Sitecore released its brand spanking new version 9 just a few months back (in October). New versions bring exciting new bells and whistles, but upgrades shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ll cover some of the important upgrade considerations in a future post, but in this post let’s first take a look at what’s new in Sitecore 9.
This is a new layer that Sitecore has introduced that allows for omnichannel data collection and sharing. xConnect can collect data from not only website interactions, but also from call centers, IoT devices and any other emerging technologies that your customers interact with. The data collected will be processed to provide for insights in xProfile giving you a 360 degree view of your customer interactions.
This enables the use of the latest ASP.NET Core Identity model and leverages OWIN authentication middleware to support third party authentication providers such as Facebook, Google or your enterprise authentication system for logging into Sitecore or to sites built on Sitecore.
This module has been re-written from the ground up and will replace WFFM from previous versions. This plugs into the marketing and analytics components to help you personalize user experiences.
Marketing automation framework
This provides tools to create automated campaigns in a new, easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface. It also includes a Marketing Engine that is integrated into the new xConnect layer for tracking and triggering activities based on the goal triggers and several other conditional rules. The tools allow you to build tailored campaigns that drive contextual, personalized content to your customers, thereby nurturing the customer relationship with the brand and resulting in improved customer interactions/experience.
Device detection services
Sitecore XP9 comes with embedded device detection services that can identify your users’ geolocation and device profiles. This gives you key insights into how your customers access your content and where they are coming from.
SQL Server support for the collection database
With Sitecore 9, SQL Server 2016 SP1 can be used as the collection database instead of MongoDB. This has been a sticking point for some organizations who have held off upgrading because of this technology stack and the resources needed to manage MongoDB. With the support for SQL Server, they can now leverage their tech resources to support the tech stack.
Sitecore JSS to allow for true headless
Prior to Sitecore XP9, Sitecore provided content service APIs that would support Sitecore as a content service layer supporting myriad front end frameworks for developing rich visual experiences. With the advent of XP9, Sitecore has taken this a step forward by providing a fully featured layer that would make support for analytics and personalization possible even in this headless context.
There are several performance enhancements to Experience Editor in this release. Sitecore is now bundling scripts and using sprites to add speed by reducing the number of network calls. They are also using content search indexes for data retrieval.
In Sitecore XP9, the configs are grouped into multiple folders designed to be loaded in specific order using the layers.config file. This provides for a clear separation of Sitecore configs from your configs. Previously, enabling and disabling config files based on the Sitecore role was a tedious exercise prone to errors. With Sitecore XP9, we can now set the Sitecore Role in a config, and based on rules set in configs, the relevant configs for the role will load automatically. We can extend this framework with our own extensions.
Bug fixes and better support
Being on the latest version means that you have the latest code with all the latest bug fixes (and features). Those bug fixes may fix common annoyances and almost certainly provide better security and performance. And depending how far behind you are on versions, you may also have trouble getting support. Check Sitecore’s Product Support Lifecycle page to review the support end date for your version.
Upgrading shouldn't be a snap decision, but clearly understanding the benefits you will receive from an upgrade is the first step. I hope this post helped you understand some of Sitecore 9's most compelling new features. And keep in mind that if you're on a version older than 8, you will see additional benefits.