Sitecore 9

Sitecore 9: Here's what you need to know

by James Derry

Sitecore 9.0 was released on 16th October with some exciting developments for existing users and newcomers alike.

Nemetos had privileged early access to the updates contained in this new version and we’re pleased to report that it’s packed with some great new features that will benefit everyone.

First and foremost is the launch of Sitecore Experience Cloud. Billed as the ‘only industry-leading platform that continuously learns from each interaction’, it’s a major step forward for Sitecore and is the umbrella term for the three key areas of the platform:

This type of structure will be familiar to anyone with knowledge of Adobe Experience Cloud, which sits below Sitecore on Ability to Execute in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant (Leader) for Content Management.

The great thing about this approach, in our view, is that it does away with a lot of barriers to entry for those considering the move to Sitecore. It gives marketers everything they need: a holistic view of customer data, with a triad of marketing tools including forms, email and website in one platform, married to machine learning for better automation at scale. In short, everything you need in one easy-to-understand box.

What else is new?

It’s not all about attracting new customers, of course. There are plenty of new and updated features to get existing Sitecore users excited. For instance, new to this release are Sitecore xConnect open integration tools, advanced machine learning, plus headless capabilities and JavaScript services.

Let’s crack open the hood and take a detailed look at seven of the best new features:

1. xConnect

xConnect expands the interoperability of the existing xDB to embrace a wider range of data sources, both traditional and non-traditional. The latter takes the possibilities for personalisation to a new level with the ability to collect omni-channel data from third-party sources such as wearables and IoT devices.

While still supporting mongoDB, xConnect has increased database options with expanded ARM and Azure marketplace set-up where CosmosDB and SQLAzure become the defacto.

It also builds on CRM interoperability, embracing non-.NET platforms such as Salesforce and building on its connectivity with Dynamics CRM - this enables data from Sitecore and the CRM to be blended to create a personalised experience.

2. Redesigned Forms

Sitecore Forms is a new module, replacing the Web Forms for Marketers Module. It supports multi-page forms across multiple device types. It’s designed to be easier to use thanks to a custom drag-and-drop builder created with marketers in mind.

3. Email and Marketing Automation

The new marketing automation tool in Sitecore 9 has been created to go beyond the boundaries of traditional email marketing and embrace a true omni-channel experience. The new interface, with its intuitive drag-and-drop tool, is designed to support marketing automation at scale.

4. Federated Authentication Support

Sitecore 9 supports a wide range of authentication, including Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), Open ID connect or any SAML single sign on authentication provider. It’s open to both Sitecore users and visitors to the website, who could also log in using popular social sign-ons such as Facebook and Google.

5. Machine Learning

The initial Machine Learning capabilities of Sitecore 9 are focused primarily on customer engagement. The system is designed to dynamically tune itself to anticipate customer needs and improve the to-goal success rate. This is real cutting edge stuff and we can’t wait to see it in action.

6. Headless content

Since its early versions, Sitecore has been headless to an extent, by maintaining a separation of content and presentation. In Sitecore 9 this goes up a level, separating content from context in such a way that content managed in Sitecore can be delivered to a device or application that isn’t managed by Sitecore, making it truly headless. This is facilitated by the Sitecore Services Component, the new Sitecore JavaScript Services and JSON rendering.

7. Security

GDPR is a hot subject at the moment and Sitecore 9 addresses one of the key issues; the “right to be forgotten” which is important in terms of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) discussions. In addition to that Sitecore 9 supports encryption of data-at-rest and data-in-motion which is also an important step for clients towards GDPR compliance.

And finally…

A word about quality: Sitecore are promising better quality of UI and documentation - as well as increased speed of applications on the platform. There’s always a concern with software, as more features are added, that speed suffers so it’s reassuring to see Sitecore 9 actually heading in the other direction.

Sitecore also promise this version will be the easiest ever to upgrade to; anyone on version 8.1 or higher can do a direct upgrade, while you’ll be able use migration tools to switch from other versions.

The final piece of important information is about pricing, with the introduction of a pay-as-you-go structure focused on traffic. The new model will effectively allow for unlimited production and non-production servers, with no limit on concurrent users. This promises to be a real help for lots of businesses, with the emphasis on flexibility - pricing starts from just 50k visits per month.

Sitecore 9.0 promises to be another huge step forward in personalised online marketing. We’re already excited about the different things it will help us achieve for our clients.