Petr Palas

Kentico, a web content management (WCM) and digital experience platform provider, released the Kentico Cloud, an "API-first," multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering at its annual 404 Conference in Las Vegas last week.

Kentico Cloud is comprised of three parts: Kentico Draft for authoring, Kentico Deliver for content delivery via an API and Kentico Engage for marketing and experience optimization. 

The components can be licensed separately or as a bundle, and the rather aggressive pricing is tiered based on use. It starts with a free version for micro clients or experimentation, which does not require a credit card to access.

A Parallel Effort from Kentico

Kentico’s cloud platform is a parallel effort to its on-premises Kentico CMS and Kentico Enterprise Marketing Solution (EMS) offerings, which were recently updated to version 10 and similarly announced at the company’s 404 Conference. 

The cloud offering does not currently offer feature parity with the company’s on-premises software, but it is heading in that direction, and in some cases — such as in the Kentico Draft authoring experience — is offering different features and experiences.

What’s instructive is that Kentico Cloud was in some ways born from the flames of failure.

Meet kentico cloud

Petr Palas, founder and CEO of the 12-year-old Brno, Czech Republic company, said that five years ago, Kentico became the first Web CMS certified for Microsoft Azure. In 2013, the company introduced Kentico+, a CMS hosted in the Microsoft Azure and managed by Kentico.

"It didn't work," Palas wrote in a Nov. 2 blog post, the first day of his company's first 404 Conference at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

"We realized that if we want to provide agencies and their clients with all the benefits of the cloud, we needed to go back to the drawing board and rethink the CMS architecture. Kentico Cloud is a completely new product provided in the Software-as-a-Service model. We take care of the service, so that agencies and their clients can focus on what matters most: creating digital experiences that drive their business goals."

Kentico’s Cloud: 3 Digital Experience Pillars

Kentico officials call the Kentico Cloud the first multi-tenant SaaS model for CMS of its kind, combining multi-channel content management and customer engagement for digital experience execution. They want customers to shed the burden of server maintenance, software upgrades, hotfixes, backups, rewriting code and managing plugins. In short, they want to offer the market the true promises of the cloud, not a faux-cloud that is in effect multi-instance duct tape and bailing wire.

"We believe that all the market is going to the cloud. At least at this point we see they're moving content projects to the cloud," Karol Jarkovsky, Kentico’s director of product, told CMSWire in an interview. "We're providing organizations looking for a cloud solution with a cloud-first, API-first solution."

Kentico Engage — Customer Journey History
Kentico Engage — Customer Journey History

Creation of the Kentico Cloud falls in line with the need for organizations to deploy web and content projects with a "higher level of agility," Jarkovsky added. Kentico has a "longer-term vision of building a full, comprehensive digital experience platform in the cloud."

Kentico Cloud is comprised of three stand-alone services:

  • Kentico Draft allows content managers and information architects to design, author, collaborate on, and approve and publish structured content for multi-channel delivery. Key Draft concepts include: projects (think sites or departments), content types (no inheritance), content versions, taxonomy, customizable workflows, relational content, content auto-save (no save button), collaborative annotations (like Google Docs), collaborative tasks, preview vs. published content states, etc. Kentico Draft is accessed by developers via a REST API and can be thought of as a collaborative, extensible content authoring service. Kentico Draft can push content directly into the on-premises Kentico CMS.

  • Kentico Deliver enhances Kentico Draft and can be thought of as a headless CMS with a focus on scalable delivery. Deliver builds on Draft adding the ability to publish content to any website, device or other channel via a REST API that is backed by an internal CDN. To be clear, Deliver does not include any presentation tier. It is only a scalable API, delivering content available in the Kentico Draft service.

  • Kentico Engage combines contact management, behavior tracking, geo-location data, behavior history and analytics to allow marketers to optimize visitor experiences via personalization and targeting across channels. Like Draft and Deliver, Engage sports a REST API that developers can use to marry this functionality with the presentation tier of a given channel. Kentico Engage does not currently offer feature parity with Kentico EMS, its top tier on-premises software — in fact it looks like the youngest pillar of the trio — but in conversation with CMSWire at last week’s 404 Conference, Palas assured us that this was the product’s trajectory.

