Wednesday, May 24, 2017

SUGCON Europe 2017 – Kiwis Can Fly

The SUGCON (Sitecore User Group Conference) is an annual event, managed by the global Sitecore community in association with Sitecore itself. Because it’s a community driven event, organised and attended by passionate Sitecorians from around the world, the topics and sessions tend to be very future-focused, developer centric and a lot less company messaging than one might expect at say symposium.

As a New Zealander, it’s almost exactly halfway round the world to get to Europe, the world being roughly 40,000k round and the trip being 18,000k each way, no small undertaking. The question I got asked most – “well was it worth it?”. The answer is a resounding “hell yes”.

So, let’s start with the highlights, depending on time I’ll try and go into depth around some of these topics in a later post.

Buzzwords of the Event

  • Microservices
  • Machine Learning
  • Zero Deploy
  • Azure PaaS
  • IOT

Robbie The Robot A futuristic showcase of the omni-channel capabilities of Sitecore XP

Admittedly the demo gods didn’t smile that much but Robbie was a big hit. Essentially the lads had wired a Rasberry Pi, Amazon Alexa, Hololens, a camera or two together with a Sitecore instance. Why you may ask? To really demonstrate the future of Sitecore and microservices.

Oh, and to demo it all they picked on a retired developer, Pieter Brinkman who shall be henceforth known as the Brinkmeister for his brilliant contribution to the Sitecore Community.

So, ask Alexa a question, voice recognition translated to a Sitecore request where personalisation kicks in to provide a response. Correct me if I’m wrong but it looks a whole lot like Sitecore is the AI in this scenario and raises the idea that COGNIGY, home to former Sitecore CIO Philipp Heltewig may play a part in this exciting future.

Let’s go one step further and send live video streams to Msoft cognitive services, what comes back is a JSON snippet where multiple faces in the video have been identified and senti-rated, by that I mean rated for emotional content as shown in the returned JSON below.

Did I mention this happens in real time? Even processing a static profile image would provide valuable information about a user that can then be poked into Xdb against a contact and used for further fun. The possibilities, combined with voice recognition and Sitecore personalisation are quite mind boggling if you pause a tic to think about it.

Hedgehog Zero Deploy

More great tools from the folk who brought us TDS and RAZL.

From the creators - “With ZeroDeploy you can finally test code changes without recycling the Sitecore Application Pool reducing overall load time by 99%!! 


ZeroDeploy effectively does a 'hot-swap' of the DLLs in your web application, so the App Pool never recycles, allowing you to see your back-end code changes immediately. No more 60-90 second wait time, while the App Pool reloads.”

Dunno about you but wait for that App pool recycle enough times and it adds up to a lot of down time, especially since it de-zones you, “oh might go and check my email while the app pool recycles – 30 minutes later ooops” – the productivity gains are obvious. 

If you are interested in being a beta tester, sign up here:

Publishing Services - What’s new in Publishing Service v2.0

As if the Publishing Services wasn’t already a giant leap, it just got better – it’s enough to say its blindingly fast. As Stephen Pope puts it 

“There are quite a lot of changes between the initial release (1.1) and the next version (2.0) of the Publishing Service that I think people would want to know about. This is the first version that is 100% ready for the cloud and we also did a lot of performance testing and have some great graphs and data to explain all the things we did to further convince them to try out the service”

Other Highlights

  • One click, multi-instance deploys on Azure PaaS
  • Azure Machine Learning
  •  Coveo – building automated search models based on Xdb data
  • Sitecore Commerce, soon to be fully integrated – bye bye Commerce Server.
  • SXA JSON, components that use a Sitecore device to output their content as JSON, hello microservices for anything.
  •  JavaScript Services – Using the React Framework with a few clicks for creation of Sitecore items, supporting personalisation and the Experience Editor – I must admit I was fading a bit during this session but damn it was cool “Ever wondered if you can build full fledged apps in JavaScript and leverage the best out of the Sitecore platform?“ - Alex Shyba and Adam Weber answered this with a definitive YES – also best use of an air cannon to shoot t-shirts into the crowd. 

Roadmap and  Philosophy

Lastly the engaging Jeppe Grue, Sitecore Senior Vice President, Product Strategy closed out with a great overview of the future Sitecore philosophy and roadmap delivered via an appropriate tour of Dutch art and history, what did he promise?

  • ·       Single Update Wizard for any version to latest
  • ·       Brand new UI for the Sitecore client
  • ·       Azure Marketplace and Toolkit
  • ·       The promise of XConnect, the evolution ofthe Data Exchange Framework making it easy to push and transform data from anywhere to anywhere.

Importantly he restated the main reason I got started with Sitecore 10 years ago, it’s fun and cool.

Naturally I couldn’t get to every single session and there is a ton of stuff I did not cover here, but you can have a look at the sessions at the link below.  

In summary, a little sad to be back working a view rendering, but I’m feeling incredibly excited by the future of Sitecore and champing at the bit to apply some of the futuristic stuff to new projects