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Experience Sitecore! | All posts tagged 'Sitecore-9'

# Experience Sitecore!

### Martin Miles on Sitecore

I am working on a large multilingual website with several dozens of thousands pages are available in numerous languages. It also features news being released on a daily basis by tens of news editors under plenty of nested categories. Thus it was matter of time for me to be asked to implement an adequate RSS Feed solution to expose all the possible data.

Luckily, Sitecore has built-in RSS Feed feature, but unfortunately it has very limited implementation by data driven using Sitecore Queries, obviously this is quite a legacy feature was added into Sitecore way before version 7.0 with its revolutionary Content Search API.

What is wrong with this old-fashioned Sitecore Query:

• it is limited in its applicable functionality
• has complicated synthax
• isn't easy to debug and troubleshoot, especially on complex conditions
• is slooooooow (even fast query is slow!)
• talks to database and generates cache for touched items
That was absolutely obvious that I should use Content Search API. I googled around and came across some implementation done by Douglas Couto for Sitecore 7 and Lucene. I reworked it to be compatible for versions 9.*+ and added few new features.

It is available at my GitHub repository (and readMe file is quite explanatory there)
Once you get the items from either TDS serialization or Sitecore package, a new Content search section is added to RSS Feed template to drive the data out of Content Search API rather than Sitecore Query:

All the benefits of Content Search API are available to you from now on. Using this new section one may fine tune the data to be exposed by not just certain page templates, but also filter to be located under specific node, has certain tags and specify recency criteria for that filtered data.

Hope this helps!

Upon the new clean installation, Sitecore 9.1 puts the following certificates (as per below example of habitat project hostnames):

1. Current User\Personal - nothing

2. Current User\Intermediate Certification Authorities - SIF

• Sitecore Install Framework / Sitecore Install Framework

3. Local Computer\Personal - xConnect and Identity Server

• habitat_xconnect.dev.local / DO_NOT_TRUST_SitecoreRootCert
• habitat_IdentityServer.dev.local / DO_NOT_TRUST_SitecoreRootCert

4. Local Computer\Intermediate Certification Authorities - Sitecore and SIF

• DO_NOT_TRUST_SitecoreRootCert / DO_NOT_TRUST_SitecoreRootCert
• Sitecore Install Framework / Sitecore Install Framework

Hope this helps!

I was very anticipating to upgrade my solution to recently released XP 9.1 with SXA 1.8 and all its great features, however, I got a dependency on Sitecore Commerce, which hasn't (yet) updated to 9.1. Got nothing to do with that, but just wait for a month or so until XC 9.1 is out...

But wait, why not just update at least SXA to version 1.8 meanwhile? SXA 1.8 comes for both versions for 9.1 and 9.0 which means - in two runtimes .NET 4.7.1 and .NET 4.6.2 correspondingly. Done, upgraded. SXA 1.8 works well on top of clean Sitecore 9.0 update 2 instance for me.

But when it came to updating NuGet packages in my solution, I was unable to do so because NuGet packages for my version for some reason demand .NET 4.7.1:

And that is my error:

Package Sitecore.XA.Feature.CreativeExchange 3.8.0 is not compatible with net462 (.NETFramework,Version=v4.6.2) / win-x86. Package Sitecore.XA.Feature.CreativeExchange 3.8.0 supports: net471 (.NETFramework,Version=v4.7.1)

Version 3.8.0 is the correct version of SXA 1.8 for 9.0 and it should support .NET 4.6.2, not 4.7.2. Version of SXA 1.8 for 9.1 has number 4.8.0 and that one indeed supports 4.7.1 runtime.

Since I cannot do anything about NuGet feeds, I turned back to the old lib\LocalRepository folder in my solution, simply copying all the required SXA 1.8 libraries from instance webroot (where I have SXA 1.8 working with clean 9.0 update instance) and referencing them instead from affected projects.

That did me a job for the moment. I will either update to the NuGets once it is fixed with the correct version or upgrade the entire solution to 9.1 when XC 9.1 is out, whatever comes earlier.

This is an exercise resulting from a blog post by Rob Ahnemann and I will cover Install-SitecoreConfiguration in more details on an example of installing Sitecore modules SPE and SXA as a part of a Sitecore installation by SIF.

