Konabos Inc. - Konabos
8 Nov 2021
In this video we discuss Sitecore's 10.2 release and the company's move towards headless and Composable DXP.
Note: The following is the transcription of the video produced by an automated transcription system.
Matthew McQueeny 0:22 Hello, everybody, this is Matt McQueeny and with me is Kamruz Jaman. And Hugo Santos. We're all of Konabos. And we are here to talk about the exciting new release of Sitecore 10.2. Kam and Hugo will get deeper into the technical parts than I can. But the one thing that really stuck out to me is that when I look at what's new in Sitecore, 10.1, and what's new in Sitecore, 10.2, it goes from zero mentions of this magical word Headless, to about 10. It seems to be more of a technical release, less so on kind of the marketing, automation, personalization, all the things that were the buzzwords kind of before. Kam why don't we start with you? Was that something that really stuck out to you this headless piece?
Kamruz Jaman 1:17 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think from previous releases we're used to Sitecore releasing Big Bang releases, heavily packed features around, especially around the marketing and analytics features. But this one seems to be very much geared around Sitecore's transition to headless.
Matthew McQueeny 1:41 And Hugo, you were looking over this, as most MVPs do, right, when you got your early release? Was that something that stuck out to you as well, that it kind of come out of nowhere? Did it seem normal to you?
Hugo Santos 1:56 Exactly. So if we take a first at the first glance, I mean, from an XP perspective, at least you won't see anything much visually different. But when it comes to time to analyze the release notes, etc, we're going to see that most of the big things are somehow related to Headless. So that's definitely something that they should be focused on right now.
Matthew McQueeny 2:16 Kam, why is Sitecore making this move to headless? I mean, we just saw the, you know, their annual conference on, on a lot of the updates, what is behind this move?
Kamruz Jaman 2:33 The move is necessitated by just the industry, the industry is moving towards headless systems and the composable DXP, omposable digital experience platform, people are picking headless solutions to feel the needs that they have, and bringing together pieces of of their marketing stack, to fulfill their specific marketing needs. And Sitecore themselves have been trying to get onto a cloud or a SAS system for a while. I think they've been trying a few things, and they haven't quite got there. And I think the acquisitions over the past few months, particularly shows Sitecore seriousness in this move towards headless and composable stack.
Matthew McQueeny 3:30 That's great. So we're going to go into a lot of the features. But the one piece I wanted to ask which I'm interested as a somewhat technical person, but not as technical as you two. Is there a threshold from which something goes from to headless from is it head full? But is there is there a threshold basically, where you can kind of say, alright, it's now headless? And what are some of those considerations?
Kamruz Jaman 4:00 I don't think there's a specific technical threshold. Would you say, Hugo? I think you know, it depends on each.
Hugo Santos 4:10 Yeah, in my opinion, it's more about you know, the visualization of the project, how you are analyzing the entire big picture. If you are actually talking about microservices and using different providers for different for different purposes, instead of using one big thing to fix all the problems that you have, you're probably you know, headless project, otherwise, you're still on an old school projects.
Kamruz Jaman 4:32 Yeah. And I think from a Sitecore perspective, traditionally headless was, you know, a separate, content is very separate from how that content is then consumed. Whereas with Sitecore they both live, traditionally live together, so the content and the presentation is merged together in order to give you the final product, because they think about it from a content perspective, the way it's used isn't always going to be the same. Sometimes it's going to be used on the web. And sometimes it's going to be used in a mobile app. And sometimes it might be used to drive other things such as you know, your marketing campaigns. So I think it does depend on each company's definition, almost unfortunately, i don't think there's a pure definition of what headless is, and each company will try to redefine it to meet their own goals.
Matthew McQueeny 5:33 That's great. So we will start with Hugo, because one of the big updates, if you will, is that Azure Search has been deprecated? Correct. Hugo, could you talk a little bit about what this means?
