Cloud Connected

"The only difference between Cloud CMS and your current on-premise document repository is that you don't have to worry about software or hardware installation and upgrades any longer."
Jeff Potts, Founder
Metaversant Group

Content Management as a Microservice

One of the big ideas we pursued when we set out to build Cloud CMS was to design the product so that it was entirely decoupled. Our vision was to have a number of discrete tiers that would consist of either single servers or clusters of servers dedicated to a single class of problems.

For example, the Content API tier is dedicated to powering our JSON API. It does nothing else but receive requests, execute them and hand back JSON data responses. It had nothing to do with presentation or rendering of content for consumption.

On the other hand, our Application Server tier does nothing but take that JSON data and convert it into a format desired by the web site or mobile app. It might be HTML but it also might be alternative JSON, XML or binary formats.

There are several other tiers as well, including a DB tier, a Search Index tier, a tier for messaging, a tier for Job Queue management and tiers for Job executors for long running tasks like statistics map/reduce and even web page screenshot capture.

By separating things into different tiers, we created more work for ourselves initially, but we believed this would allow Cloud CMS to be more extensible and more testable from a deployment perspective. We also believed that it would enable the platform as a whole to perform better and in a more elastic fashion where individual tiers could scale out as demand grew.

For our customers, this meant consistent, steady performance on modern cloud platforms (like AWS). Pricing would not only be lower (since capacity of machines per tier would scale down with lower demand) but it would also be as close to a utility model as you could achieve (in terms of paying only for what you use).

The Arrival of Docker

What we didn’t anticipate, however, was the proliferation of container technologies circa 2013 and specifically the arrival of Docker. Docker provided Cloud CMS with a way to package up our tiers into services that could easily be deployed in all kinds of interesting configurations. It greatly reduced the heavy Dev/Ops and IT cycle involved with running a cloud infrastructure service.

With Docker, we suddenly found ourselves in a position where our customers could not only run Cloud CMS in a hosted capacity, but they could also run Cloud CMS on their own. They could run it on-premise, in their own data centers, and even on their own laptops.

Docker allowed us to express our tiers as services that could be launched into containers. Docker then allocates these containers (Docker Swarm) onto a single host or many different hosts (EC2 instances) on the fly.

Furthermore, the elastic architecture of Cloud CMS means that new containers can come online at any time and join the pack. Others can come offline at any time. It’s self-healing and largely automated.

Cloud CMS and Microservices

In bundling our tiers into container images, we realized that we had gone a long way toward packaging Cloud CMS up as a set of microservices. While “microservices” is an abstract description of “small autonomous services that work together, modeled around a business domain”, Docker turns this into a reality by providing a way to package service code and automate its testing and deployment.

This automation of testing and deployment is the critical piece. Once the descriptor files are in place to describe the deployment, Docker handles the instantiation of containers as well as the allocation of those containers onto hosts (EC2 instances). It solves for the software installation and configuration task, but it also tackles the far more complex Dev/Ops challenges of network configuration, port binding, volume mounting, log collection, fail case handling and more.

For us, this makes it easier for us to manage and deliver Cloud CMS as a Software as a Service offering. However, it also opens up a world of possibilities for our customers.

It makes it possible for our customers to drop Cloud CMS into their applications. Not as a remote API service, but as an integrated, low latency, same subnet and possibly in-process module. Their application may pull in many microservices this way, each deployed as a container, including perhaps:

  • Shipping API
  • Order Processing API
  • Inventory Management API
  • Invoicing API

If our customers need a Content Management API, they just drop in Cloud CMS and away they go.


At Cloud CMS, we’re seeing more customers transition to running Cloud CMS as a microservice. Docker puts the power of the cloud into the hands of the customer. The implication of this to traditional SaaS companies is very interesting.

While SaaS companies will continue for some time to provide real value in terms of hosting their offerings and handling all of the Dev/Ops tasks associated with running the underlying infrastructure (along with data migrations, upgrades and support), we expect to see customers pull more of this on-premise and handle their own infrastructure management tasks themselves.

Docker and other container technology companies make this easier and lower cost than ever before. This shift in customer preference may shift many traditional SaaS companies into offering a more conventional on-premise support model. We’ve certainly found this to be the case at Cloud CMS.

Return On Investment (ROI) with Cloud CMS

ROI and Content Management Systems (CMS) are rarely used in the same sentence due to the uncomfortable pricing models from all legacy CMS vendors - as well as the spiraling costs of implementing them. Often so much investment has been made in the CMS that changing is not a realistic consideration.

This negativity only increases when you start using the term Enterprise Content Management (ECM), where suddenly vendors start seeing dollar signs, but offer no additional functionality e.g., Alfresco, Documentum, Adobe CQ5, and many more. Rather, creative “Per User” or “Per CPU” pricing makes selling to the Enterprise very attractive to vendors.

