Author Archives: Bas Lijten

A quick guide on reloading your Sitecore xDB contact on (or after) every request

In our road towards realtime personalization, we were in need of reloading our xDB contact on every request, as external systems might have updated several facets with information that could or should be used within Sitecore. Out of the box, this does not happen.

Why changes to the contact xDB do not reflect to the contact in Sitecore

The problem within Sitecore lies within how and when xDB contacts are retrieved from the xDB. let’s take a look at the diagram below:

In the sequence diagram, it becomes clear that after the start of the Session, a contact will be retrieved from the xDB. This is the only time in de default lifecycle of a session that this happens, which means that, whenever an update to the xDB contact will be written to the xDB, this change does not reflect the state within the private session database. In order to be able to reflect those changes, the contact needs to be reloaded. This can be done using the following code:

The code consists of three parts:

Ensure that the contact exists.

When the “IsNew” property has been set to true, the contact only exists in the Sitecore environment. An explicit save is needed, before the contact can be reloaded. This is only the case when the visitor doesn’t send a SC_GLOBAL_ANALYTICS_COOKIE – this is a persistent cookie which is stored over sessions and contains an identifier which can be used to identiy a user in the xDB. When this information is not available, the contact will be marked as “IsNew”. whenever a user leaves information, which can be used to identify this user, a merge of contacts can be executed.

Remove the contact from the current session

By removing a contact entirely from the current session, his interactions and goals will be saved, but the contact details and its facets will be reloaded upon the next request.

Explicitly reload the contact

When the contact is removed from the session, the contact can be reloaded explicitly. By removing the contact from the session at the start of the request and reloading that same contact immediately, all the latest, fresh information for this contact, with its facets, will be made availabe to sitecore.

Summary

The default working of Sitecore loads a contact into the session, but does not sync updates to the xDB immediately to Sitecore. By explicitly removing and reloading the contact at the start of a request, all the latest changes to a contact can be made availabe to sitecore. This data can be used to for, for example, smart personalizations.

How to use the Nuget / Azure Artifact credential provider with a .net docker build container to connect to authenticated Azure DevOps feeds

This blogpost describes how to add the Azure Artifact nuget credential provider to a windows based docker container for building .Net (full framework) solutions, using authenticated Azure DevOps artifacts feeds. As I couldn’t find a feasible solution, I decided to write a quick guide on how to set this up. This blogpost makes use of the provided Dockerfile structure that Sitecore provides, but the learnings can be applied in any solution. In other words: this post is not tied to the Sitecore ecosystem. To skip immediately to the instructions, click this link

Note: It has been a while that I was really, really, really enthusiastic about a new release of Sitecore, but this Sitecore 10 release, it’s just: WOW. Sitecore has finally put an enormous effort into making new(ish) technology, such as containers, .net core, real CI/CD, command line automation available to their developers. That, together with the new, supported, serialization solution, Sitecore made a giant leap towards a complete, modern developer experience. This blogpost describes how a private Azure Devops Artififact nuget feed can be used in conjunction with the Sitecore Docker setup.

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A universal guide to the mono package deployment

In my Sitecore symposium session “Sitecore in the enterprise: Optimize your time to deliver toward the speed of light, using all the new love in Azure DevOps” (and yes that is a mouth full) I spend quite some time on the “mono-package” approach. This blogpost what a mono-package is and why it is (much) faster in terms of deployments as opposed to using multiple web deployment packages.

Disclaimer 1: In this blogpost I talk (a bit) about Sitecore, but it is applicable for any application that is being deployed using msdeploy or the app service task in Azure DevOps. The blogpost “Sitecore challenges on the mono-package approach” contains the specific challenges faced that had to be solved.

Disclaimer 2: Some people might immediately be opinionated: “how could you ever end up with multiple packages, you have a bad architecture”. I understand your pain and in some cases you might be right. But there are cases where you have to deal with external factors, such as existing platforms and organizational challenges, where a layered approach is a not to weird solution.

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How to run Azure DevOps hosted (Linux) build agents as private agents (and be able to scale them accordingly)

Lately, I was preparing for a talk on Azure DevOps for the Sitecore community. For this talk I wanted to talk about scaling up and scaling out of build agents and compare the performance of different sized build agents on larger projects. Due to some limitations on the hosted Azure DevOps build agents, I had to create my own build agents. This blogpost will explain why I had to create my own agents and how I did this without too much effort. TLDR: just run a packer script to create your own private build agents

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Sitecore analytics, cookie consent and personalization isn’t a great match – learn how to keep Sitecore functional without breaking the law!

Due to different laws (European as well as local legislation) companies have be very conversative in how they process data, while they have to take care on how they track people. People have to consent whether or not they will be tracked or not. Within Siecore, you might do both. This blogpost shares how to use your cookie consent strategy within Sitecore. In short: There are three level of cookies: Functional, analytic and tracking cookies. Without responding to the cookie consent, Only functional cookies are allowed, while analytics and tracking cookies is forbidden until a user gives approval for these kinds of functionality. Within Sitecore, this is hard to implement, due to the internal workings of Sitecore analytics and (from what I think) Sitecore bug. This blogpost explains why this is hard and how to solve this.

PS: Different companies classify the Sitecore cookies under different levels. I have seen classifications of “Functional”, “Analytics” and “Tracking”. I won’t judge any choice, as I am not a person with a legal background and can’t judge on what all companies implement to prevent data from being collected. This is my personal view and the approach should be applicable to every level. This blogpost applies to Sitecore 9.X Continue reading

Free op your local diskspace – easily get rid of your (old) logs

I bet that a lot of people have this issue: Having a lot of (old) Sitecore installations that you don’t want to remove, as you aren’t sure whether or not there is still some valuable configuration in it. With a default installation, these installations grow over time, as they are running by default and are (thus) generating logs. I never change the logging settings to just generate logs for one day, which means they will eat up a lot of diskspace, especially the xConnect ones, as they might generate logs up to 1Gb per logfile in size! The following powershell line can be used to delete all the logs which are older than 2 days:

To Elastic pool or not to elastic Pool for Sitecore on Azure

In the Sitecore #azure slack channel there are often discussions about pricing, scaling and performance. A common best practice which is shared in this channel is the use of Elastic Pools for your SQL databases. In this article I our findings, how you can compute the costs for elastic pools and how it will affect performance, as opposed to the default Sitecore ARM templates.

PS: the costs I share are all retrieved from the Azure pricing calculator and are not actual prices from my company – I will never share these.

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