Hugo Santos 5:49 Sure. Thanks, Matt. So as you guys may know, started on Sitecore, 10.0, Azure Search was marked as deprecated. So Sitecore was basically telling us that you guys will no longer be using that for some reason, we know that back in the days Azure Search kind of made sense for us. But quickly, we realized that it has a lot of limitations from technical perspective. So you have number of fields limitation, you may have number of indexing limitations, and the cost is not that you know, optimal. So with all those limitations and it can be a little bit pricey, it kind of doesn't make a lot of sense. So what Sitecore is basically doing is telling us to get back to Solr, you still want to use Azure for most of our things. So the your site is probably going to be hosted on Azure, you can have your Solr hosted somewhere. You should not be using, of course, the same server for everything. But instead of using Azure Search use a hosted Solr solution, you can host your Solr yourself, or you can pick up a solution such as such as Searchstax, which is out there, they have a managed Solr solution that you can use, you can basically consume the API's and just you know, forget about everything when it comes to maintaining your Solr, which is awesome, by the way. But from now on, it started on Sitecore 10.2 instead of just being deprecated, Azure Search is gone, you cannot use that at all. So if you're starting a new project on Sitecore 10.2 Azure Search is no longer an option, you're gonna have to use Solr, at least for the internal indexes.
Matthew McQueeny 7:21 You will let me ask you one piece on this actually, a little more general. What does headless mean to search? Because the way you're speaking about search in general feels kind of micro service-y already, is search kind of headless already?
Yeah I mean, if we're talking about a website, which is headless it is still a website, right. So it's going to require some sort of search, we can talk about internal search, that's going to depend a lot on the tool. So Sitecore will somehow offer internal search for the headless in the future. But if you're talking about your website search built on a headless way, you've got to find a way to present the content, they search. And then to index the content they search, the way that you are presenting depends a lot on how you are building your UI. So you may you may be using some sort of Leaps, React, Angular, Vue.js, anything, in your search, you want to be built on that. But your search is going to be consuming some sort of API's to perform the queries, right? If we're talking about Solr, for instance, that's cool, because Solr, they offer some API's that can be used to consume the search, but then you got to think about how you're indexing your content. Now, if you're using Sitecore, you'll still have to install Solr and consume Sitecore, in order to have those items indexed on solar. And then you can kind of build your search base using some sort of React, Leaps or anything like that, to consume those solar API's. But the entire structure is going to pretty much is going to be pretty much the same Matt.
Kamruz Jaman 8:51 I think the neat thing as well, if you're using something like Searchstax, is you can use search studio for Searchstax. And then you can use that in a headless way, because your CMS server will would just index the data and push it out to Searchstax, and then your front end, in a hosted in a jamstack kind of way, can use search studio to actually present search results.
Hugo Santos 9:16 That's going to accelerate a lot of development, because you don't need to worry about the UI part. So all the UI components are going to be there consuming the API's and actually handling the JSON formats already. But you also have a lot of things that comes with right so you have the audio analytics events being sent to their analytics platform, and you can consume those in the form of you know, some sort of dashboard so yeah, it's a win win for sure.
Matthew McQueeny 9:41 And then Kam did you want to speak to the update center?
Kamruz Jaman 9:44 The update center has been deprecated but it's one of these features are nobody has ever used so nobody's really gonna miss that one. I don't think
Matthew McQueeny 9:54 the tree fell in the forest. Alright, so why don't we get into experience platform and Experience Manager. Did you want to take that Kam
Kamruz Jaman 10:06 Hugo can jump into that one I think
Hugo Santos 10:08 Yeah, I can help. So few points here, Matt. The first one, the modules, at least the internal Sitecore modules are now released in a different manner. So instead of using resource files and database items, they are now released using resource files only. So no more databases for those modules, which probably is going to be a good thing, especially for upgrades, right Kam?
Kamruz Jaman 10:30 Yeah, absolutely. I'll make it make it much, much easier for upgrades and almost a shame they got they got rid of the update center, because I would have made it a lot easier.
Hugo Santos 10:41 True. I mean, I did server and publishing servers are now using the .Net core 3.1 new version, also positive. Still somehow related to search. So when using Sitecore 10. 2, please make sure that you're using the new Solr version. So back in the days, it used to be Solr 840. Now, the official release recommends to use 882. I've performed some tests myself with 840, just in case it looks like it is still somehow compatible. But if you are starting a new project, please, I highly recommend to use the new version just in case it wont harm, it's going to be perfect.