Install-SitecoreConfiguration is one of the most what actually SIF is. In my Sitecore installation script I have created a step called Install-Packages. Let's look at how it works:

function Install-Packages {
Install-SitecoreConfiguration -Path .\build\PostInstall\install-sitecore-package.json -SiteName "$SolutionPrefix.$SitePostFix"
}


This installs a configuration called install-sitecore-package.json Opening it looks like below:

{
"Parameters": {
"SiteName": {
"Type": "string",
"DefaultValue": "Sitecore",
"Description": "The name of the site to be deployed."
},
"InstallDirectory": {
"Type": "string",
"DefaultValue": "c:\\inetpub\\wwwroot",
"Description": "Base folder to where website is deployed."
}
},
"Variables": {
// The sites full path on disk
"Site.PhysicalPath": "[joinpath(parameter('InstallDirectory'), parameter('SiteName'))]",
"Site.Url": "[concat('http://', parameter('SiteName'))]"

},
"InstallPackages":{
"Type": "InstallPackage",
"Params": [
{
"SiteFolder": "[variable('Site.PhysicalPath')]",
"SiteUrl": "[variable('Site.Url')]",
"PackagePath": ".\\build\\assets\\Modules\\Sitecore PowerShell Extensions-4.7.2 for Sitecore 8.zip"
},
{
"SiteFolder": "[variable('Site.PhysicalPath')]",
"SiteUrl": "[variable('Site.Url')]",
"PackagePath": ".\\build\\assets\\Modules\\Sitecore Experience Accelerator 1.6 rev. 180103 for 9.0.zip"
}
]
}
},
"Modules":[
]
}

Parameters are values that may be passed when Install-SitecoreConfiguration is called. Parameters must declare a Type and may declare a DefaultValue and Description. Parameters with no DefaultValue are required when Install-SitecoreConfiguration is called.

Variables are values calculated in a configuration. They can reference Parameters, other Variables, and config functions.

Tasks are separate units of work in a configuration. Each task is an action that will be completed when Install-SitecoreConfiguration is called. By default, tasks are applied in the order they are declared. Tasks may reference Parameters, Variables, and config functions.

Finally, the last line is actually referencing the actual task - a PowerShell module script (Invoke-InstallPackageTask.psm1) that will be run with given parameters:

Set-StrictMode -Version 2.0

[CmdletBinding(SupportsShouldProcess=$true)] param( [Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$SiteFolder, [Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$SiteUrl, [Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$PackagePath ) Write-TaskInfo "Installing Package$PackagePath" -Tag 'PackageInstall'

#Generate a random 10 digit folder name. For security
$folderKey = -join ((97..122) | Get-Random -Count 10 | % {[char]$_})

#Generate a Access Key (hi there TDS)
$accessKey = New-Guid Write-TaskInfo "Folder Key =$folderKey" -Tag 'PackageInstall'
Write-TaskInfo "Access Guid = $accessKey" -Tag 'PackageInstall' #The path to the source Agent. Should be in the same folder as I'm running$sourceAgentPath = Resolve-Path "PackageInstaller.asmx"

#The folder on the Server where the Sitecore PackageInstaller folder is to be created
$packageInstallPath = [IO.Path]::Combine($SiteFolder, 'sitecore', 'PackageInstaller')

#The folder where the actuall install happens
$destPath = [IO.Path]::Combine($SiteFolder, 'sitecore', 'PackageInstaller', $folderKey) #Full path including the installer name$fullFileDestPath = Join-Path $destPath "PackageInstaller.asmx" Write-TaskInfo "Source Agent [$sourceAgentPath]" -Tag 'PackageInstall'
Write-TaskInfo "Dest AgentPath [$destPath]" -Tag 'PackageInstall' #Forcibly cread the folder New-Item -ItemType Directory -Force -Path$destPath

#Read contents of the file, and embed the security token
(Get-Content $sourceAgentPath).replace('[TOKEN]',$accessKey) | Set-Content $fullFileDestPath #How do we get to Sitecore? This URL!$webURI= "$siteURL/sitecore/PackageInstaller/$folderKey/packageinstaller.asmx?WSDL"

Write-TaskInfo "Url $webURI" -Tag 'PackageInstall' #Do the install here$proxy = New-WebServiceProxy -uri $webURI$proxy.Timeout = 1800000

#Invoke our proxy
$proxy.InstallZipPackage($PackagePath, $accessKey) #Remove the folderKey Remove-Item$packageInstallPath -Recurse
}


What this task does is locates ASMX file, which is an actual handler and copies it into temp random folder within your Sitecore instance allowing you to execute package installer APIs that itself does require Sitecore context.

