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EPiServer-Ektron merger: Insights on platform roadmap and convergence plans

While still early days, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about the future platform.

EPiServer and Ektron merger roadmap

In a webinar with partners a few days ago, new EPiServer CMO James Norwood shared some insights into their plans for converging EPiServer and Ektron into one digital experience ecosystem.

These are my takeaways from what was discussed.

See also:
Ektron-EPiServer merger: Stay calm, stay put, ignore trolls 

Benefits of merger

Norwood reiterated the company's key advantages gained from the merger:
  • Larger organization means more R&D resources, a larger customer base and a wider network of partners
  • Increased financial backing for organic growth, further mergers and acquisitions if necessary
  • Consolidated Cloud model resonates well with buying trends of today's mid-market and enterprise customers
  • Existing cloud capabilities provide strong foundation for scalable, effective delivery systems for customers
A few key numbers for the joint company:
  • 30,000 websites powered globally
  • 880 partners (with 80% of developers being certified on their respective products)
  • 8,800 customers globally

Consolidated platform to meet new business needs

Consumers are becoming ever more connected, and are expecting a seamless, personalized journey across all your channels.
Vendors who cling to old silo-based business models will inevitably start to decline.

With Ektron and EPiServer complementing each other's strengths, new EPiServer can offer a strong product suite across the three main markets - Web Content Management, Digital Commerce and Digital Marketing. 

The focus going forward will be on making sure all these areas are as interwoven as possible, creating a seamless customer experience.

Rebranded platform to center on Cloud

Effective immediately, EPiServer's product offerings will be rebranded as the Digital Experience Cloud
(EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud and Ektron Digital Experience Cloud, respectively, for existing solution stacks.)

As the branding suggests, Cloud compatibility plays a vital part in making sure the platform is scalable, agile and powerful enough to meet the needs of demanding customers, and EPiServer will put a lot of effort into ensuring the platform plays well with Cloud environments.

Seamless compatibility wih providers such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS are a high priority, but they will also continue to offer hosting through their own EPiServer Cloud platform.

But today, the majority of EPiServer customers are still hosted on-premise (some even have regulations restricting them from using Cloud services). Will everyone be forced into the Cloud?

Not at all, according to Norwood. EPiServer will continue to support customers with whatever hosting solution they require, until they are ready to take the step into the Cloud.

Product strategy to protect investments, encourage upgrades

After all the speculation in the past weeks, existing Ektron and EPiServer customers will enjoy hearing this straight from the CMO: 
EPiServer is not going to kill the existing Ektron nor EPiServer products.

Dedicated R&D resources will be allocated so that the products may live on in parallel with any new offerings (but will naturally be retired when the majority of customers have moved on to newer offerings.) 

EPiServer have adopted a product strategy mantra of "Protect, Extend, Converge".

They will protect the investments of existing customers (on the latest major versions of either product) by providing customer support and software patches. 
Yes, that means that new features probably won't be developed for these products. But it also means customers can get value from their current platform investment for several years to come, as long as that product meets their business needs.

However, EPiServer intend to extend existing solutions by making certain components cross-product compatible. For instance, Ektron customers on current products could be able to use EPiServer Find for advanced search. 
EPiServer customers could get access to Ektron's Digital Experience Hub feature for advanced integrations with external applications. 

Lastly, as expected, EPiServer will converge the best of both products plus innovations into a new, Cloud-centered unified platform - the EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud.

On that note: Critics will have you believe that technologies cannot simply be "mashed together" - and they are quite right. Luckily, skilled technicians are far better equipped to handle such a project than loud-mouthed critics.

The way to achieve a unified platform is NOT by isolating existing components and shoe-horning them into working together. Instead, you pick one codebase (probably EPiServer's, as its architecture is widely regarded as more solid than Ektron's) and strip that down to the core framework. Then, gradually re-implement the best features from both products.

So to summarize the product strategy, customers will not be forced to move off their current solution. But EPiServer remain convinced that customers will see the potential value to be gained from moving to the new unified platform.

Naturally, EPiServer's main challenge in that respect is developing as painless migration paths as possible, so it feels more like an upgrade than a platform change.

Roadmap of convergence

So a unified platform sounds great, but when will it become a reality?

According to Norwood, there is an aggressive plan in place, to have the first new offerings available towards the latter half of 2015.

IMHO, this is probably too soon to expect a fully unified platform, but it will probably be enough time to release cross-product compatible components that add value to existing solutions.

Impact on release cycles

EPiServer already had in place an effective continuous release program where new minor features and patches were being made available in 14-day cycles. 

Developers will be pleased to hear there are no plans to discontinue this release model.

However, from a marketing perspective they want to introduce seasonal launches, to properly highlight what value customers can gain from staying up-to-date. This kind of release scheme will give more leverage to marketing, and will improve predictability for customers and partners (as opposed to the unpredictable we'll-release-it-when-we're-ready scheme of the past).

Impact on pricing and license models

Scalability is one of the main advantages of Cloud computing. With that in mind, EPiServer are working on making pricing and licensing models simpler and more elastic, so that customers can find a configuration that fit their individual needs rather than being forced into predefined brackets.