Kamruz Jaman 11:22 I think with Sitecore having deprecated Azure Search as well, it will mean that they can start to take advantage of some of those Solr specific features. So maybe this is this is one of the reasons they they deprecated those and we know Solr is adding a lot of features in the background itself, right that could be net function in the future.
Matthew McQueeny 11:47 So when we see the numerous bug fixes, are there any that really kind of stand out?
Kamruz Jaman 11:55 They're just regular kind of bug fixes I'd say, you know, tickets have been raised with Sitecore support, nothing that particularly stood out. But it means that if you if you if you're on an earlier version, and then you've got a bunch of support fixes added to your solution, you can you can remove those and your solution, clean your solution up.
Hugo Santos 12:17 There's also one new thing, Matt, this async processor mode, it is still experimental so it is disabled by default. But if you want to try just you know, to kind of start understanding how it works. You have your pipeline composed by multiple processors. Back in the days before this version used to be execute A A, excute B, execute C, in an order. From now on, you can have them secured in a sync mode. So basically, you can have them executed randomly you execute A, you do not wait until it's finished to execurte B and when it's finished, you can sync with the others. I got to play with it. Sounds interesting, to be honest, but Sitecore will advise that it is still experimental. So if you're gonna use it on production, just be careful.
Kamruz Jaman 13:05 It should be interesting. I think it should, in theory, improve the startup times and we know Sitecore is slow after a deployment, for example. So that could that could be an interesting, interesting experiment, experimental addition. Definitely.
Matthew McQueeny 13:24 Alright, so next up, we have analysis and reporting. And here we have effective personalization on individual goal conversions as the big call out here?
Hugo Santos 13:37 Yes, this is more like a visual improvement. So now they are exposing the results of those goal conversions on a personalization manner. So it's positive, especially for the marketers out there. You want to have more information when analyzing the campaigns and goal conversions, specifically when using personalization.
Matthew McQueeny 13:59 And then looks like there's a handful of other nice bullets here. Is there any items we want to talk a bit more on with these?
Kamruz Jaman 14:13 Yeah, I think the big one to call out here is the data purge. Right. Hugo?
Hugo Santos 14:17 Yeah, definitely. Its on the release space. That's usually strong, translated on more performance, which is always good. So maybe interesting as well, you can now clean up the interactions. So you got to make sure that this is working as expected, but at least from you know, a bullet point perspective, it looks interesting.
Kamruz Jaman 14:37 Yeah. And I think just clean up those databases because XConnect databases can get big. And sometimes if you've been running X Connect for a long time you have data which is 3,4,5 years old, which probably might not always make sense for your current distractions because it's just depends on your business of course, right? but it might not make sense for your current interactions in order for the goals and, and any kind of cross promotion that you might want to do. Yeah, there's a few other changes, right, the some internal logging, being able to disable robot detection could be useful for load and stress testing your website. I don't think you'd normally want to disable that for regular apps. That's right.
Matthew McQueeny 15:29 And then, next up, we have the Horizon. In the Content explorer, I know I have a lot of headless on my brain. But Kam, did you say before we came on that there was something that had to do with headless with this
Kamruz Jaman 15:41 Not directly. But so this is a new content explorer mode and it allows you to view all of the content in your in your site in a kind of tabular kind of manner. But it really, what really stuck out to me was this, this is how most headless systems have their content laid out right in a in a kind of tabular fashion. And what you use, you use the search filters to narrow down on the specific piece of content that you're looking for. Whereas Sitecore has traditionally been running in the tree view mode. So it's much more geared towards a hierarchical content structure. So it's interesting to see them release this, but it feels like you know, this is this is edging towards that, that headless, the way that all the headless content has been traditionally surfaced. So again, it's bridging bridging this gap, right?
Hugo Santos 16:43 Can I ask you one thing, Kam why is this supposed to be better than the old
Kamruz Jaman 16:49 This view or Horizon in general?
