AEP Under the Hood

23 Apr 2023 » Platform

During the session I delivered during the 2023 Summit, I condensed a lot of information into just 30 minutes. Some of it I already knew, but there were other concepts that I had to learn. Some people like to follow a video so, if you are one of those, here you have the recording of my session: See Under the Hood of Adobe Experience Platform - S401. However, if you are like me and instead prefer to read, when it comes to learning new content, this post is for you. It will be the first of a series of posts where I am going to document what I explained during this session.

Capability groupings

In case you do not have the time to review my presentation, what I explained was how Adobe Experience Platform (AEP) is structured internally. I did not explain how it has been implemented. I know there are databases, custom code, virtual servers and off-the-shelf software components involved, but I do not the exact details. In any case, for an end user or developer, these details are useless; all we really care about is the interface offered to us.

The way I documented this internal structure was to group the functionalities into three main areas:

  • Customer engagement
  • Analysis and insights
  • Data management

Just to reiterate what I have just said: this is not how AEP has been built, this is a way to explain the capabilities. You will not see these groupings in the documentation. However, since I prepared my presentation, having this classification has helped me understand even better AEP.


I am going to use the same reference architecture as in my presentation:

AEP Reference Architecture

A few comments about this architecture:

  • I am using it as an image is worth 1000 words.
  • This is just a reference, not the official architecture. You are likely to see many architectures with AEP, all of them being equally valid.
  • This is not how the product is bundled or sold.

In the rest of this and subsequent posts, I will use the following nomenclature:

  • Building block refers to each of the red squares within AEP, like data ingestion and data lake.
  • The internal components of a building block are capabilities or functionalities.
  • The blue and grey squares are applications.

Customer engagement

I would argue that this is the grouping that most people think of when they refer to AEP, the grouping of building blocks that allow us to connect with our customers:

  • Real-time Customer Profile. At the heart of the customer engagement grouping, we have the Real-time Customer Profile (RTCP). This building block contains the most important capabilities of AEP, like the profile store or the segmentation engine.
  • The Edge Network is the part of AEP that connects with the outside world.
  • Adobe Journey Optimizer is the journey orchestration tool built on top of AEP.
  • The Real-Time Customer Data Platform, not to be confused with RTCP, is another application built on top of AEP, this time for audience management. In a recent post, I compared it with AAM.

Analysis and insights

Although we tend to think that AEP is only for customer engagement, all marketing activities must be measured. To provide analytical functionalities, AEP offers:

  • A Data Lake, which lies at the heart of this grouping.
  • SQL access and some AI-based functionalities are housed in the Discovery & Insights building block.
  • Adobe has also built a reporting application, Customer Journey Analytics.

Data management

All capabilities that I have described so far require data, a lot of data. In case you have forgotten, if you are reading this blog, we spend our lives surrounded by data. In this respect, AEP offers a set of capabilities to manage the data so that the rest of AEP functionalities can use it:

  • Data ingestion. This is the entry door of the data. Here we have the functionalities to bring data in and convert it to XDM.
  • Privacy & governance. Since we are not in the wild west of data, it has to be properly managed. Features that govern the data are grouped here.
  • Administration. Finally, a hodgepodge of capabilities for anything that did not fit in any of the other building blocks.

In the coming posts, I will expand on each of the building blocks.

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