Episerver DXC - What Is It?
Episerver Digital Experience Cloud (DXC) is the new cloud hosting offering provided by Episerver. DXC is a managed cloud-based hosting service that Episerver provides for clients. If you choose to use the DXC service, Episerver will in effect take the hassle of hosting away from you and, instead, manage everything for you. I think there is still quite a bit of confusion in the development community about what exactly DXC offers. DXC isn't a new product that Episerver has created, instead, it's a service they offer that uses industry standard providers to host your Episerver environment. The benefits of using the DXC service is that your Episerver website will be hosted and configured in a best practice configuration that Episerver has identified. These industry standard services include:
- Episerver licenses
- Azure: DXC comes with 3 Azure environments, integration, used for your testing, pre-production used to deploy your website and production, the environment that hosts your live website. Episerver only has access to production, managed services copy the code from integration.
- Cloudflare: This adds your WAF protection and CDN support. Even though Episerver uses CloudFlare, as part of the deal you will not have access directly to edit it.
- EpiFind for search.
- New Relic for website monitoring and stats
- 24/7 Episerver Support
- SSL Included
- From my understanding, a Redis server will also be included in the future (June 2017)
DXC obviously won't be for everyone but for certain clients, it provides a better option than doing everything in-house. Obviously, as it is a managed service, the costs are also slightly higher than doing it all yourself. The idea behind DXC is that it’s a service that has everything a company needs to host an enterprise level Episerver website, set-up and configured in the most optimum way to run Episerver. DXC pricing is based on performance, your website's average traffic and page views. The best advice is to set a low usage quote and then pay for the extra resources, as and when you need them. If you have a summer sale for example once a year where your websites traffic double for a brief period then it's more cost efficient to pay for a low tier option and pay the extra only for peak times. In terms of environments, Integration is your playpen. You can think of integration as a single server, it won't scale. You wouldn't do your load testing here. Pre-production is the environment you put your production code. This is the area that you will need to work with Episerver to get to an area where they will be happy to deploy your code into production. This process might seem a bit odd at first, but with DXC you get a 99% uptime SLA which includes your own custom code, so before they can release anything they have to inspect your changes.
Some of DXC Pro's
Episerver Support: If you have limited in-house Episerver or IT infrastructure skills, DXC is a good option as you get a lot of hand-holding included in the support options that many companies traditionally have had to deal with themselves. It's like using Everweb.. but on steroids! Compliance: As you won't have direct access to production, you have a very well documented email trail of what code gets deployed and who has access to your sensitive data. Find Included: Epifind comes with DXC so if you use Find you get an improved deal as it's bundled in. Find is a great option if you need advanced search requirements on your website, like in an e-commerce website product search. Azure Windows: One benefit of using Azure is that it uses a scaled down version of Windows. This obviously means that an azure website is a lot more secure, as there are fewer points in your system that can be compromised.
Some of DXC Con's
No Direct Access To Production: On the flipside of the coin, for some companies not having access to the server itself may cause issues. If you run a website that needs to do code deployments frequently every day, then this might be a show stopper. As mentioned above, the DXC SLA also covers your custom code. This means that when you deploy to pre-production you will need to work with Episerver managed services and agree when a release meets their standards. If you need to release frequently then you will need to consider this. Personally, I would argue why ou would need to do this. Using DXC definitely, means you need to architect your solution differently. For example, in a normal project, you may keep a number of site settings in your app settings, in the web.config. If you need to change these settings frequently, instead of having to wait on Episerver, you would be better off making these values configurable within Episerver, removing the need to do a new release to production. EpiFind: If you don't need to use EPifind and your website only provides a basic search you will end up paying for a service you won't use. In this instance, something like Google Site Search can be used instead for a fraction of the price. If you are not planning on using Epi-Find then you’re paying for a service you are not using. No Access To Your WAF: Does your site have any subsites/white label sites/services? If you need to add in WAF rules, although technically possible, the DXC service doesn't allow you access to configure it yourself. Price: More expensive than hosting it yourself. This pricing may put some people off. DXC offers an all or nothing approach. With DXC you have to pay for everything, even if you don't need it all. It would be good if a client could pick and choose what they wanted to help them get cheaper deals.
As I'm hoping you can start to appreciate, DXC provides quite a lot. For certain companies, the DXC offering provides a lot of good benefits. From my personal experience and some conversations I've had with other Episerver partners, some of the sticking points around DXC include, do you want to host a website in the cloud? Do you need to access to the live server? Do you have the skills in-house to manage everything yourself? Do you want to use Find? Do you already pay for DDOS protection? Personally, I like the idea of DXC, having a managed service via Episerver as it takes a lot of the hassle of hosting and deployment out. Obviously, I never have to pay the bill myself but it means I can concentrate on the things that will help a company to improve their sales funnels and conversions. If you already have a WAF and DDOS protection, or you need access to the WAF firewall rules then things become a little less straight cut. At this point, you will need to crunch the numbers and figure out what works best for you. If you can answer all these and DXC is still a viable option, I'd recommend getting in contact with Episerver to get a quote. When I've recommended DXC it's been for clients with little Episerver knowledge in-house who would fully maximise all the services included in DXC.