Today, Rob Habraken, andI have launched our newly and secretly built project at SUGCON Europ 2017. Something that never has been done before: a real robot that moves, interacts, communicates and executes tasks, fully driven by Sitecore XP, using additional techniques like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Face Recognition and Emotion Detection.
From a business perspective, downtime is not desirable, ever. And if possible, you want to deploy as often as possible, even multiple times a day Maybe even 50 times a day for complex multi-instance environments. And if there would be any downtime, that should be during nights, as most visitors would be asleep at that time. From a technical perspective, deployments should occur during business hours: all the developers and administrators are working during these hours, thus issues (if any) could be resolved as every engineer would be available.
We all know about this story, but how many organizations really implement this scenario? This blogpost will show what challenges exist when deploying web applications and how easy it is to implement zero downtime for Sitecore on Azure. The move to Azure not only opens up opportunities for automatic scaling (please make sure to watch his video as well!), but also offers possibilities for enhanced continuity! This blog post does not show off how to integrate with Visual Studio Team Services and Microsoft Release Manager, that will probably be a future topic. Don’t want to read? Watch this video!
Let’s face it: a lot of customers won’t deploy to Azure immediately, but will have a migration to Azure on their roadmap for the next year. It’s wise prepare as much as possible to make the transition smooth. This blogpost shows off how what the differences between the current Azure and classic on-premises are and how to create custom web deploy packages for your on premise environments, to be in line with a possible future upgrade to Azure. It will make your local deployments repeatable while making use of Microsoft standards. Additional advantage: Your (initial) deployments may happen faster!
See the video below where I explained what I did
In my previous blogpost I described how the Sitecore Azure Toolkit works and how to create web deploy packages. In this this blogpost I’ll explain how to create your own web deploy package configurations which can be used on Azure and on-premises, even with Sitecore versions older than Sitecore 8.2 update 1. You can apply role specific configurations, or add custom modules like Coveo, PowerShell Extensions, Unicorn, or even one you package up. Using these techniques will help you establish a repeatable process with standard tooling leading to decreased deployment time. How cool would it be to have Continuous Delivery and Deployment all the way to production?! I’ll demonstrate in an example, Sitecore PowerShell Extensions, how to work towards a continuous delivery process. As a bonus I’ll package Unicorn as well – future posts will depend on this example so why not tackle them now.
special thanks to Rob Habraken, Michael West and Kam Figy who reviewed this post!
With the release of 8.2 Update 1, Sitecore also introduced support for Azure Web Apps. This release is, in my opinion, a major step for Sitecore as this update makes it very convenient to deploy to Azure using the Azure Marketplace or the provided PowerShell scripts, that’s why I think that this release is even bigger than Sitecore 8.2 initial. This deployment pattern is an interesting pattern to use on premise as well, although not all of the services can or should be used on premise. This blogpost describes how the Sitecore Azure Toolkit works. My next blogpost will describe how to use this toolkit to create your own custom web deployment packages, both for Azure and your on premise installation, with even older versions than Sitecore 8.2
Note: be careful when deploying to your own Azure subscription: when managed incorrectly, a Sitecore deployment on Azure can cause Azure to provision an extensively scaled environment, which generates many resources. Be careful as the cost of this could be high.
Update: modified the blogpost slightly thanks to excellent feedback from Rob Habraken, Steve McGill and Michael West. Thanks guys!
A few years back, back in the Sitecore 7.x days, I started to work with Sitecore. I originated from the SharePoint community (take note of the capital “P”!), where there are SO many active bloggers. I think this was caused by a bit of the history. “Back in the SharePoint 2007 days” all the SharePoint info we got, came from google, or from reflector, as the documentation wasn’t always “that well written”. It appeared that there were a few persons actively blogging about their findings and through the years, the amount of people actively blogging, writing cool code or helping each other out, exploded, but you had (and still have) to find your ways to find all the information.
I see the same pattern happening in Sitecore. A lot of great functionality, a great product, but not every feature is always documented. As everyone tries to get the most out of the platform, people are seeking the boundaries of the product and finding out how stuff works. A lot of people are looking for help, a lot of people are blogging, but it’s not always that evident to find the sources that you need. “Where is the community?” you might ask. And that’s exactly why I decided to write this blogpost.
A first free lesson: First lesson: SiteCore is written as Sitecore. Please take care of this, as most Sitecore community members are a bit sensitive to it ;).
In a previous blogpost about the Http Strict Transport Security I explained how to force connections to make use of https to encrypt connections. A lot of people think it’s expensive, hard to implement and slow. This blogpost shows off how you can get a free, secure certificate, get your Sitecore site up-and-running in no more than 5 minutes, just by using the Let’s Encrypt service. Source-code can be found here on Github.
This is not a write-up on the complete CSP specification, there are other great sources for that on the web, I included them at the end of the article.
The module will be available on the marketplace when it has passed quality control.
Sourcecode is available on: https://github.com/BasLijten/SitecoreSecurity
Secure connections? Why would I even bother? It’s expensive, slow, complex and I’ve got a firewall anyway? On the SUGCON in Copenhagen I showed off how easy it is to intercept, modify and redirect unencrypted traffic and what can be done against this threat. This blogpost is all about why you should serve your website always and fully over HTTPS and how the browser can be forced to use this HTTPS connection. This blogpost will not show off how to configure HTTPS and will not tell about all the benefits of https. The technique to achieve this is bu adding a HSTS header for your domain, google recently announced that they will introduce this for the complete www.google.com domain as well!
Note: Some other great articles have been written about this subject, but I intentionally wrote this article to reach out the Sitecore (and SharePoint) community!
The configuration is included in the blogpost below, it will also be released as a XDT as part of a bigger security project
At the upcoming Sitecore Symposium, starting on September 15th, I’ll have the pleasure of presenting a session about Sitecore Security – Keeping Hackers out: Secure Application Development for Sitecore.