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June 5, 2018

SIF Installations: Lessons from SUGCON 2018

Thought by Rosen Petrov, Sitecore Developer
Photograph of people at a conference with the Sugcon logo superimposed

Sitecore user group conferences are always a great way to participate in the community and stay on top of the latest Sitecore trends. This year FFW had a strong presence at SUGCON in Berlin by sending 8  Sitecorians to the event. With almost 600 attendees, 35 speakers and perfect organization, this was one of the best Sitecore user group conferences so far.

Sitecore Experience Platform has been rapidly evolving in the last two years or so which required us to expand our expertise. If you are curious what we have learned throughout the process, check out the presentation of our MVP Finn Nielsen did at the Bulgarian Sitecore User Group - Why am I hearing so much about DevOps?  

Over the past few months, FFW's Sitecore team has been actively developing Sitecore 9 solutions. I was put in charge of exploring Sitecore Installation Framework (SIF) and utilize it for our needs. That was one of the reasons I was so interested in attending the "Sitecore Installation Framework (Deepdive)" presentation at SUGCON.

"As Sitecore developers, we want fast deployments. We want to choose the infrastructure we deploy on. We want deployments to be the same across the environments. We want them to be repeatable. We want them to be scalable. In other words, we just want it to be easy. SIF is a framework for orchestrating the installation and configuration of Sitecore On-Premise." - Thomas Eldblom.

These first sentences of the presentation have become my favorite definition of SIF. Even if Sitecore is a Cloud-First company, we need On-Premise for development, for debugging or a specific production environment! So, we need to learn SIF well and use it properly.

During the presentation, we focused on the development setup. We went through 7 installations of Sitecore and looked at configuring over 70 roles - databases, websites, Windows services, etc. We also spent quite a while discussing most tedious part of the installation process: ensureing you have met all the prerequisites.

We also learned about the following Sitecore packages, which are available for On-Premise installations:

  • XP Single
    Sitecore topology with enabled Sitecore Analytics. All the roles that can be combined are combined. This is typically optimal for development setup.
  • XP Scaled
    Sitecore topology with enabled Sitecore Analytics. Every single role has its own installation and can be split up or combined across different servers.
  • XM Scaled
    Sitecore CMS mode only topology. Every single role has its own installation and can be split up or combined across different servers.

On premise deployment

You can learn more about the roles within these topologies here.

Each of these packages contains SIF JSON files which make the installation of the roles within the topology easy. When I downloaded the packages for the first time, I thought that the SIF configurations are kind of an "end product" and I wouldn't need to modify anything. But that's not the case. Even if they cover most of the scenarios they won't fit in all projects. And that's exactly what the lecturer said - it's very important to know that the topologies we have available for download are just samples. They are “inspirations for your specific topology - local development, testing or production environment. The point of the samples is for you to get inspired and create the topologies and configurations of Sitecore that fits the requirements of your customers”. So, you'll need and you should customize your SIF installations! Thomas made a couple of good examples of how to take a configuration, reconfigure it and create something new which doesn't come out of the box. All of the examples are available on GitHub, so if you need any of them go and take a look.

The conclusion is that Sitecore will continue evolving and we, as Sitecore experts, will need to create varieties of setups for our solutions. To accomplish that, we need to learn SIF well, understand our requirements and architecture.

Here is a list of good resources which will help you to start making your Sitecore installation customizations.

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