Obviously, before running .\install-xp0.ps1 please make sure you have both installers for modules by their paths as per configuration parameters in PackagePath (from example above, they are):
.\build\assets\Modules\Sitecore PowerShell Extensions-4.7.2 for Sitecore 8.zip
.\build\assets\Modules\Sitecore Experience Accelerator 1.6 rev. 180103 for 9.0.zip

So, that's how we added new SitecoreConfiguration in order to achieve automated package installation of SPE and SXA by SIF. Since now new locally installed Sitecore instance already has both SPE and SXA pre-installed and ready to use. This approach also allows installing any other modules as you may need them pre-installed.

Finally, would highly recommend watching a great video by Thomas Eldblom about using SIF configurations:

UPDATE: there is another way of doing this by new built-in SIF functionality, please read the blog post here.

In Sitecore 9, one can set up an instance into a specific 'role' that also takes predefined configurations. Further ahead, you may keep your numerous custom configurations next to each other targeting different 'roles' - that avoids clumsy config pathing and keeps settings functionally together in order to simplify maintenance. There is also 'localenv' setting that helps you to distinguish various groups of servers from the same role, but residing in the different environments. Not a nice way of changing role and adding environment by simply replacing a string occurrence:
(Get-Content Web.config).replace('    <add key="role:define" value="Standalone" />', '<add key="role:define" value="ContentManagement" /><add key="localenv:define" value="UAT" />') | Set-Content Web.config


Just a string replacement? Errrghh.... Not a nice solution! Let's make it better, by relying on XML namespace (thanks, Neil):
#$webConfigPath = "С:\path\to\your\Web.config" #$localEnvName = "UAT"

$RptKeyFound=0;$xml = (get-content $webConfigPath) -as [Xml]; # Create the XML Object and open the web.config file$root = $xml.get_DocumentElement(); # Get the root element of the file foreach($item in $root.appSettings.add) # loop through the child items in appsettings { if($item.key -eq "localenv:define")                       # If the desired element already exists
{
$RptKeyFound=1; # Set the found flag } } if($RptKeyFound -eq 0)                                      # If the desired element does not exist
{
$newEl=$xml.CreateElement("add");                       # Create a new Element
$nameAtt1=$xml.CreateAttribute("key");                  # Create a new attribute "key"
$nameAtt1.psbase.value="localenv:define"; # Set the value of "key" attribute$newEl.SetAttributeNode($nameAtt1); # Attach the "key" attribute$nameAtt2=$xml.CreateAttribute("value"); # Create "value" attribute$nameAtt2.psbase.value="$localEnvName"; # Set the value of "value" attribute$newEl.SetAttributeNode($nameAtt2); # Attach the "value" attribute$xml.configuration["appSettings"].AppendChild($newEl); # Add the newly created element to the right position }$xml.Save(\$webConfigPath)                                   # Save the web.config file

This same approach can be taken for any other XML-based transforms and replacements.

Recently tried to reinstall Sitecore 9.0 update 1 and got the following message:

"Request failed: Unable to connect to remote server" (and the URL which is default https://localhost:8389/solr)

Opening Solr in browser went well, and there were no existing cores that could prevent the installation. Weird...

After experiments, I found out that was an antivirus preventing such requests. Disabling it allowed cores to be installed well and thу rest of install script succeeded.

I was trying to implement T4 CodeGeneration of Glass Mapper for my current Helix on Sitecore 9 project. In the beginning, it all went well, and I did not suspect any of issues. However, the issues still occurred later when trying to navigate to LaunchPad. I have been presented a very confusing error with the description, saying:

The file '/sitecore/shell/client/Speak/Layouts/Layouts/Speak-Layout.cshtml' does not exist.

on the following screen:

After investigating a call stack, I came to the conclusion that it is definitely something with Glass Mapper. After playing a while with my configuration, I have identified exact getModel pipeline processor that triggered that issue:

  <mvc.getModel>
<processor patch:before="*[@type='Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.GetModel.GetFromItem, Sitecore.Mvc']"
type="Glass.Mapper.Sc.Pipelines.Response.GetModelFromView, Glass.Mapper.Sc.Mvc"/>
</mvc.getModel>


Commenting this line returned LaunchPad fully functional, however, obviously, Glass Mapper stopped working with a familiar Sitecore MVC error:

The model item passed into the dictionary is of type 'Sitecore.Mvc.Presentation.RenderingModel', but this dictionary requires a model item of type 'Sitecore.Feature.Navigation.Models.ILink'.