Hugo Santos 16:51 The content explorer being tabled in 10 mode instead of being hierarchical
Kamruz Jaman 16:58 I think its just being able to find content, right. So if you have a lot of content in your website, being able to quickly find a piece of content, or the page that you want to edit is very important. And that's what it comes down to, it's just, it's just a way of surfacing and being able to get to the piece of content that you want to edit. And once you're here, you can switch between this content explorer mode, and then the page editing mode, and then into a content mode, as well as if you want to just have that regular content editor view for editing the, the fields directly. But it really just comes down to being able to quickly get to the piece of content that you want to get to.
Matthew McQueeny 17:44 And actually on that point, too. Is it because you can search better in this mode? Or is it a different consideration?
Kamruz Jaman 17:53 It's entirely search driven, right, it's entirely search driven and you can see from here that they have you know, they have these options for like the templates and the workflow states and created by etc. I'm sure you can add custom filters to that, knowing Sitecore you usually can. But it's entirely search driven. Yeah.
Matthew McQueeny 18:13 And then I know there's some additional improvements as well.
Kamruz Jaman 18:19 Yeah, there's a couple of couple of little changes in here being able to navigate the component hierarchy in the editing mode in the inline editing mode, that's very, very minor. But if this was something that's always been there in Sitecore even back to the old page editor mode and obviously the experience editor and the workflows also now surfaced indirectly out of Horizon so it it means you need to leave this editing interface much less frequently.
Matthew McQueeny 18:55 And then if we move on to SXA I see our first slide is integration with Horizon with an exclamation point. To what do we owe that
Kamruz Jaman 19:07 Nicely transitioning on SXA had no compatibility with Horizon in the previous release or very little compatibility so it now has full compatibility with SXA is a big deal because SXA just simplifies your development, it speeds up time to market. So now having integration with Horizon is a pretty big deal. Probably mean a lot of people can upgrade to this version and and not worry about you know, loss of functionality, for example, but Horizon itself, you know, it's a much more modern interface compared to experience editor. It's much more quick. It's much more snappy. You have various modes in Horzion. We should do a video on just Horizon alone, it has being able to switch from the visual editor to Content Editor to being able to view the analytics on a page. It's much, much quicker, it's very modern, you can switch between desktop or tablet, mobile view, you know, all within the same interface. So that's why it is a big deal. And having full support for SXA will mean that would be a good selling point for a lot of upgrades.
Matthew McQueeny 20:34 Great. And then I also see there's Bootstrap 5.0. Support. It's scribing right?
Kamruz Jaman 20:40 Scribing, scribing. Potato Potato.
Matthew McQueeny 20:46 Then we also have easier centralization of shared settings and distributed as resource file.
Kamruz Jaman 20:52 Yeah. And that's what Hugo had mentioned earlier, right? Yeah.
Matthew McQueeny 20:57 Great. So why don't we move on to Sitecore CLI?
Kamruz Jaman 21:02 Yeah one of those three letter acronyms. Right. So this is Commond Line Interface. This is something that was released by Sitecore. I think during Sitecore 10 release. The big line item here is that you can now create items as, there's a new item and resource package plugin, which allows you to create your own resource file. So this is what Hugo was talking about earlier with SXA, for example, being released as a resource file, which just means makes upgrades and things easier, you can now create a file for your own purposes for your own solution. So it'll just make deployments and things a little bit easier. We've got a bit of experimentation that we've been doing with this. So we've got some good stuff coming out, coming out around this around this plugin, which we'll release soon. There's been some additions to the indexing, there is a new indexing plugin, which will allow you to automate a bunch of things such as deploying the schemers, creating indexes, kicking off indexing operations, so just good for the deployments and automation processes. Field exclusion, so once when you're serializing, those items, you can exclude certain fields from being included. Very technical, doesn't really matter. But for the tech team, this is this, this is has been an important, important element. And role serialization just allows you to create roles and promote those across the different environments without having to do those tasks manually.
Matthew McQueeny 22:39 Now, we spoke at the top about the macro levels of headless and here we are at some of the actual call outs, I know we have headless rendering, we have headless forms. Let's dig in.
