No more integrating walled gardens - Contentstack adds front-end hosting to its composable digital experience platform

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher February 28, 2023
Content management gardening ahead...

walled garden

Speed is essential these days because customer expectations are constantly changing. That's why Contentstack is building a platform designed to reduce friction and get experiences into production fast.   The vendor already offers a headless CMS, application framework, developer library, venus component library, and most recently, an automation hub, so what else supports its vision? Front-end hosting.

I spoke with Dean Haddock, Senior Product Manager at Contentstack, about the release of Contentstack Launch, a front-end hosting service fully integrated with the Contentstack platform. Haddock explained that typically, companies would build their backend content management solution (headless CMS) and then go out and procure a hosting solution to deliver the front-end experience. They would then have to go through the process of stitching everything together - what he called bringing together "opposite sides of a walled garden."

The pitch for Launch is that it allows you to manage everything under one roof - the front-end, middleware and extensions, and the back-end CMS. It's not positioned as a front-end experience builder, rather as a hosting solution that will connect to GitHub or a git repository, pull in the code, build and compile it and publish it to a staging, development, or production environment. 

Haddock said Launch is framework agnostic; you can use any common Javascript front-end framework. Right now, NextJS and Gatsby are automatically recognized, and others will be added. You can also manage your URLs and domains. 

The other nice thing about having the front-end hosting connected directly to the CMS is that you can easily and quickly make updates to both the content and the design without needing extensive downtime to ensure everything works together. 

The goal is to provide an environment where customers' developer teams can quickly build and deploy websites. 

Contentstack Launch is currently in closed beta and is expected to go into production in two months. When it does, it will be available to all current customers to try out. Haddock said it would have a similar release to Automation Hub, where there is a utilization threshold, with customers likely paying when they use it to put a site into production. 

Whether existing customers will use it will depend on a number of factors. Most already have established environments and have done the work to integrate their front-end hosting with Contentstack, so there will need to be a sound reason to make the switch. For example, a website redesign would be a good incentive to look at Launch. But for new customers who are moving to a new CMS and likely re-designing or re-building their front-end web experience, Launch will be promoted as the  perfect solution for hosting their web experience. 

The value a composable architecture provides

The term 'composable digital experience platform' is the new lingo for content management vendors. It's the new and improved version of the "digital experience platform" or "web experience platform," only loads better because it's designed to be truly built on a framework of components that snap together. 

According to Phil Wainwright, who covered the first MACH One conference (Contentstack is a founding member of the MACH alliance):

In addition to speed, agility and cost benefits, these early adopters also praise the reliability and scalability of MACH.

He also quoted Andreas Westendorpf, CTO of fast-growing mattress company Emma Sleep who also attended the conference:

We're switching because the cost of opportunity, [of] not doing business development in an agile way, like we couldn't do before, is just so intensively higher than any cost we would spend on a new system, or any system.

My take

To help companies switch to a composable architecture, Contentstack announced its "Go Composable" initiative in January. This initiative includes technology, dedicated expertise, and ROI analysis tools to help companies select and integrate the best technology for their composable architectures.

There are a lot of content management vendors in the market today, some offering core web content management, others going full digital experience. But not all provide a "composable" architecture that enables companies to quickly assemble all the technologies required to create those experiences. And some say they do, but it's not so simple when you get under the hood. 

But this is the architecture companies need to enable the agility and flexibility required to create new experiences and quickly adapt them as they learn what works and what doesn't. We are long past the time of getting locked into any technology. But at the same time, we don't want to create these messy architectures that take forever to put up and break down. Contentstack looks to aiming to ensure companies don't fall into either trap. 

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