Ultimate Showdown: XM Cloud vs XP vs XM
As I talk to people, the same question keeps coming up - what is XM Cloud, and how is it different from what I have? Which version of Sitecore do I need? It's not always cut and try, especially when you're really trying to listen.
Operations, dev teams & marketers all have a vested interest in the direction of the platform. So we're trying to navigate the best decisions for all parties while understanding if we're looking at the near future or solving issues further down the road.
So by popular demand, here is a look at the difference between Sitecore XM Cloud, Sitecore XP & Sitecore XM.
Sitecore Feature Comparison
|Content Editing & Creation|
|Visual in-page editing||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Drag & drop page building||Yes||Yes, w/ SXA||Yes, w/ SXA|
|No-code layout templates||Yes||Yes, w/ SXA||Yes, w/ SXA|
|Low-code components||Yes||Yes, w/ SXA||Yes, w/ SXA|
|SaaS component builder (Components)||Yes||No||No|
|SaaS page builder (Pages)||Yes||No||No|
|Saas content explorer (Explorer)||Yes||No||No|
|Simplified editing interface||Yes||No||No|
|Role & User-based security||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Item & Field-based security||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|SSO Integration||Coming Soon||Yes||Yes|
|Front-end||Requires Vercel or Netlify||Built-In||Built-In|
|PaaS (Platform as a Service)||No||Yes||Yes|
|SaaS (Software as a Service)||Yes||No||No|
|Hosting Environments||SaaS||Azure, AWS, Etc||Azure, AWS, Etc|
|Content Delivery||Requires Vercel or Netlify, Not included||Sitecore, Included||Sitecore, Included|
|Future Upgrades Required||No||Yes||Yes|
|Operational Hosting Support||Included||Not included||Not included|
|Scaling Management||Included||Not included||Not included|
|Performance Management||Included||Not included||Not included|
|Profile / Personas||Limited||Multi-Session||In-Session|
|Built-in Release Management||Yes||No||No|
Differences between Sitecore XM & Sitecore XP
Both Sitecore XP & Sitecore XM (let's leave XM Cloud out of it) are excellent content management systems that offer essentially the same features, release versions, modules, and capabilities. However, they differ in two primary ways.
- Sitecore XM allows you to personalize a user's experience only based on their current visit. By contrast, Sitecore XP tracks users' actions and experiences over multiple sessions.
- Sitecore XP, in tracking users' activities over multiple sessions, stores user information in a sub-system called xConnect. Sitecore XM does not have this. Because user information is stored, it can be leveraged for things like CRM syncing, marketing automation and longer-tail personalization.
Without xConnect, Sitecore XM has a smaller infrastructure footprint and cost of ownership than Sitecore XP.
If you see a comparison of XM Cloud to Sitecore XP, that comparison also applies to XM with the above differences in mind.
Composable (XM Cloud) vs Traditional All-In-One Stack (XP)
- Sitecore XP is a traditional all-in-one CMS platform.
- It is your single source for everything you'd like a digital marketing platform to do.
- This includes content management, personalization, marketing automation, and emails
- The pro is one-stop shopping
- The con is, speaking realistically, you're likely paying for things you're not using. And slightly more cynically, are you getting the best-of-the-breed tools for your business?
- Being the best all-in-one system is different from being the best niche app for email marketing, personalization, automation or form creation.
- Sitecore XP is an elite DXP / CMS platform but is the all-on-one approach right for your organization, or is taking a composable approach with your tech stack a better fit for your goals?
XM Cloud is positioned as a natively composable CMS platform. Composable technology will be SaaS-based. As various technologies will be used, it's critical to not be responsible for their hosting and operations. The tools should be plug-and-play, loosely coupled, and swappable. You can bring your own email manager, CRM, and recommendation engine and swap out any tool or technology without significantly affecting the others.
In the composable model XM Cloud is the high-end enterprise CMS in the bring-your-own model. It is the strong core or foundation of your composable stack. And aligns you with a best-of-breed CMS.
Sitecore XM is not SaaS-based, it doesn't hit the true spirit of composability. But if you have it, consider adding other composable technologies to it to build out your stack. Then eventually, when you want to move into XM Cloud, you'll be ready.
