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Symposium 2018

Wine improves with age. So does Sitecore!

Symposium has been great this year. The overall quality of the sessions was high, the keynotes were very informative – including more live demos and actual product presentations than ever – and the guest keynotes were immensely inspirational! Out of all the news and presentations, we could distill the following four major announcements:

The General Availability of JSS is announced for Sitecore 9.1, which will be released shortly. JSS is the framework supporting a headless architecture which enables us developers to build a separately managed JavaScript application as a front-end on Sitecore, improving build speed, development scalability, application performance, portability and maintainability. This allows for decoupling rendering from content delivery, opening the way for future channels too. I really hope this transforms Sitecore into the content, media and marketing repository that could serve multiple channels, opposed to the super deluxe web page editor as some might still see it.

The new UI of Sitecore’s editing client Horizon will be available as a preview upon request, requiring you to participate actively by supplying feedback in the preview stage of this awesome new interface for Sitecore! I will certainly try to acquire this preview and participate in the preview program, so I will let you know when I’ve got some hands-on experience with it. The most prominent features of Horizon are that it is more user and marketer centered than developer centered (like not showing all of those data source items underneath a page item for all of the items in the tree), that it is built up from the perspective of stats and visitor feedback, enabling you to really fine-tune the end user experience (and conversion!), and that it is way faster than the current Sitecore Client and Experience Editor!

Cortex features will start to appear in Sitecore from version 9.1 and up. Cortex is the product name of a collection of Machine Learning and AI based features like analytics interpretation, suggested personalization and guided multivariate testing – also greatly improving the guidance and effectiveness for the marketer and content editor.

Sitecore has acquired StyleLabs, a pretty cool DAM and marketing content management system, with awesome workflow capabilities and Adobe Suite integrations. We do not know exactly how the integration will be implemented, and it will for sure consist of multiple stages of integration, but this promises nice future feature upgrades for the conventional Sitecore media library to say the least. I like the fact that Sitecore dares to make bold steps in re-inventing their core product, of which I believe the transformative nature of acquiring StyleLabs is a tell-tale sign.

As you may have noticed, JSS, Horizon and Cortex were all announced last year in Vegas too, but the good news here is that they now all made it into the product for version 9.1 (Horizon still in an early beta stage though). So apart from StyleLabs, the announcements themselves may not have been that surprising, but the way they are positioned, implemented and demoed certainly are! Now I think you get the subtitle of my blog post ;)

But there’s more!

More of a technical nature, but certainly not less interesting or strategic.

The traditional login of Sitecore will be replaced by Sitecore Identity as the new default login mechanism across the platform, improving the overall security, extensibility, and enabling single sign-on throughout all Sitecore services and applications. I guess this preludes the definite farewell of admin/b…

Sitecore Host is the new common runtime for Sitecore .NET Core instances, which is a lean and pluggable building block architecture that continues the port to .NET Core (Commerce and the Publishing Service already run in Core), forming a solid base for all new apps and services from version 9.1 and up. Horizon, Universal Tracker and Sitecore Identity are already built using this new technology.

The Universal Tracker is a standardized tracking service for all possible channels and devices, enabling you to track and hook in every interaction that goes through the Sitecore platform towards the Experience Database.

And last but not least, SIF is revamped for Sitecore 9.1 (mind that SIF 2 is only compatible with Sitecore 9.1) and will become easier, including developer workstation templates, prerequisites install templates and uninstall support. Sitecore also announced that a graphical user experience may come up in future releases of the Sitecore Installation Framework.

Breakout session themes

Next to all the great announcements in the general sessions, I followed a lot of breakout sessions, mostly those within the Development & IT track. I focussed on JSS, Cortex and DevOps. The latter one being the subject for my own session as well. It’s great to see so many sessions on this topic, which all shine their own light on the subject, forming a wealth of information for the technical attendees on how to optimize their development process. I plan on sharing the content of my Integrated DevOps talk shortly, extended with some more detailed insights, as I love sharing experiences on this topic.

And in the meantime, we all look forward to the release of Sitecore 9.1!

 

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