Author Archives: Bas Lijten

Enable federated authentication and configure Auth0 as an identity provider in Sitecore 9.0

Sitecore 9.0 has shipped and one of the new features of this new release is the addition of a federated authentication module. I wrote a module for Sitecore 8.2 in the past (How to add support for Federated Authentication and claims using OWIN), which only added federated authentication options for visitors. Backend functionality was a lot harder to integrate, but I am glad that Sitecore took the challenge and solved it for both the front- and backend. It means that I can get rid of the old code and finally can use the out of the box solution provided by Sitecore. They created a very pluggable solution which can basically register any kind of authentication module via the OWIN middleware. This blogpost will show how I integrated the Identity broker Auth0 with Sitecore. Auth0 is a platform which can act as an Identity Broker: it offers solutions to connect multiple identity providers via a single connection. Code is available at my github repository:

PS: in this example I use Auth0 as Identity broker for Facebook and Google. It’s of course possible to connect directly to Google and Facebook, I just chose not to do this.

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A new Sitecore version has shipped, save your ass(emblies)

With the release of Sitecore 9.0 at the Sitecore Symposium, a lot has changed. We saw very interesting improvements on Marketing automation, new products like xConnect and Cortex and the new installation framework. With the new release, new assemblies and versions will be shipped, while others are removed. It’s important to update your references to these new versions in your projects, so you won’t overwite the shipped assemblies with other versions. I made a quick overview on what has changed:

  • Which assemblies have been removed?
  • Which assemblies have been added?
  • Which assemblies had a version change?
  • What are the most important observations?

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Sitecore Profiling and tracing without an administrator or developer role

When working on Sitecore projects, there will popup some situations where you want to indicate performance issues. The out of the box capabilities are great, but the require a development role or and administrator account. While this might work in a lot of situations, there are situations where this just isn’t possible. For example, when having one ore more (virtual) extranet users which don’t have the Sitecore developer role and whose identities are needed to make backend calls. Performance issues might appear in those backend calls, but it may be hard to indicate where those performance sinks are located. That’s why I created a solution where the out of the box profiling and tracing options can be used, for any user.

The solution is available on github

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Revealing Robbie at the Sitecore SUGCON 2017 – Windows IoT, Raspberry PI, Cognitive Services

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.

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Zero downtime deployments with Sitecore on Azure

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!

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Use the Sitecore Azure toolkit to deploy your on premises environment

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

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Sitecore on Azure: Create custom web deploy packages using the Sitecore Azure Toolkit

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!

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Sitecore 8.2 update 1: Azure deployments, ARM, Web Deploy and the Sitecore Azure Toolkit

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!

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Getting started with sitecore: The 101-guide to the community

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 ;).

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Sitecore Security #4: Serve your site securely over https with Let’s Encrypt

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.

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