Kamruz Jaman 22:53 Yeah. So headless, it was mentioned 10 odd times in the release notes, has been a heavy focus on headless, the big one to call out I think was being able to statically render MVC sites to HTML. And so what happens is, as we all know, Sitecore is very component based in this nature. If you have a traditional website, which has built in MVC, you can take that MVC component and use the headless rendering engine to render this and push it out to the experience edge. And then that content can be consumed by a JSS based website, and now JSS traditionally, used it as just the raw data, the JSON data. So you take the JSON data, you take the HTML, and you can now merge them together to build your end results. And this will allow you to incrementally move towards JSS. And to a headless website. So you're not then having to lose all of that work that you've already done in MVC, and how to do this big bang upgrade, if you want to move to headless. So it's an interesting one. I think it could be useful as people transition over,
Matthew McQueeny 24:28 and there's not a exclamation point with that integration with Horizon.
Kamruz Jaman 24:32 Oh, there should be probably, right. But there was some integration with Horizon I think, the biggest version but now it has integration with Next.js as well. We've been using Next.js internally a lot, right? We love using Next.js, so that integration with Horizon gives you a nice visual editor to compose your websites. I think one of the things, the other thing to call outis Next.js has been upgraded in the headless to version 11. I think rather unfortunate timing, because in the Next.js conference just a couple of weeks back, they of course announced version 12. I'm sure will release an update for this fairly soon. But this is the nature of, of being, not being truly headless. Right? If I was truly headless, I can just upgrade. Upgrade this, and I'm kind of done.
Matthew McQueeny 25:34 I want to ask kind of a general question off of that. The one thing I feel with composable DXP, looking from my vantage point, you are composing the best of breed from so many different places, does that. And they're all having their own upgrades. Right? Does that make your job as developers and solutions architects more difficult? Or are you able to stay on these roadmaps for all the products you choose?
Kamruz Jaman 26:07 No, it doesn't, because your solution is built against whatever version of the framework you're using. And it's up to you to decide when you make the upgrade. And when you make the move. Usually, it's that'd be compelling reasons to move. Just because, you know, maybe it's some security fixes, or some new features you want to take care of. But it may. But usually, these frameworks have good upgrade paths as well. So upgrades can usually be fairly seamless. So you don't have to put as much effort into into that process.
Matthew McQueeny 26:51 Interesting, headless, better be seamless, right? So the the next one, I know we have headless forms. Now, when we say the term forms, is this, like marketing forms? Or is this something that's more in the background? Are these actually like the front end forms that people fill in within websites?
Kamruz Jaman 27:16 Yes, so Sitecore has had a forms module since I can remember, right? It used to be web form for marketers and then they released experienced forms. The problem with experience forms, it was very server based it was for the traditional MVC type of approach for forms, they did release something with a headless module to to act as a bridge. But it only worked with React, I think it was the only one that they had released, and some community members I know have Angular versions of that framework. So now Sitecore is fully supporting headless forms. It uses that feature we just talked about, about being able to take an MVC component and render that out to HTML. And this is essentially what it will do. A user requests a form, the rendering host will go to the layout service, generate some HTML, return the form to the user, it's then consumed by JSS, to render out a form. And it works both ways. But you can both get the form and you can make the form sufficient as well. So it's just building upon nicely building upon the feature they just released. So I think that's a nice bridge. You still get all of the use all the experience forms builder, visual editor, for example, being able to have custom submit actions and custom integrations in the background.
Matthew McQueeny 28:51 Great, well, you said the word experience. So now we move on to Experience Edge. And I really liked this diagram. Can you talk us through it
Kamruz Jaman 29:02 So Experience Edge has actually been available on 10.1 as well, it's something that Sitecore release a few months ago, since 10.1, was released. It's an add on. And this is Sitecore's bridge to headless, for customers on Sitecore XM. It's very, very much geared towards XM, and not XP with its customization capabilities. And the way it works is, you know, you would use your content management system to create your content, create the templates, compose the pages, and then you push all of that information out to the Experience Edge. And that data can then be consumed by your website. So whether that's JSS or just a plain old React application or a mobile application it can all be consumed via the API as a headless API by whatever, whatever system you need. And it's the Experience Edge is pushed, it's pushed out to Content Delivery Network, which means that it can scale globally, across into different regions that I'm not sure who they're using in the background, probably something like Akamai, something like that. So whatever those edge nodes they have, it can be scaled up to those. So you only need a content management system, you don't necessarily need content delivery nodes deployed in audit functions.
