Episerver and Azure partner on Digital Transformation

Episerver and Microsoft have been partnering closely for the last five years to help customers get the most of our combined value. We have been helping our customers transform on-premise solutions to a cloud-based consumption driven marketing and commerce platform.

Today, the Episerver hosted platform is delivering close to 1 Billion requests per month. It is leveraging Azure capabilities such as elastic scale, self-healing, auto-patching and all other capabilities of Azure App Service. Customers simply focus on building the brand and content to moves their business forward. Microsoft and Episerver take care of the rest.

Moving their digital presence to the cloud is the first step in our customer’s digital transformation. Having the cloud as a resource allows our customers to leverage AI to further derive value out of their online assets. Recently, and especially over the last year, we have been looking at other Azure capabilities that could be brought to bear in a commerce and marketing platform.

Cognitive Content

In the post-scarcity era of data storage, we are no longer choosy about how many pictures we take on the family vacation or worry about how much music, movies and literature we can fit on the shelves at home. This has left everyone with a new challenge, of managing all those digital assets effectively; or even finding an individual picture taken at a certain date. Marketers and Merchandisers, often manage thousands of images, videos and documents in their content repositories. They could benefit from delegating some of the heavy lifting of managing asset meta-data to the cloud-based platform. So, we added some of the Azure Cognitive Services around image and video management into Episerver. For example, if I upload an image to the service (in this case a cute puppy):

 

The image is processed by Azure Cognitive Services in the background, where deep learning is applied to analyze and tag the content in the picture. This information is then fed back into Episerver, which means that a few seconds later, I can type “dog” in my asset library, and find my recently uploaded picture.

 

 

The Azure Cognitive Services understood the picture well enough to conjure up meaningful description “A dog laying on top of a grass covered field” and keywords “grass, dog, outdoor, animal, mammal, laying, tan”.

There are other excellent features of cognitive services that developers can leverage through the free Cognitive Services add-on, such as:

Automatic OCR scanning:

 

Facial recognition:

 

Smart image cropping:

 

We are looking forward to seeing how the usage of AI evolves with the partner and customer eco system. We have already seen interesting prototypes around using the Azure Cognitive Services to automate simple things like spell checking content, and more challenging problems such as checking content for PII data or offensive images.

Chat bots, a new UX paradigm

As human to computer interaction evolve, we are entering an era of “conversational UI”. Leveraging chat bots, users can communicate with business systems using natural language. To help our customers we wanted to explore if we could make some of the workflow around managing content more approachable, and we got some very interesting results from using the Microsoft Bot Framework for basic workflow control of the Episerver publishing process.

 

An Episerver Skype bot can be hooked up to an Episerver installation, and ping content reviewers in a chat window when they are required to act in some way. In the case of approving the changes to a page, a hero card is presented to the user, and the workflow action can be taken right there in the Skype app; on your phone, laptop in the browser or on any device you are using.

As a corporate communication channels, chat bots are extremely interesting for the small tasks that otherwise clutter the organization; they rely on very well-adopted messaging platforms that are more interactive and less intrusive than simple text messages, and usually elicit a shorter turn-around time than emails.

Episerver + Microsoft Strategic Alliance

Episerver is very proactive in engaging with the product and technical teams here at Microsoft. Each year, we bring product and development executives together at Microsoft in Redmond for briefings on new technologies and products as well as deeper discussions around architecture and roadmaps. Microsoft also provides access to a Cloud Solution Architect (CSA) who works on-location with Episerver throughout the year to support efforts in building out the solution and supporting customers.

We provide this support and early access so Episerver is able to quickly adopt new Azure technologies. We like to ensure our shared customers reap the rewards of our mutual efforts

Nir Mashowski

Nir Mashowski

Partner Director of Program Management, Microsoft Corp.