So I started digging around and assumed that maybe I have got not the latest version of Glass, that does not support Sitecore 9. With that in mind, I updated to latest stable version of Glass, which was 4.4.0.199. After upgrading, I tried to run build but it failed. Again, much time spent on investigation, so later found out that latest version of Glass does not have namespace Glass.Mapper.Sc.Configuration.Attributes. Previously that namespace was at Glass.Mapper.Sc.dll but that dll did not present within the latest package.

Suddenly ReSharper came into a play, obligingly offering to reference required library. After ReSharper added that reference - project compiled successfully. I performed a deployment, and ... it broke again, with the same error. What? Why? How? I couldn't understand that...

Furthermore investigations... at some moment, I noticed that ReSharper referenced one of the old Glass.Mapper.Sc.dll from somewhere, so the very first thing I made sure was to provide thorough sanity check and fix across entire solution. After removing all Glass Mapper trails, I've readded latest version of Glass Mapper again, and expectedly it did not find that namespace, mentioned above.

At this time I took dotPeek and carefully went through all the libraries. Just to find out that there is no such namespace, indeed- in all of the Glass libraries.

But wait! What if... What if.. If I try to check that namespace in the latest beta version?

So I picked up the latest available beta version, which was 4.4.1.331 ...

Install-Package Glass.Mapper.Sc -Version 4.4.1.331-beta

... and voila!!! Namespaces were there. So I decided to go ahead with that beta versions, and trick did work!

After couple more sanity clean-up in both my solution and web folder, I finally did some required configuration changes, then install for certain projects in your solution and finally concluded that solution work well for me.

I have managed to make Sitecore 9 and Helix working together. Yaaay!

There is a feature/v9 branch of Sitecore Habitat, where habitat guys unhurriedly adjust Habitat to Sitecore 9. I would advise you to take a look at that at least. One thing to mention (as for 01-Dec-2017) - you'd need to reference all the Sitecore 9 dependencies from NuGet manually, please use *.NoReferences version of each library)

Update: I've recorded entire process of installation Helix with Sitecore 9 on a clean developer machine, that already has Visual Studio 2017, SQL Server 2016 and IIS installed. For installation process also required: PowerShell and Chocolatey. Important: all the manipulations are done as Administrator.

Hope one may find useful this 24 minutes video. Thanks for watching!

I've been anticipating that event for so long, and finally, I was there! So let's take a look at what's new have been presented.

Sitecore 9 and xConnect brought a new era of Sitecore development. Starting from principally different installation approach, Sitecore brings multiple changes, the most significant of which are changes developers used to work with xDB (which now moved to SQL Server) and content search (which is now Solr by default). Now instead of calling xDB directly, we will be using xConnect API, which is very well documented, thanks to Martina Welander and her team.

CRM connectors have been announced - for both Dynamics and Salesforce.

Zenith and Horizon - two Sitecore projects currently in development, but both are very promising. It will change the way we work with the platform, but as for now, there is no way too much information about.

Marketing Automation has been re-worked to the best. Brimit, a Sitecore partner, has arranged a perfect demonstration stand of xConnect and marketing Automation working together on Sitecore 9, identifying contact's (visitor's) parameters from both online and offline channels and assigning them to certain profile pattern card, with sending them personalised email afterwards.

Sitecore Cortex will be a new machine-learning technology to be used along with Sitecore xDB in order to increase personalisation and data analysis.

I spent decent time talking to guys from the team that builds the core of the platform and Express Upgrade Tool. The last one became a mature intelligent tool allowing do controlled upgrades from almost any recent version of Sitecore to version 9, with identifying all the potential issues and configuration breaking changes. I proud that have suggested few valuable ideas for the product about identifying any customises pipeline changes for the instance.

Technical Preview of JavaScript Services.

Thursday morning Symposium finished, but not for the 250+ lucky to be announced Sitecore MVPs of 2017. We have had 2 more thrilling days of MVP Summit.

Almost everything we have been told or presented there has a "non-disclosure" label, so there's not too much to share. Summit was held at much faster pace, comparing to Symposium itself - longer up to 1 hour long deep presentations, with short 5-10 minutes breaks. We were given a great opportunity to challenge new Sitecore 9 training exam, so that whoever passes that test - becomes Sitecore 9 certified already (as I did!). We also took part in Round Table, where various Sitecore teams were presented at round tables, so MVPs were travelling from one interested table to another, raising questions, suggesting ideas and providing feedback.