Matthew McQueeny 30:36 When they speak, I know we did, Akshay and I did a discussion on the Next.js conference. And you heard that you hear the term on the edge a lot. Is this the same connotation?
Kamruz Jaman 30:52 Yes, similar. Yeah, similar, it's being able to push whatever content is, wherever the servers are as close to the users as possible. So that's, that's why when we say edge, there's what we mean, you know, just over the edge, essentially. And so that when a request when a user requests a web page, you can deliver it to them as fast as possible. Traditionally, we would have our servers in one data center, maybe two. And if we want to scale parcels, there's a lot of effort involved in scanning those in scanning infrastructure and a lot of cost that comes with that, right. So this is this is a way of reducing that it's also I feel it's like a bridge as well, to, to that headless, from your traditional system, if you already have one built.
Matthew McQueeny 31:50 Yeah, whenever I hear it, I'm always like, is it the Lady Gaga edge of glory?
Kamruz Jaman 31:57 Is it the Tom Cruise Edge of Tomorrow? Right? That's right.
Matthew McQueeny 31:59 I will get to the server in Australia. So we left Sitecore Commerce for the end, but it is really interwoven with all of the things we've we've kind of been discussing, right? Because it's a big, it's a big product for Sitecore. And, you know, there's kind of minor updates to some small improvements. But even I think Sitecore put out a blog when they were talking about commerce, and how you could use the best of breed for like CMS, they said Contentful for analytics they a Google Analytics. So you talk about bridge as well. Sitecore Commerce really feels like it's on? It's on some kind of bridge as well, right?
Kamruz Jaman 32:46 Almost feels like it's on life support. Right? There's not much in here. IT resources, like Hugo mentioned, everything is moving towards that thing. In the scheme of things, that's very, very minor. Some container improvements, again, fairly minor compatibility fixes really, I don't see any, again, kind of like XP, there's there doesn't seem to be a, a big, any big ticket updates to this as, as you would expect. And given the changes, or the lack of changes, we're seeing an XP, the lack of changes and updates we're seeing in commerce, the heavy focus towards headless or the bridge to headless, at least kind of speak to the direction that Sitecore really thinks that the whole industry is moving towards, I think.
Matthew McQueeny 33:46 Great. Hugo, we started off with a bang with you. And then we kind of we lost you a little bit here not because you've done anything wrong when it was we left a lot of the search earlier. Are there any other thoughts that you have from this, any final thoughts?
Hugo Santos 34:04 I mean, I've played a little bit with the 10.2 real quickly, the XP one. Basically installed it myself using Sif. So the good news is that it is exactly the same way that you guys already use it, pretty simple. Actually, the scripts exactly the same with a few minor changes to actually to adapt to the new version of Solr, for instance. So that's a good thing. Not no breaking changes from that perspective. But that's pretty much the experience that I have with it. Looks like it is a good thing. A lot of good news about headless, Kam is the real specialist here, so I'm going to trust him. But yeah, that's in general that that was a good one.
Kamruz Jaman 34:43 Yeah, yeah, the installation was fairly seamless. We'll be updating our Docker repo with with examples that people want to go in and have a play around with 10.2 and Horizon and I know it's a pain to install in a regular kind of way. So we'll update the repo shortly and then People can play around with that. But yeah, it was, it's a good release for headless or let's say the bridge to headless. I think given previous releases, I know technically this is a minor release, but Sitecore has never regarded point releases as being minor. I'm a bit surprised, but also not surprised that the kind of direction that they're taking in the contents of this of this update, there's some good things in there for SXA customers particularly I'd say.
Matthew McQueeny 35:40 Yeah, it's it's a evolution of where we're seeing a lot of our clients going and the industry. And of course, we'll take a moment to promote that if anybody would like to talk with the experts about how to go composable go to konabos.com. Kam and, Hugo, thanks so much.
Kamruz Jaman 36:01 All right. Thank you
Hugo Santos 36:03 Thank you, Matt
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