At the 404 Conference in Las Vegas, Kentico CEO Petr Palas announced a suite of completely new, cloud-first products, aptly named Kentico Cloud.
Rather than being a new version of Kentico CMS or EMS, Kentico Cloud is an entirely new product from Kentico. As such, it requires a little explanation!
Why Kentico Cloud?
Our industry changes regularly, and rapidly. When Get Started was founded in 1999, the concept of a CMS alone was revolutionary! (We were even building our own in Classic ASP...)
In a couple of short decades, we’ve seen a number of evolutions in the web content management system (WCMS) industry. In the beginning, eager technical agencies (such as Get Started) were experimenting with building their own in-house CMS platforms to perform basic content management. Then came a number of dedicated CMS vendors such as Kentico, Wordpress, Sitecore and many, many others. As these products matured, the market leaders started to provide more complete digital marketing features such as e-commerce, email marketing, and more recently marketing automation and personalisation. The market is now dominated by a smaller number of very mature (and very large) competing platforms that require significant IT infrastructure to host.
These market leaders are now working hard on “what’s next”, and just like so many others in our industry, Kentico and its competitors are looking to the cloud.
Kentico Cloud versus Kentico In The Cloud
What a number of Kentico’s competitors have done to satisfy their TO THE CLOUD! ambitions, is simply pick up their existing CMS platform, and drop it in a cloud hosting provider (such as Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure). To be fair, Kentico actually did this too, way back in 2011 with Kentico+, and was the first CMS platform provider to be certified for Azure. This is perfectly fine to do, and something we actually do ourselves quite a bit, as we regularly host Kentico EMS with Microsoft Azure in the cloud!
This is not Petr Palas’s vision for Kentico Cloud, however. This time, Kentico is aiming for a truly cloud-first platform, building inherently upon the advantages cloud-based services provide, including scalability, flexibility, redundancy, and speed to market. This requires a completely new architecture and paradigm shift, building on the learnings from the extremely successful Kentico EMS, but tackling the new challenges faced in this modern world of cloud-based digital marketing. As a Kentico MVP and through conversations with the product owners themselves at the 404 conference, I know that Kentico has huge plans for this product line. If its progress continues at the break-neck pace that its initial offerings suggest, then the next year or two will be very exciting in this space!
Kentico Cloud currently consists of three separate but complementary products; Kentico Draft, Kentico Deliver, and Kentico Engage.
OK, so Kentico Draft has already been live for a while now (we’ve even used it in a couple of projects). Many of you might have caught on early however, that the domain used for Draft since its launch was kenticocloud.com! Draft was the first product in the Kentico Cloud family.
Draft is a purely cloud-based content gathering and editing tool. Designed in part to solve the problem of websites being built and then waiting on content before they can be launched, Draft allows you to create content types, sitemaps and taxonomy, upload structured content and images, and manage workflows, all in parallel with your website being developed. Then when the site build is complete, the content can be quickly and easily imported into the site.
Draft is already fully supported for import into Kentico CMS/EMS via a freely available module.
Deliver is a cloud-based, API-first or “Headless” CMS.
What is a Headless CMS?
Traditional CMS platforms manage your content for you, but also generate and serve the pages themselves to the browser. Kentico CMS is an example of this, with its Portal Engine for template creation, in-context or on-page editing, Preview mode, device previews, and all the other great features you’ve come to love.
A “Headless CMS” only manages the content for you, and leaves building the website and displaying that content completely up to you (or another connected system of course). Early competitors in the Headless CMS space include Prismic.io and Contentful.
Many CMS vendors would consider and promote themselves as competitors in the headless CMS space, such as Wordpress via its REST API. It is technically possible to use a number of CMS platforms including Kentico CMS as a Headless CMS via a REST API, but this is not something for which they were primarily designed. (Shameless plug: we recently won a Premier’s Design Award for just such a project (for Industry Training Australia), with a mobile app driven by Kentico’s REST API!)
While you lose the friendly editing features mentioned above, a Headless CMS can provide many additional benefits, such as:
- Creating your content once, then delivering it across multiple channels or platforms, such as websites, apps, smartwatches, IoT devices and third-party content aggregators
- Building your web front-end in your technology of choice
- Finalising your content before your website has been built (this in itself has a range of benefits beyond the scope of this article!)
Kentico Deliver offers you all of these benefits, along with a completely redesigned, user-centric interface. It does of course integrate perfectly with Draft for content you’ve already gathered there, or you could potentially pull your content from a range of other sources in the future.
Kentico promises to produce Software Development Kits (SDKs) for popular delivery platforms, such as ASP.NET, PHP, and even iOS and Android (mobile apps).
Kentico Engage is a truly cloud-first Digital Marketing platform.
Early competitors in this space could include Hubspot, Marketo, and AutoPilot, yet many of these aren’t truly direct competitors, as they often try to provide a broader feature set, the way many existing CMS platforms do.
The real power however, is tapped by using Engage’s APIs in the development of your site, to leverage all that information you have gathered to drive dynamic personalisation across any channel you are delivering your content on.
While it’s great that any of the Kentico Cloud products can be used independently and integrated with pretty much any other platform out there, combining them together also presents a compelling option for a powerful, inexpensive, rapid, light-weight, cloud-based, omni-channel digital marketing platform (phew, that’s a lot of buzzwords!), all while keeping the choice of publishing platform and additional tools in your hands.
Headless or Not?
Straight up, I will say that this is a new product set from Kentico. It is not going to replace Kentico CMS and EMS. It is very much a targeted, market-driven response to an emerging trend that will continue to grow. However the need for an extremely powerful, mature, full-featured, on-premise, all-in-one system such as Kentico EMS is not going anywhere!
So when should you consider “going headless” with Kentico Cloud?
A few questions that might help guide your strategy:
- Do you have multiple delivery channels (such as website plus mobile app) for your centralised content?
- Are you already reliant on one or more existing systems (such as mailing lists, forms, or e-commerce) that you wish to continue using?
- Do you have a strong preference for a presentation technology which does not provide content management?
- Do you have a need to quickly deploy a stand-alone campaign, range or product site?
If you answer yes to any of the above, then Kentico Cloud could be worth considering. However...
- Do you require your marketers or content editors to create their own pages with a certain level of flexibility?
- Do you need an all-in-one solution that provides content management, marketing automation, e-commerce, or other connected digital features?
If you answered yes to either of these, then perhaps a full-featured, enterprise-ready platform such as Kentico EMS is a better fit.
Kentico Cloud is not a new version of Kentico EMS - it’s something very different. The market for feature-rich, enterprise-ready online marketing platforms such as Kentico EMS is not replaced by Kentico Cloud, only complemented. Kentico and its partners will continue to focus on implementing Kentico CMS and EMS for many years to come!
Kentico Cloud is an exciting foray by Kentico into the brave new world of cloud-first digital marketing. It positions Kentico, and its partners such as us, very well to tackle the new challenges and project types that a changing digital landscape presents us, from microservices and “API everywhere” movements, to changes in consumer technology such as wearables, VR and the Internet of Things. Yet in the short term, it may also present a modern, light-weight, rapid solution for your next digital project.