Sitecore to AEM: Features Comparison and One Client’s Experience Making the Switch

Amanda Gray, September 27, 2017

Sitecore is an integrated CMS, e-commerce, and digital marketing platform that aims to enable companies to master the customer experience. It’s been a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management Systemfor the past eight years, but more companies are opting to make the switch to Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), previously known as Adobe CQ, part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud and another Magic Quadrant leader in Web Content Management for seven years running.

If you’re currently a Sitecore user and are considering making the move to AEM, this post is for you. We’ve broken down the key differences between the two platforms and analyzed the benefits one 3|SHARE client, a leading augmented reality platform, gained from making the switch.

Technology Stacks: A Brief History of Adobe CQ / AEM 

Sitecore is based primarily on .NET, while AEM is based on the OSGi-based Apache Sling, a Java application that uses the Apache Felix engine. Adobe doesn’t make use of Apache Sling as-is, however; instead, they’ve produced an enhanced version of Sling called CRX, which at one time was a stand-alone product. Beginning with CQ 5.4, the underlying functionality has been transferred to a framework known as Granite, and the stand-alone product no longer exists.

The CRX/Granite framework handles most of the lower-level functionality in AEM including data persistence, user management, and event management. Above the CRX/Granite core is Adobe’s WCM, previously known as CQ and now known as AEM, which provides web content and digital asset management capabilities.

Apache Sling (and Adobe’s CRX) uses a Java Content Repository (JCR) object database for storing information built with Apache Jackrabbit; the latest version of CQ 5, AEM 5.6.1, made use of the Apache Jackrabbit 2 repository. In 2014, with AEM 6.0, Apache Jackrabbit Oak was introduced as the successor to CRX2, offering improved performance and scalability.  Other AEM 6 improvements include a new HTML Template Language and an upgraded search engine, Apache Solr, built on Apache Lucene, which was the default search engine in CQ 5.  

The product once called CQ is best compared to what we now know as AEM Sites; today’s AEM refers to the platform as a whole and offers much more functionality. Scene7 functionality, for instance, is added through AEM Assets, and LiveCycle functionality is added via AEM Forms.

Adobe developers and AEM experts contribute free code on GitHub, SourceForge, and other repositories that can be used with AEM. These open-source projects heavily influence formal updates to AEM, along with online conversations among users, making it arguably one of the most open commercial WCM platforms around. 

Both Sitecore and AEM offer asset management and content management features, but AEM also provides workflow management functionality. “By applying CMS applications such as approval and development workflows, we will decrease the time it takes to deliver,” our client points out.

You can read more about AEM commonly asked questions in this blog post - AEM Q & A: ContextHub, JCR Segment Issues, Touch UI & More, or watch the full webinar below:

Which Platform Earns the Most Trust?

Adobe has a solid reputation that precedes itself, giving consumers confidence that AEM will be readily maintained and updated with robust features to meet the evolving needs of B2C brands. At TrustRadius, both Sitecore and AEM fare well, with AEM earning a score of 7.8 out of 10 compared to Sitecore’s 7.5 out of 10. 

According to an April 2016 report from GetElastic, Adobe AEM is used by fewer sites than many of its competitors, but it tends to be used by the sites with the highest traffic levels. This makes sense, the report points out, because those high-traffic sites are naturally more complex and sophisticated, thus, they’re the ones that need the broad feature set AEM provides. They’re also more likely to be owned by major companies that prioritize customer experience optimization, data-driven marketing, and compelling content creation.

Customizations and Integrations

AEM offers the benefit of tight integrations within its own Adobe Marketing Cloud ecosystem, but also supports third-party integrations with platforms such as Salesforce and SAP. In fact, according to experienced AEM architect Brad Meehan, 80% of Adobe’s customers own at least three solutions from the Adobe Marketing Cloud. Gartner praises AEM for its seamless integration with Adobe Analytics and Target, and rates it highest in ability to execute.

Sitecore’s primary limitation is that it doesn’t offer as many products as Adobe does within its Adobe Marketing Cloud, and therefore Sitecore is often perceived to be lacking in capabilities compared to AEM. While it attempts to overcome this shortcoming through partnerships, customers report problems with integrations to Sitecore’s partner platforms.

