10 Real-Life Scenarios Highlighting the Importance of Managed Services for AEM
3|SHARE Team, May 10, 2018
The following is an excerpt from a live podcast recording at Adobe Summit 2018. Content is provided by 3|SHARE's Mike Hardiman, Director of Client Services and Ira Lessack, VP of Global Client Services. If you prefer, you can listen to an audio version here.
We thought we'd start by giving a brief introduction to who 3|SHARE is. For those of you who aren't aware, 3|SHARE is an Adobe Global Alliance Solution Partner and we've been providing services for Adobe Experience Cloud for well over 6 years now; successfully completing over 700 Adobe Experience Manager projects. We provide a variety of services like implementation, QA, managed services, design, as well as developer support for the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) web content management platform. Adobe is all we do.
We've offered managed services, AKA: Remote Operations Management (ROM), to our clients probably the longest of any vendor that we're aware of...close to five years. Many clients lean on us for our ROM expertise, but we'd like to talk a little bit more about how our service differentiates from some of our competitors in the market.
You may be asking yourself, "Why managed services?"
I've never walked into a marketing organization or IT organization that says, "We have more free time to manage our technology platforms." It can be a burden when you bring in a new platform and then have to do all the DevOps, the management work, and it's very, very critical stuff. You also need a proactive approach to these systems, because your digital presence is your brand. If your website is not readily available, it causes a significant issue in how you transact with your customers and conduct business. There's also a reduced cost of ownership. Most organizations make a significant investment when they purchase Adobe technologies along with the implementation services. Typically, hiring your own staff is also very expensive and requires resources with very specific expertise, and you have to dedicate them to the role of managing your AEM environment. It's very costly. With this in mind, people find coming to an organization like 3|SHARE is a lot more cost-effective than going out and building it on their own team or outsourcing to a less experienced group.
AEM managed services with us are a fixed cost, so you get a monthly subscription fee. You know what that cost is going to be month to month, quarter to quarter, year to year, as opposed to, if you had to hire your own, you may have to add contractors or staff for peak times, or when you're doing more deployments, or more development. Overall, we find that clients that came from managing their own environment to being a 3|SHARE ROM customer experience much better performance and much better up-time and reliability overall.
Utilizing our ROM services also allows organizations to leverage their AEM investment even more. Teams should be able to develop and use AEM technology for what's intended, as opposed to spending all their time with up-time, upkeep, maintenance, break-fix, and that sort of thing. Ideally, you want to let the creative geniuses focus on what they do best- creating beautiful, compelling content, which drives higher conversion rates. You do not want them spinning their wheels working underneath the hood on the maintenance of a platform.
What makes 3|SHARE's ROM offering so unique?
Managed services, to some folks, is what we used to call, in the old days, "speeds and feeds". This is when you're managing the network platform and the hardware platform. When you're looking at complex, transformational technologies like the Adobe Experience Cloud, you have to worry about each specific component and that they're all working well together. By definition, you need to have a solution that does monitoring, and that means looking at each specific part of the application stack. This includes hardware, disk, CPU, fault logs, integration points, and etc. You also need to understand how to trend report on those things, so that's the monitoring piece of it.
For monitoring in particular, 3|SHARE uses a lot of out-of-the-box monitoring tools that are currently available for most managed service providers. What's neat, is that we've actually built a whole set of custom tools as well that are specific to AEM and are important for us to have in place as we manage our clients' infrastructure. Every client environment is unique, so you can't just have an out-of-the-box offering. You also need to be able to respond with the right level of velocity and be very dynamic.
There's also the maintenance and the management component. This requires a proactive approach, like when somebody in our data center sees an issue with disks filling up, or high CPU usage, and we jump in and fix the problem before the client's even aware of it. Sometimes it's an author saying, "Hey, I'm having trouble publishing this page," and they're calling us. There's also all the reporting, so a client can, in real-time, see what their environment's doing, and also have a look back for historical performance. It all comes down to "incident management" which requires identifying the incident, escalating the incident, communicating the incident, analysis on the problem, and making sure that later down the road it won't be a problem again.