At Cloud CMS we strive to provide exceptional value with a CMS which will meet your current and future needs. The benefits of the Cloud CMS approach can be realized in many ways but occasionally you need to have a “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” conversation.

Some potential ways to realize your ROI with Cloud CMS:


We adhere to an API First, or “headless” approach to content management. This means all content and CMS functionality is available via our 1,300+ APIs. Every UI, including our packaged console, uses these APIs. Create and manage content thru our console, and call the APIs to access any content on your frontend applications. This provides greater freedom rather than being limited to a CMS vendor’s templating options.

Future Proofing

  1. Reuse: Through the separation of the CMS and the presentation layer you can create amazing websites and application with the frontend technology of your choice. Whenever you need to refresh or redesign the presentation layer, the CMS and content can be reused in-place. Minimizing the changes and maximizing reuse is huge benefit to any project from the technical, marketing, and business perspectives.
  2. Multi-channel/Device: three possibilities for cost savings:
    1. One CMS, creating content which can be deployed anywhere as needed
    2. What are your future device and application requirements? What devices are coming up in the next 6 months+? The frontend costs are maybe unknown but you can limit the risk and costs by using a CMS that provide the Content via APIs. No change to the CMS
    3. Reduce Time To Market: having the content available in a Headless CMS allows for an organisation to respond to changes and the requirements for new devices and channels.

Software as a Service

  1. SaaS CMS services can convert expensive capital outlay for servers and network equipment into a monthly operating expense, while also reducing the IT resources required to manage enterprise records.
  2. Scalable: Cloud CMS scales seamlessly to meet your needs. Again, no upfront costs.
  3. Always on latest version: Cloud CMS continues to grow with new and enhanced features, performance, bug resolution. No need to wait and plan large upgrade projects.

Feature rich

Cloud CMS is a lot more than a well architected repository and API. Jeff Potts summarized this nicely in his blog Content-as-a-Service Review: Cloud CMS: “..Cloud CMS is an extensible platform with a long list of features. This is more than just a place to stick content and an API to get it back out–this is a full-featured CMS that happens to be running as SaaS in the cloud. ..”

Flexibility - Fits with your infrastructure

  1. Application development and delivery teams at publishing organizations, media companies, and branded manufacturers already use API First CMS tools alongside multiple other sets of API-first micro-services to build out new digital products.
  2. Flexible Deployment Options ( ): whether SaaS or On-Premise, direct API, custom Application server, or using our NodeJS module.

At Cloud CMS we have a straight forward honest approach. We care about what we do and how we do it. We are essentially engineers that want to create the “right” solutions and see our customers get value from their CMS. Needless to say we are proud of what we deliver.

If you have any questions or comments please email

Introducing the Cloud CMS Open Source App Server

Cloud CMS lets you create content once and reuse it everywhere - across all of your devices, web sites, mobile applications, tradeshow kiosks, digital signage surfaces and more. Our editorial environment is fully featured, extensible easy to use, letting you manage content and deliver it via our enterprise-class Content API.

With Cloud CMS, customers are free to build apps on top of best-of-breed open-source frameworks while leveraging open-standards. They are empowered to continue to use the development platforms they choose - whether that’s .NET, Java, Node.js, PHP or anything else.

In other words, Cloud CMS plays well with others.

Introducing the Cloud CMS Application Server

There is another reason why companies choose Cloud CMS. It is because we offer an open-source, Node.js Application Server for three-tier architectures.

Cloud CMS Three Tier Architecture

When customers ask us what architecture we recommend, we invariably recommend a three-tier architecture. It involves a middle tier (known as an Application Server) that provides application-specific services for your mobile or web application. It’s not only more secure but it’s also possible to optimize the request chain to make your apps snappy and responsive.

Why? Well, suppose you had a mobile app that connected to an API in the cloud. Suppose it had to make 10 different API calls to collect the information it needed to draw the page. Can you imagine trying to do that over a 4G connection with a low battery? It’s a good way to kill a phone - but not a good way to build responsive applications that your customers will love.

It also opens up a security liability. Any security credentials you need to connect to the API will have to be on the phone. Which means they can be found and discovered. It’s harder to do within native applications, true, but it’s actually quite easy to do with HTML5/JS applications.

Which is why generally recommend not to do it. Instead, we suggest using a middle tier Application Server.

The Cloud CMS Application Server is an optional Node.js/Express-based server that provides presentation services for your sites and applications. This includes:

  • Optimized HTTP headers and performance caching
  • CDN integration and invalidation
  • Web Content Management
  • Dust.js Templates with Template compilation and page caching
  • User Authentication and Registration
  • Static Asset Caching
  • Instant Preview and Scheduled Publishing

And much, much more!