So, finally, what we all have been waiting for, has happened - Sitecore 9 has been announced and released. To be honest, as an MVP, I already have had an access to a beta of the version 9 of Sitecore since late July. but after an official release, we now can publically talk about that.

So, what has been new:

Runtime for Sitecore 9 is .NET Framework 4.6.2 and most of Sitecore 9 NuGet libraries are built against that version of the framework.

The installation process is the first you meet when trying to play with the platform. And it's worth saying that installation process has been totally reworked. So, welcome Sitecore Install Framework - Powershell modules for install and uninstall and a set of JSON config files that store steps for installing Sitecore. Each of these JSON files relies on a part of installation: xConnect, Solr and Sitecore itself. No SIM support (yet) available, unfortunately.

I mentioned xConnect - that is a new component and probably the largest architectural change for the platform - a framework that allows you to read and write analytics data to xDB and search providers, keeping collections, processing, search (Solr) and reporting behind itself. Previously we have had 4 different APIs used to deal with xDB contact, depending on its state, so that entire method full of if /else clauses looked monstrous. Since now we do not do direct xDB calls and operate using XConnectClient. That allows updating contacts from any channel at any time and automatic indexing of data. Sitecore XP introduces client certificate authentication in order to communicate with xConnect server, that is a Windows service. Also, a good thing is that this framework is well documented.

SQL Server 2016 becomes the only storage for all Sitecore databases - content data, xDB, marketing, processing, reporting etc. If you are desperate to keep Mongo - nothing to worry about it is still possible to do, or you may store in the cloud with Microsoft Azure SQL or Azure DocumentDB.

Solr is now search provider by default, and it is also required for installation by Sitecore Installation Framework. Sitecore 9.0 supports version 6.6.2 and sorry not for having version 7.+ of Solr. It is commonly used to install Solr as a windows service, using nssm as the easiest.

Sitecore Services Client (SSC) has got the ability to create oData REST service and API key management for securing access to APIs, that would be good for interacting with VUE or React JS.

Those who struggled with Web Forms for Marketers module previously will enjoy new Sitecore Forms, featuring completely redesigned UX with drag and drop, easy styling, built analytics. Also, there is a multipage wizard for creating complex "split" forms. One can even create a form template and instantiate forms from it! Also, there is form and field metrics showing the corresponding performance.

One more long waited feature is Dynamic Placeholders, now built into the platform, so that it may be called as @Html.Sitecore().DynamicPlaceholder("name"/*, some optional parameters*/). In general purpose, dynamic placeholders allow the use of the same placeholder key multiple times in the same rendering and across multiple renderings in the same placeholder. We have evidenced multiple implementations, so now good to have a universal standard.

Marketing Automation tool is much better reworked. It provides a new way to create automated online campaigns in Sitecore. With a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface, Marketing Automation provides an extensible set of tools to processes contact enrollment in campaigns and activities. The Marketing Automation Engine is a stand-alone service that is responsible for enrolling contacts in plans and activities

Express Migration Tool is already familiar to us. Since version 9 that it supports upgrades to 9 from almost any legacy version of Sitecore.

Welcome, SPEAK 3, built on Angular 4, now using proper architecture. It is now reworked according to best industry standards, pulls data from Sitecore Services Client and unlike previous versions, it is item unaware. That means no more struggle with Rocks and lack of documentation. There is already a demo project you may download and rework.

What previously caused pain for both developers, administrators, DevOps was way too much complicated configuration. Sitecore is a truly flexible platform, but the flexibility has hidden cost of every flexible component being registered via configuration, boosting compiled config up to hundreds of thousands of lines. That was taken into consideration and we were given configuration Roles and Layers. Now it becomes possible to configure whether a particular setting or config node should be patched for a specific server role using role:require attribute. An instance can be in one of the following roles: ContentDelivery, ContentManagement, Processing, Reporting, Standalone. Apart from roles, there is also a different level of configuration - the also layers: Sitecore, modules, custom - simple, flexible, allows less patching. With layers one can switch off an entire layer, it can be handy for Sitecore support providing a diagnostics, to disable anything apart from Sitecore to make ensure platform itself is working well.

What is else new regarding Sitecore 9?
JSS Framework is staging. Also coming soon Sitecore Commerce 9 with a proper inventory and support for federated authentication, SXA and Azure PaaS, CRM connectors for SalesForce and Dynamics for xConnect.
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