We're one of the only managed service providers that will manage your AEM environment no matter where it lives! That's important for future planning. For example, if you're hosting with Amazon Web Services (AWS) today, and then your organization makes a change to be more Microsoft-centric, we can help you move it and manage it in Azure. You also need something that's 24/7/365, because interactions with customers, especially globally, is all day, every day. The internet doesn't sleep.
Last but not least, 3|SHARE isn't just a managed services company, we are the leading implementation firm for the Adobe Experience Cloud in the world. We've done over 700 implementations on the Adobe stacks. We not only bring the management expertise, we're also the experts in deploying it, and customizing it, and configuring it. We feel this brings a lot to the table, and that's hard for an organization to replicate. Right? You don't immediately learn 700 implementations in a week or two. When something mission-critical is happening at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, and your site just got hacked and it needs to get fixed, we're the ones that wanna take that 3:00 a.m. phone call.
We’re known for going the extra mile and being exceptionally flexible and available to make sure our clients’ systems work, because we want to see our clients succeed as much as they do. We strive to always be helping our clients streamline and improve their digital delivery process, and are never a bottleneck in the business process.
"I am honored and thrilled to be a part of the Remote Operations Management (ROM) team at 3|SHARE. Every day I know I'm upholding high standards - work ethic, technical knowledge, excellence, and commitment to service – demonstrated by my peers and our leadership team. The joy I get from working with these people and serving our customers is a unique feeling and keeps me inspired." Patrick Lopez, 3|SHARE ROM Engineer since 2015
Top 10 Real-Life Customer Scenarios Featuring ROM by 3|SHARE
1) Using Jenkins to Automate the TAR Compaction
This one is a little techy, but it's so real-world and so relevant. When you have AEM, you have a TAR file and a TAR repository, that requires regular compaction. If you don't compact it, it gets really huge and you'll run out of disk space, which will affect performance. It's a very manual process.
Now, there is a provision inside of AEM to do it, but it's not all that great. AEM has great features, but a lot of times, enterprise software, the maintenance support capability is just not up to par. In addition, the manual process requires downtime, which is not great. Using Jenkins, we built scripts to automate the compaction process on a regularly-scheduled basis, so it does not impact up-time. We built the scripts years ago for a specific client when it became an issue. Two days later, every client that we had got the benefit of it (and that's not something we charged extra for or sent the company a bill). All of a sudden, it just appeared as a feature and an offering that all ROM clients benefited from.
2) Detecting Missing Content
One of our ROM guys mentioned a problem where the client figured out they were missing content. With a little detective work, we were quickly able to figure out through the extensive logging system, the tracking, and the monitoring systems that we put on AEM, that an author had deleted content unaware.
The takeaway here is that we understood what to look for in AEM. We were able to identify through our logs where that happened, and who deleted the content. This became a teaching moment for the client, as they were able to show the author exactly what had happened and why.
A lot of managed service providers have somebody sitting in an office somewhere, looking at a screen, and if they don't see something in a log, or they don't see something on their dashboard, it's call over. Our team tends to be detectives, because sometimes you have to do a little snooping and sniffing around to find out the root cause of a problem. This is where the 3|SHARE magic really happens.
3) Reduce Loading Delays
This one is maddening for all users of technology. Let us paint you a picture: You're trying to buy something on Amazon, and you're clicking your search button, and it's just spinning and spinning, and the progress bar is not moving. What ends up happening? You end up going to Walmart instead of Amazon, and that's not a web conversion, which is a bad thing (if you're Amazon).
The point is, we've had plenty of clients with slow-responding pages when publishers get overloaded. To solve, we'll add an index to a query, and usually find it was a development problem that was causing it. We then put in a fix for when they are making co-changes. Therefore, not only do we solve the issue, but we make a substantial change to their development process to avoid it from happening again. That is where our experience as an implementation firm comes in.
