Meet the Adobe I/O Team: Meryll Blanchet on Cloud Native Applications

Engineering manager Meryll Blanchet leads engineering on a new Adobe I/O project codenamed CNA, which stands for Cloud Native Applications. The CNA team is working on an SDK as part of I/O Runtime to enable developers to create fully-fledged UI applications on top of Adobe Experience Platform with all the benefits of serverless capabilities.

Here he gives us an exclusive insight into the project, the tools the SDK and sample apps are built on, his proudest achievements, and a sneak peek at some exciting developments that will be announced at Adobe Summit this month.

Adobe Engineering Manager Meryll Blanchet leads engineering on a new Adobe I/O project codenamed CNA, which stands for Cloud Native Applications.

How did you get started in the industry? And please tell us about your career path at Adobe.

I started my career back in 2006 at Novartis, one of the worldwide leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, with a six-month internship that concluded my Master’s in Computer Sciences and Software Engineering. I was responsible for building Java portlets, which would integrate internal solutions into the knowledge portal for the drugs development business unit.

I then spent the next five years designing and implementing web solutions for big logos as a software engineer for Capgemini’s delivery services entity in Basel. I joined Adobe Switzerland in 2011, initially as an AEM consultant, and then evolved into an architect role. Until last year, I had been collaborating with many of our customers and partners on various projects: from good old technical implementations of CMSs to larger and more complex multi-solution digital transformation programs.

I then took the leadership of consulting engagements, also supporting license and services pre-sales phases, and finally had the privilege to co-lead the talented AEM consulting team in France. Last year, I accepted the challenge and joined the Adobe I/O team as engineering manager for the project, codenamed CNA.

Can you tell us more about this CNA project?

The project started last December, and we are a team of seven engineers between Basel and Bangalore, who partner with our product manager Sarah Xu in the U.S.

We’re aiming to create a CNA developer community and provide them a best-in-class experience from various angles: extensibility of our solutions, development simplicity and velocity, tooling, and guidance via documented best practices and shared sample apps.

Our SDK will come with ‘all-batteries included’ to maximize the developer’s immediate productivity. This requires a lot of joint reflections, also involving the other I/O teams. We strive to put ourselves in the shoes of our future users: as a customer IT or integration partner team, what would I need to have to work on Adobe-related projects in the best conditions and deliver outstanding apps for my own customers in a minimal timeframe?

Example of a Cloud Native multi-solution dashboard on top of Adobe Campaign Standard, Adobe Analytics, and Adobe Target

What tools and technologies do you work with?

Our SDK comes with both back-end and front-end features. The back-end pieces are made of npm libraries that are used by I/O Runtime actions and sequences, so server-side JavaScript in both cases.

We have chosen to build our sample CNAs on top of React. But developers will be free to use their favorite front-end library for their own apps.

We have a few open source dependencies, such as Parcel to build the UI, and Express to facilitate local development.

Last but not least, our CI/CD is based on Jenkins, and we use Mocha for our unit tests. We also plan to integrate with the rest of the I/O ecosystem like CLI, Console, or Events.

What are the main challenges of the CNA project, and how do you overcome them?

To deliver incremental value with this I/O initiative, codenamed CNA, we need to understand and prioritize our efforts accordingly: what are the first building blocks that will be helpful for CNA developers? Where are the field priorities and can we identify recurring use-cases that we could help to solve?

We work in parallel on a broader vision in order to keep the SDK on track in terms of completeness and consistency with the roadmap of Adobe Experience Platform and its underlying solutions and technologies.

Another challenge is our heterogenous level of expertise with the Adobe solutions. For example, some of us have more experience with the Creative Cloud, while others know the Experience Cloud well. We organize regular knowledge sessions with SMEs to get comprehensive overviews of the solutions and build relationships with other internal engineering teams who can help us with topics requiring deep product expertise.

What achievements are you most proud about in your work?

I am extremely proud of our great team spirit! We had our first hackathon in Bangalore in December, and it was amazing to see all of us help each other while keeping the fun. No one could have guessed that we had just met in person for the first time. I strongly believe that this spirit is the key to overcome our future challenges.

We have created two great demos showcasing CNA capabilities in both XC and CC worlds. On one hand, a multi-solution dashboard consolidating and displaying marketing campaign data from Analytics, Target and Campaign Standard. On the other, a Bridge plugin automating multiple CC services from Lightroom, Sensei and Photoshop, which can then be applied to a large bulk of raw images.

We are currently finalizing our Project Starter: a project skeleton combined to utilities for developers to create a new CNA from scratch, test it locally, and deploy it to Runtime in a matter of minutes.

Members of the CNA project team at work at Adobe’s new Bangalore office.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

“Leave your comfort zone.”

Behind any new challenge there’s always the opportunity to define new objectives, learn, and develop yourself. I did it myself by joining the I/O team after many years on the Experience Cloud consulting side and can’t believe how much I am learning, and how much I still have to learn from the whole I/O team.

This philosophy can also be followed on a daily basis: a back-end developer can try to build a front-end, while an XC solution specialist can write CC plugins.

That’s why for each sprint, I like to encourage another engineer to volunteer and run the whole demo. Our backlog stories are various: microservices, UI, research, etc.

Our team size and distribution perfectly allow daily exchanges and ongoing communication. I am convinced that everyone can get the right visibility and knowledge about the several aspects of our CNA project that way.

What are you looking forward to working on next?

We are currently working on multiple IMS authentication scenarios for our SDK — an important milestone, as it will provide developers with the authentication support to then call our solutions APIs.

We will also focus on some specific solution extensibility topics in the coming months and collaborate with the I/O Tooling team to bring our CNA Project starter along with AIO CLI.

What can people expect from Adobe I/O at Adobe Summit 2019?

We’re excited that our team will be hosting an I/O Runtime lab, in which participants will get a first flavor of our work around CNAs.

We actually aim to open source everything. We will start with the CNA Project Starter and can’t wait to get in touch with developers from the field, hear their feedback, and receive their pull requests!

Adobe Summit takes place in Las Vegas from March 26–28. Follow the Adobe Tech Blog for more developer stories and resources, and check out Adobe I/O on Twitter for the latest news and developer products.