Elevate Your Digital Experience with Optimizely's New SaaS Core CMS

By: David Boland


This week Optimizely's yearly conference Opticon took place in San Diego. There were a lot of great features and updates announced. One that we are excited about at Nansen is the introduction of their new SaaS (software as a service) CMS offering, named SaaS Core CMS.

For those of you familiar with Optimizely CMS, you know it's a traditional PaaS, built on the .NET framework. If you want to leverage it as a headless or hybrid CMS, you need to access content via the Content Delivery API.

With SaaS Core, your CMS is more composable, and truly headless by design.

This post explains what it means to have Optimizely as a SaaS CMS. We will also discuss some new features it will include.

Benefits of the SaaS Model

Maintenance: With a SaaS model, you no longer have to worry about the "back end" of your website. This includes building out your content types in code, or updating to keep up with the latest CMS version. As the latest and greatest features are released, you will have them automatically. Setup: Because of this lack of "back end", you can spin up an instance of the CMS in minutes. You will be able to create, configure, and log in to your instance through your web browser. Composability: When you switch your architecture to a SaaS model, it becomes more composable. You can share your content on many channels, with maintainability and scalability. Delivery: With SaaS, you are no longer restricted to a head-on implementation. You can now go headless, hybrid, head aware, or headless with presentation control. We will cover more of how content is delivered with some of the feature announcements below.

How it Differs from PaaS

With PaaS, your site is hosted on a web server, running on .NET. With SaaS, there is no need to worry about CMS hosting, .NET development, or versioning. All your page and block types can be created by editors directly in the CMS.

While SaaS seems like it has all the features of PaaS and then some, it does lack the customization. With SaaS, custom plugins, admin tools, scheduled jobs, and custom properties would not be possible. You are restricted to what is provided and added to the SaaS platform.

It's important to note that SaaS will not be replacing PaaS. They will both be offered, allowing you to choose the right architecture for your implementation.

Other Announcements with the New SaaS Core

Optimizely Graph

Optimizely Graph is a service built on GraphQL, allowing you to query all of your content. Unlike the Content Delivery API, all of the content is pushed out to the graph, and served over a CDN.

With Graph, you will be able to not only query your content, but search it as well. We will do a follow up post going into more detail about Graph. At Nansen we are excited to start leveraging all the features Optimizely Graph has to offer.

Visual Builder

The Visual Builder is a way of building template definitions for your content. In staying truly headless, it builds your template definitions in a way that it can be pushed out to any channel. It's fully drag and drop, and doesn't require you define your content types in code.

The road map plan is to integrate Visual Builder into other services. This includes the ability to create omni-channel content in Optimizely Content Marketing Platform (CMP), and hand it off to the CMS for multi-channel delivery.

The new visual builder, which will be available in both PaaS and SaaS options.


While there is still a need for PaaS, this new offering can be a great option for many implementations. There is no information yet as to pricing. But we are excited about Optimizely moving more of its services to a more composable architecture.

If you would like to find out more about the SaaS offering, or are wondering if SaaS is the right model for you, feel free to reach out to us at Nansen!