4) Managing Spikes in Traffic
A lot of our clients want to launch new AEM instances pretty quickly, and they do that because they might need to address an anticipated spike in traffic. For example, a company that puts on a 24-hour sale is going to have a lot more traffic to the site, so we have to launch new instances to support that traffic spike. Occasionally this even requires new environments for Dev. Using technology in combination with Amazon Web Services (like we did in this client's example's case), we were able to build a process that does it in an automated fashion and does it in a matter of minutes. Before, it would have taken the client hours to actually launch a new instance on AEM.
5) 3rd Party Vendor Support
Adobe Experience Manager typically sits in the midst of a giant collaborative pool of technology, information, and resources. When you have an issue on your site, and it turns out that for example, it's a reservation systems for a large hotel chain, a lot of finger-pointing starts happening. So, "No, it's Adobe", "No, it's the Cloud", "No, it's..." you know, this and that, and the client ends up in the middle, and the site and your customers end up bearing the burden of it all. One of the unique things to us is, if we spot an issue on one of those integration points (because we do have a sensor on it, and we do monitor them), we know what's going on and we will open up a ticket with that third-party vendor on your behalf. We will work through the resolution and the testing of that, until you actually get a result. Thus, we will eliminate the finger-pointing and the headache.
6) Managing Redirects
There are some ways to manage redirects in AEM, but from what our clients tell us it's a little clumsy, and sometimes doesn't support the dispatchers that they use when they're actually putting the redirects in. In response, our team built a tool that plugs into the AEM author as well as, in this particular case, Apache Web Server, or dispatcher. This allows clients to manage redirects directly from the author in a much simpler and more effective process. The end result is that we ended up building a script on these dispatchers that grabs redirects at a defined schedule automatically. This means that the client doesn't really have to worry about it, which takes a lot of headache out of the equation.
7) Team Mentality
At the start of any new project, we quickly try to integrate ourselves into the client's team. We sit in on deployment calls. We talk to developers. We know when peak season is coming up. This enables us, as we've talked about in several use cases, to make recommendations about development processes, or workflow processes, so that your environment and your experience of the platform is continuously improving.
8) Tracking Changes on GIT
As with anything technological, you will often have several hands in the development cycle. On one day, your roll-outs and your site will be working great, and then a day later you may have an unexpected error- maybe it's a page issue, or a reload issue, or something else entirely. Soon 30 different things have gone on, and you're trying to figure out which one of those 30 actually caused the issue. When this happens, we'll put all changes in version control inside of Git, and we'll create a Jenkins job to integrate with Git and Ansible. If we suspect that one of those changes caused an issue, we have an automated roll-back capability so we can take you back to 2 minutes, 59 seconds, and get you back to a working state. Pretty cool- right?
9) Deployment on Demand
We got a call where we needed to make a deployment on-demand. Now, generally our team would prefer those to be scheduled somewhat in advance, to allow time to prep. However, this was an emergency and our guys got right on the phone, and we helped them do a deployment on-demand within minutes. You see, our group has a mentality that they're gonna do whatever they need to do to support a client. This is something that you probably wouldn't see in a SOW, but just know that we bring this type of mentality and work ethic with us wherever we go. It's the 3|SHARE way.
10) Flexible Hosting Location
On occasion, for one reason or another, a server will go offline in the middle of the night. When this happens, the on-call ROM engineer gets paged and within minutes will actively be assessing the situation. If this is a virtual environment that we manage, we are then able to immediately work on the recovery process. If this is a hosted environment that we do not manage, we will contact the client's hosting provider and open a sev1 ticket on their behalf to recover the server. We'll then notify the client that it is in process and will let them know when the issue has been resolved.
The benefit here is that we are able to adapt to the customers environment regardless of where they choose to host their servers. This translates to our customers getting to sleep soundly and wake up in the morning with a report of what happened. Oftentimes clients will find that their environment is back to normal without requiring any involvement on their part.
3|SHARE is focused exclusively on Adobe – meaning our team isn’t distracted by keeping up with developments in other platforms and technologies. Adobe is all we do, and because of this commitment we can serve Adobe customers better than anyone else. Contact us to schedule your free consultation and see how 3|SHARE can help you with Managed Services, a new AEM Deployment, or even QA.
Fearless Adobe Fixation