Upgrades & Operations
XM Cloud is a SaaS solution that does not require upgrading or an operational footprint.
By contrast, Sitecore XP will typically have a couple major versions released each year and a major version every 2 years (more or less). Keeping up to update has time and cost considerations that can be significant and need to be considered.
XM Cloud Is Headless, XP Is Optionally Headless
XM Cloud is a headless CMS. XM Cloud will deliver the content to a front-end server (Next.js-based) that will render your website. This is a very modern approach to have 100% separation between your front-end and back-end.
Sitecore XP does not require this separation. It's a simplification, but the front-end and back-end both run on the same server powered by Microsoft .NET MVC framework. If your development team is very accomplished in .NET, they may feel more comfortable in this model.
That said, if you install Sitecore's Headless Services module - Sitecore XP and XM can also run in the headless mode. In fact, if you're getting ready to migrate to XM Cloud, you may retool your site to operate in headless mode on XP.
Composable State of Mind
Using XM Cloud signals embracing a composable architecture. In this case, XM Cloud is your content management & authoring technology in the architecture. For most organizations, it's the foundation and you'll bring on additional composable SaaS tech pieces as needed (e.g. a customer data platform).
With Sitecore XP/XM, you can add more composable technologies to them. But with XP, it's often assumed that an all-in-one toolset has been bought, which can be a hurdle for introducing new technology.
Overall a product like Sitecore Personalize is worth considering in this composable light. If we're looking at personalization capabilities, they would rank as follows.
- Sitecore Personalize (composable SaaS offering)
- Sitecore XP (built-in)
- Sitecore XM Cloud (built-in)
Sitecore Personalize is a personalization, meant to trigger personalized experiences at scale across multiple platforms (web, apps, email, etc.), target a user at a website, page or component level, can trigger and consume APIs and measure everything through valuable A/B Tests.
XP and XM Cloud would be a distant second and third focused on explicit personalization rules at the component or page level.
While it has an additional cost, there is a significant increase in features and outcomes when adopting technology specifically for personalization.
Sitecore XP Has More Multi-Channel Marketing Features (But!)
XM Cloud offers marketing features above other headless CMS platforms, but does not offer complete multi-channel toolset for marketers.
- Introduce additional best-fit SaaS marketing tools to build out your multi-channel marketing stack, as needed.
- Offers in-session personalization, leveraging data points like location, referrer, tracking codes.
- Are you comfortable finding solutions for your individual marketing goals as needed?
Sitecore XP has a complete multi-channel toolset for marketer.
- It's a best-in-class all-in-one solution, but don't expect any individual marketing feature to be best-in-class compared to purpose-built SaaS offering (e.g. MailChimp, Sitecore Send).
- Offers multi-session personalizations, tracking user interactions across multiple visits.
XM Cloud’s Enhanced Authoring Tools & UX
XM Cloud still (for now) provides access to the legacy ways of authoring and building sites in Sitecore - Experience Editor & Content Editor.
But XM Cloud has introduced new features to enhance the author's experiences. Each can be thought of as their own SaaS features.
Sitecore Pages: a new interface that combines the content structure & taxonomy, visual page editing, and content metadata into a single experience. (pages.sitecorecloud.io // login required)
Sitecore Explorer: a data-driven view of exploring your content and maintaining pages (explorer.sitecorecloud.io // login required)
Sitecore Components: A very powerful platform that allows users to create new components without code (or very minimal). It also allows you to connect your components to content sources that exist outside of Sitecore (like an RSS feed, or an API from an event management platform). Take a look at my detailed overview of Components.
Which Sitecore Version Should I Use?
Sitecore XM Cloud. Just kidding, but maybe? 🙂 Realistically, all Sitecore platforms are tremendous options for building a website. But the future is trending toward SaaS and composability. It's not a fit for everyone.
There are definitely use case for organizations to adopt Sitecore XM and XP. Perhaps data tenancy concerns, technology preference, overall cost or budgeting cycles could all be factors that influence a decision.
I hope you found this comparison of these platforms useful.
If you need help figuring this out, the best thing to do is talk about it. So please reach out - I'm always happy to chat. Figure out the best decision and how to justify it is always a good bit of fun.