Usability for Non-Technical Users

AEM is more streamlined and provides a more user-friendly experience, particularly for non-technical users, compared to Sitecore. Because it’s easier for non-technical users to navigate, AEM allows customers to give access to more users for making updates to their company websites, which eliminates bottlenecks that can occur when DevOps must maintain sole responsibility for implementing website changes.

In addition to additional DevOps users, for instance, 3|SHARE’s client was also able to provide access to its marketing team after moving from Sitecore to AEM. Prior to the migration, the client’s website content resided in Sitecore, Drupal 7, and Angular pages, and only two members of the client’s DevOps team had access to update the website in Sitecore, primarily due to usability limitations for non-technical users. After migrating to AEM, they were able to bring all of their content into AEM from Sitecore and the majority from Drupal 7 and turn some content management over to marketing, despite the marketing team’s limited technical knowledge.

CMS Comparison: Ease of Navigation and Authoring

Our client noted that the Sitecore authoring experience was difficult to navigate and clunky, making it complex to make changes. In Sitecore, assets are given a numerical file name, making it difficult to distinguish assets from one another and where they belong and challenging to determine how content was referenced internally between pages. This client had more than 700 apps that were linked to case studies and blogs and experienced issues linking these apps with pages in Sitecore.

In contrast, AEM offers a cleaner, more user-friendly authoring environment that makes it easy for users to see relationships between pages. AEM’s structured DAM with metadata and tags, logical folder structure for uploaded assets, and robust search functionality streamlines asset location, making locating needed assets a much less painful (and less time-consuming) experience compared to Sitecore. This improved search functionality also aided in solving the client’s content linking issues.


For most mid- and enterprise-level companies today, scalability is a key factor in selecting any software, but it’s a particularly crucial consideration when it comes to web content management. To avoid having to migrate to other platforms to accommodate growth, companies look to solutions that can readily scale along with the business.

While Sitecore xDB environments can be configured to run as a standalone environment or scale either horizontally or vertically, doing so requires a high level of technical expertise and may result in bottlenecks. AEM, on the other hand, is built to scale with services like 3|SHARE's Remote Operations Management (ROM) which provides on-demand 24/7 AEM Application, J2EE platform and web services support. Our client noted, “With scalable solutions like Localization, Multi-Site Management, and Digital Asset Management we will more quickly deliver on our customer-driven goals.”

Customer Support Offerings

Regardless of usability, customer support is an important piece of the equation when considering any enterprise-level offering. While both Sitecore and AEM offer tutorials and documentation for both new and experienced users, AEM also provides comprehensive video tutorials to streamline user onboarding – for both technical and non-technical users. Both platforms offer phone and online support as well as a knowledge base.

Thinking About Making the Switch?

If you’re considering a WCM system – or thinking about making the switch from your existing WCM – there are plenty of reasons to choose AEM over open-source and other commercial options. Prior to their migration, 3|SHARE’s client had their content across a range of systems, including Sitecore, Drupal 7, and Angular pages, but moving to AEM allowed them to move all of their content from Sitecore as well as the majority from Drupal 7, give access to additional DevOps users as well as non-technical marketing team members, and even turn some content management responsibilities over to marketing – something that wasn’t possible in Sitecore given the limitations for non-technical users.

Combined with seamless authoring, better navigation, and robust search functionality, these benefits eliminated many pain points for our client, making the switch to AEM a no-brainer. AEM’s ease of access for non-technical users, Adobe’s ample selection of internal integrations through the Adobe Marketing Cloud as well as Adobe’s acquisitions, and seamless scalability make it the leading choice for data-driven companies and high-traffic sites.

Ready to find out what making the switch to AEM can do for your business? Get in touch with us today for a “making the switch” assessment with 3|SHARE.

Topics: 3|SHARE Insider, Adobe Experience Manager, Web Content Management System, Digital Marketing

Amanda Gray

Amanda is a Senior Project Manager and Business Analyst at 3|SHARE. She loves motivating her team throughout the development process and finding unique solutions to the client's varied needs. She's also the mom of two boys and four fur babies and enjoys spending her free time outdoors with the boys whether they're gardening, hiking or riding trails!