Open Source Ecosystem of Plugins

The Cloud CMS Application Server has become quite popular. Much of this popularity is due to its reliance open-source and a worldwide community of open-source developers. The product is designed to snap in very naturally with Node.js and Express.

The Node.js developer community is worldwide and expansive. For our customers, this means that there is an available and lower-cost pool of development talent at their disposal.

It also means that there is an active eco-system of modules, plugins and open-source tools available. These assets represent a worldwide convergence of thought on best practices in web design, architecture and coding.

Best of all - it’s all open-source.

It continues our tradition at Cloud CMS of building and supporting open-source libraries. It began 5 years ago with the leading Alpaca Forms Engine and has continued with all of our drivers, SDKs, documentation samples and more. We put everything under the permissive Apache 2.0 license so that there are no strings attached.

The Cloud CMS Application Server is the latest to join this family. It is now available under the Apache 2.0 license just like its sibling products. It is available today for you to use in building awesome Cloud CMS applications.

Getting Started

The conventional way to get started with the Cloud CMS Application Server is to install into your Node application, like this:

npm install cloudcms-server --save

This will add the dependency to your package.json file. You can then start up the server within your app.js file like this:

var server = require(“cloudcms-server”);

This is a no-configuration startup. Nothing fancy. It will begin serving back content from the ./public directory - HTML, CSS, anything that you have. Basically, like a really simple web server!

Connecting to Cloud CMS

To connect your Application Server to Cloud CMS, grab a copy of your application’s gitana.json file and drop it in next to your app.js. Restart the Node process. The file will be picked up and your Application Server is now ready to communicate with Cloud CMS.

Let’s add a custom API method that retrieves a list of products. Imagine you have a Cloud CMS project with a custom content type called my:product. You can register a controller method like this:

server.routes(function(app, done) {
    app.use("/products", function(req, res, next) {
        req.branch(function(err, branch) {
                "_type": "my:product"
            }).then(function() {


Restart your Node process and then open a browser to:


And you’ll see your JSON come back!

Images, Video and Static Assets

The Cloud CMS Application Server is all wired up to pull down static assets including video and images from the Cloud CMS API.

Let’s say you have a content node in Cloud CMS with a binary attachment on it. You’d like to show it inside of your web site. No problem. Use the following path:


The binary is pulled back from the Cloud CMS API and cached locally on the Application Server. The next request for the asset will serve from the Application Server itself instead of going back to the API.

Furthermore, if you’re running in production mode, the asset’s headers will be set so that the Application Server can act as the Origin Server in your CDN architecture. This allows the asset to cache on the CDN, removing the need to even go back to the Application Server at request time.

Configuring Features

The Application Server comes with a slew of really interesting features that you can configure by customizing the call to your start() method. These features are implemented as middleware that run in the request chain depending on whether they’re enabled and depending on how they’re configured.

Let’s say you wanted to hook up automatic cache invalidation. When content is updated in your editorial environment, you want to have the Application Server hear those changes and invalidate cache.

It’s easy! Cloud CMS lets you define an Amazon SNS/SQS topic and queue to which content lifecycle notification events are sent. You then tell the Application Server to listen for those events and act on them:

    "notifications": {
        "provider": "sqs",
        "config": {
                    ...sqs configuration...

For the exact syntax of each configuration block, check out our formal documentation:

Getting your Hands Dirty

To work with the Cloud CMS Application Server, clone the following GitHub repository:

Inside, you will find two ways to get started:

  1. Run Node.js standalone
  2. Build a Docker image using the official Dockerfile

The /standalone directory contains everything you need to configure and launch the Cloud CMS Application Server in standalone mode. The /docker directory provides the official Dockerfile for use in building your own custom Docker images

Each of these approaches utilizes the “cloudcms-server” Node.js module. You can learn more about this module here:

Running on Docker

The provided Dockerfile makes it very easy to build custom Application Server containers with all of your custom code. The code is layered on top of the official Fedora image that provides a foundation for your application.

By building in this way, you’ll find it very easy to deploy your resulting Docker image to Amazon EC2, Rackspace and other popular cloud providers. You’ll also gain the advantage of having a common image that all of your developers can work with, whether on their laptops or in a development/staging environment.

The Dockerfile pulls down the base Fedora image from Docker Hub. Please be sure to read through the README file provided in the GitHub project as it provides sample commands and guidance on using both approaches.

Go Forth and Build Great Apps!

When we started Cloud CMS over five years ago, we had a vision for an API-first, JSON-oriented content platform that spans your entire business.

Today, the Cloud CMS Application Server takes us a step closer to that vision by letting our customers further lower the amount of time and cost needed to develop and deploy amazing applications.

If you’re interested in learning more about Cloud CMS, we invite you to sign up for a free trial account.