14 October 2018

Sitecore Symposium 2018

Sitecore last week concluded just another wonderful Symposium. This Symposium was mix bag for me, just because Sitecore had promise lot last year while yet to deliver on few. While this had been echoed by many MVPs & customer alike.

So here I summarize key highlights, which are as follows:

Figure- 1.1
  1. Sitecore acquire StyleLabs : As per Sitecore, this will resolve the content crisis which is faced by their customers who had to depend upon other third parties for DAM, MRM, PIM etc., Notably SkyLabs is 100% SaaS solution build natively for Azure. Sitecore offered for their customer through this Acquisition. 

  2. Sitecore JSS will be available with Sitecore 9.1: Sitecore is scheduled to release Sitecore 9.1, with this release they will also release most awaited Headless Solution from last two years & after 4 Tech previews. Following are related notes with this subject:
    1. Sitecore Differentiate & make its case heard: In one of the keynotes "Headless CMS and the great uncoupling" by Deane Barker, Deane made following opinions, where few are right while few debatable.
    2. Figure 1.2
      1.  Most of Modern Headless CMS are Database at core with modern UI & API to serve. Headless CMS because they don't have burden of legacy they are good with this core principle of serving Content. No disagreement. 
      2. But performing any logic before serving content or adding value to that content by means of optimizations like adding context is left to solution developers. Deane is right here. But my only point here is, now atleast solution designer has choice what to choose & not everybody requires Logic or other suggested tiers. So overall headless is good.
        Figure 1.3
      3. This is true that over period of time due to urge of fulfilling Edge Cases, Capture Adjacent Markets or simply adding features most of CMS may end up with bloated feature library & implied cost, which make them look fatter in future from what they are now. Deane is right here. But my Hope is running in SaaS mode & committed to subscription based low pricing comes with inherited duty that Headless CMS vendor can't wander too far, they may have different offerings for different edge cases or markets. Anyway time will only tell who is right or wrong.
        Figure 1.4
        Figure 1.5
        Enabling customer, "Pay what they use is Mantra for every product vendor" or somebody else will come & disrupt market.
      4. Summary as per Dean is if Solution developer/Customer intend to use Contextual Content marketing then Customers should stick to Solution which provide that all. Which I agree but Sitecore need to be better, faster & cheaper.
    3. Sitecore JS Web Tracker : This tracker is rest API build on top of existing Web Tracker which provide Analytics Capabilities & offer personalized content(Not Sure here). This is different from Universal Tracker & yet not documented in current JSS documentation. 

  3. Other Sitecore 9.1 Updates: Sitecore made 9.1 kind of major release without disrupting versioning & saving next major version for Horizon & Zenith. Following are key updates:
    1. Performance Updates & Upgrades:
      Figure 1.6
       I am glad that Sitecore is on right path. Sitecore is improving performance of its Experience Management(Xm)  by 50% & reducing technical debt. They have promised to improve this further & take similar improvement to Xp also. They have also upgrade regular third parties they consume & made promise to do it earlier than usual.
    2. Figure 1.7
        1. Universal Tracker: It is Rest API to be consumed by any device or channel, extremely fast & scale-able. This will be tracker which will eventually replace current Web Tracker & intermittent JS Web Tracker. It has been built on using Sitecore Host. As of now in 9.1 it doesn't offer Content Personalization but will offer in future. 
        2. Figure 1.8
          1. Sitecore Identity Service: Finally Sitecore embraced modern Identity Management & shrugged of decades old Microsoft Membership Database. From 9.1 this is default login provider. This enabled Single Sign-On integration with third party provider more standardized solutions. This was on road for sometime as Commerce already had this.  
          2. Core DB is optional for CD: This nice & useful update will enable upcoming cloud adopters & current hosting solution provider lifer much easy.
          3. Sitecore Host:
            Figure 1.9
            This is pattern/technology which will enable most of new & upcoming/migrating services to enable services based world. Sitecore is re-architect-ing it's own solution to make it service oriented, which is easy to scale & host & technologically make it candidate to run as SaaS in future. 
          4. Sitecore Offers GrapQL Endpoint: This is another big announcement as this enable developers to write very precise queries to fetch Sitecore Data over wire. As of now this service only offers Content & Templates. But i hope that in future this offers more than content like layout service etc., 
          5. Sitecore Cortex:
            Figure 1.10
            To me this is like those bells & whistle which may make difference to Customer. Anyway, anything offered out of box is to delight if configured correctly. This uses Microsoft Cognitive Services & have capability to use custom Models. The only glitch I see here is how many enterprise today wan't to ship their consumer's personal & behavioral data to MS Cloud for getting insights, lot of such enterprise customers are either building their own serious ML gigs or already have it. This is interesting area to me & community. While checkout this article by Amitabh documenting Core concepts & collating articles on Cortex so far. 
          6. Sitecore Horizon:
            Figure 1.11
            Sitecore will be releasing Horizon as Technical Preview in Sitecore 9.1 while publicly admitting that it was harder than thought earlier to implement. Well this was expected. Anyway as community we are happy that Sitecore is pursuing this goal with not be just nice face-lift but as earlier indicated doing engine overhaul of Sitecore bit by bit so that next major release. The only question left is will be Next Sitecore Symposium 2019 will be that moment or will it be 2020 Symposium to get fully re-designed & re-invented. Last there was not enough mention of Zenith Project expect one time in MVP summit i heard which is it is still in development(it could be that I missed it). 

        3. Sitecore .NET Core: The effort which started 2 years back & exposed to us in 2016 MVP summit is yet not completed but it is on right path. I predict here it will take next 2 years to be fully based on .Net Core & become service oriented. This opens up many possibilities like hosting it on Linux Platform, Containarize it fully, run large complex robust & scalable Sitecore Solutions etc., Possibilities are endless. Sitecore is not to blame for slow progress but i admit it is overall technology improvement which is dependent on Microsoft & Open Source Community, at end Product Vendors are always later in queue to implement any new technologies. 
        Being developer I understand project delays, which are even sometime not in control of development team, so I have full belief on Sitecore that next Symposium will be best.
        Is this Sitecore Release is worth to upgrade from last stable release of Sitecore 8.2 ?
        • I would say wait till JFM of 2019 to finally commit to production, just because the sharp edges of 9.1 release are finished usually by an update.
        • But that doesn't mean, customers should wait for it, they must start early to test the risks(Through means of POC) & secure needed resources.
        Is JSS worth looking ?
        • Yes Headless is the way forward, if you wan't your development cost low & scale it better while making blazing fast Web Experience. 
        What are ways to implement JSS ?
        • Honestly there could be many possible ways out.
        • I will experiment with Sitecore(GraphQL Endpoint) + React + Gatsby + JS Web Tracker/Universal Tracker + Netlify + Cloudinary
        • Above Experiment, just depend upon stars to be in right position.
        Note: All images are content & property of Sitecore, they have been taken from Sitecore Symposium 2018 for purpose of summarizing the event. 

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