrangements, easier upgrade paths and better technical support for any transition.

Want to discuss Sitecore XM Cloud? Get in touch!

The release of Sitecore XM Cloud represents another evolution of the Sitecore platform. If you’d like to discuss what it means for your business or to talk through any other aspect of Sitecore, then get in touch!

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