Kentico EMS includes Web Analytics, Campaign Management, Email Marketing, A/B and MVT testing, Contact Management, Lead Scoring, Personalization, Segmentation and Marketing Automation. Kentico Engage has a bit of road ahead of itself before it will make the same claims.

In traditional CMS models, organizations spend too much time copy-and-pasting HTML code. In Kentico's cloud model, those charged with front-end development of their CMS simply have to a replace a small part of API code, and they've got a dynamic website, Jarkovsky said.

"We have the content management piece," he added. "The next step is building out our customer engagement platform in-house. We have personalization and we'll continue with segmentation. Then we can build those smart elements like machine learning and others."

Gartner Kudos, Cautions

This year is significant for Kentico.

Analyst firm Gartner, Inc. recently and for the first time named Kentico a "challenger" in its Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management released in September. Kentico had appeared on Gartner's radar as a notable vendor but not in the actual quadrant for WCM, a yearly industry report much revered by software vendors.

"Gartner has had a lot of respect for Kentico for a long time, but it just didn’t meet all the inclusion criteria until this year," Gartner report author Mick MacComascaigh told CMSWire. "Kentico’s pricing is particularly attractive for a very attractive — and broad set of — easy-to-use capabilities."

According to the company, Kentico runs 25,000 websites in more than 100 countries. Kentico's CMS and EMS offerings present a "comprehensive range of capabilities and a relatively low entry cost."

"Kentico concentrates on offering users simplicity, in accordance with their requirements," MacComascaigh and colleague Jim Murphy wrote in the report.

Kentico Draft — The Content Inventory Experience
Kentico Draft — The Content Inventory Experience

Gartner cautioned Kentico gives little focus to internal WCM scenarios. "Its focus on external marketing scenarios may make it unsuitable for organizations looking to use WCM for other purposes, such as in a broad digital strategy," the Gartner authors wrote. "The breadth of capabilities offered by Kentico lags behind that of its immediate competitors."

Jarkovsky admitted Kentico misses some advanced features for internal intranet scenarios.

He also said Kentico's sweet spot is midmarket players as Gartner reported.

However, Kentico looks at midmarket versus enterprise as the complexity of digital programs and not the size of the organization. Jarkovsky also noted that 15 percent of Fortune 500 companies use Kentico.

Microservices & APIs = Flexibility

Kentico’s API-first approach capitalizes on an industry trend toward microservices architecture over monolith APIs, according to Tony White, founder of Ars Logica, a Boston-based research and advisory firm specializing in digital experience technologies.

Gartner noted in its WCM Magic Quadrant that content marketers will continue to leverage WCM technologies to facilitate the “best next digital experience” as monolithic infrastructures are replaced by more “modular, granular and atomic” technologies.

Kentico 10 gives different kinds of companies the ability to develop “radically different kinds of solutions for their customers,” White said.

“If you didn’t have an API-first approach and just provided an in-the-box set of features and functions, it would not be anywhere nearly as flexible,” said White, who will be speaking at CMSWire’s DX Summit Nov. 14 to 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago. “So this really empowers the digital agencies or the companies that want to develop their own types of solutions a lot more flexibility, a lot broader range of microservices.”

‘Nimble Cloud’

Having a more nimble cloud option to spin up sites for clients that are more content focused will be a plus, said Ben Cash, founder and strategist for BlueKey, a Charleston, SC-based digital agency that does Kentico installs.

“We also used to use ‘gather’ to collaborate with clients on content outside of the CMS but Draft/Deliver will now fill that gap for us,” Cash told CMSWire. “Their strengths to this point regarding content have been the flexibility of the CMS itself and a number of the peripheral features such as workflows, translation/multilingual, etc.”

Kentico’s news this week comes nearly a year after Kentico released version 9 of its ASP.NET content management platform. The latest release included updates to its e-commerce and online marketing capabilities and featured improvements that officials promised will help marketers and developers deploy websites faster, simplify the production of personalized content for content editors and capture more intelligence and insights from campaigns.