0 comments on “Sitecore PaaS and Ansible”

Sitecore PaaS and Ansible

Sitecore PaaS and Azure is a good match and the idea is to blend in Ansible for Sitecore PaaS infrastructure set up on Azure and vanilla Site deployment.

Why would you use Ansible? Using Powershell scripts with parameter files is the common approach. Ansible is a very valid alternate approach for organisations who have Ansible in their tech stack already or for those that prefer it over Powershell.

Let’s start with a brief overview of Ansible. Ansible is an automation tool to orchestrate configuration and deployment of software. Ansible is based on agent less architecture by leveraging the SSH daemon. The Ansible playbook is a well defined collection of scripts that defines the work for server configuration and deployment. They are written in YAML and consists of multiple plays each defining the work to be done for a configuration on a managed server. 

Ansible Playbooks help solve the following problems:

  1. Provision of Azure Infrastructure required to run Sitecore and the deployment of Sitecore. Ansible supports the ability to seperate the provision of the infrastructure from the deployment of the Sitecore packages into “roles”. These roles can then be shared between different playbooks essentially allowing for re-use and the configuration of different playbooks for different purposes.
  2. Modularise the environment spin up into tasks/plays instead of one monolithic command doing everything in one go.
  3. By executing a single playbook, all the required tasks are coordinated to be executed to result in a fully operational instance of Sitecore up and running and ready to be customised by the organisations development team

Ansible Playbooks help with workflow between teams:

  1. Provide flexibility for Developers and DevOps teams to work together on separate piece of work to achieve a common goal. A DevOps team can work on the Azure Infrastructure set up and Developers can work on Application set up and vanilla deployment  
  2. Once the environment is provisioned hand it over to Development team for each site to deploy the custom code and configuration on Vanilla site.

Ansible has list of pre-built modules for Azure that can be leveraged for Azure Infrastructure Spin up and deployment. A list is available here https://docs.ansible.com/ansible/latest/modules/list_of_cloud_modules.html#azure.  

We have used the azure_rm_deployment module during the setup journey. The best thing I liked about Ansible was the ability to structure the parameters in a clean and organised fashion to ensure future extensibility is maintained. Ansible supports the use of multiple parameter file. This allows for both shared and environment specific parameter files. You will see the example later in the blog. 

All the ARM templates, play books and tasks are source controlled and Ansible tower can be hooked into the Source control of your choice.

This allows/enforces all changes to the templates, play books and tasks to be made locally and then commited to the source control repository using familiar tools. Asnible will then retrieve the lastest versions of these files from source control as the initial step on execution.

This option is more streamlined than having to manually upload the updated files to an online repository like a storage account and have Ansible/Azure access them using URLs.

Below is one of the example of the playbook. The roles mentioned here are just an example. You will need more roles for a complete azure infrastructure and Sitecore deployment 

Note the variables {{ env }} and {{ scname }}. They are passed from the Ansible tower job template into the playbook. This variables needs to be configured in the Extra VARIABLES field as shown below in the example job template. 

The env name is your target environment for which you want to spin up the Sitecore Azure environment. This could be dev, test, regression or production and the site name is the name of your website. This allows you to use same playbook to spin up multiple sites for multiple environment based on the extra variables passed in the job template in Ansible tower. This combination forms the path to the yml file which contains the definition of the parameters, per site, per environment. Below is the snapshot of the variable file structure. 

  • Each role in the Playbook is a Play/Task and the naming convention is fairly self-explanatory. 
  • Each task has a yml file and ARM template (json file). However it is not mandatory to have an ARM template for each of the tasks.
  1. Create the resource group just to have the tasks yml file and no arm template. 

2. Create the Redis Cache resource that will contain both the tasks yml file and the ARM template. 

There are tons of resources available in the Azure ARM template repo https://github.com/Azure/azure-quickstart-templates to get you started. You can then customize it to suit your projects requirements. Sitecore ARM templates are a good starting point which you can utilize to get some ideas. The idea is that you can grab snippets from these example to form your own ARM template. 

I will be writing more blogs on Azure and Sitecore so stay tuned.

0 comments on “Top 5 Ways to Extend Sitecore HTML Cache”

Top 5 Ways to Extend Sitecore HTML Cache

In 2017 I wrote a reasonably long post on all the different considerations a Sitecore Caching Strategy might cover.

Following on from that post its time to share some custom HTML cache extensions that we at Aceik may incorporate into our projects. This count down of custom settings has been collected from across the Sitecore community.

5) Vary By Personalisation

This one (in my opinion) is a must-have if your incorporating personalisation in your homepage.

I admit it will only be effective up to a certain number of content variations and even then needs to be used with caution. Still, if you can save your server and databases from getting hit and help keep Time to First Byte (TTFB) low, its always worth it.

Please note that if you’re displaying a customised message with data that is only relevant to that user, the number of variations may not make it worthwhile.  On the other hand, if your showing variations based on a handful of profile card match rules, we found it to be fairly effective.

Code Sample: ApplyVaryByPeronalizedDatasource.cs

Credits: Ahmed Okour

4) Vary By Resolution

Its a fairly common scenario that we want to display a different image based on the users screen size. So it stands to reason that we would need a way to differentiate this when it comes to caching our Renderings.

The particular implementation was used in combination with Scott Mulligan’s Sitecore Adaptive Image Library.

The Adaptive Image library stores the users screen resolution via a cookie in the front end razor/javavscript:

document.cookie = '@Sitecore.Configuration.Settings.GetSetting("resolutionCookieName") =' + Math.max(screen.width, screen.height) + '; path=/';
  • The first time around if no cookie is set it uses the default largest image size as the cache key.
  • If the cookie is set the cache incorporates the screen resolution.
args.CacheKey += "_#resolution:" + AdaptiveMediaProvider.GetScreenResolution();

Code 1:  ApplyVaryByResolution.cs

Code 2: AdaptiveMediaProvider.cs 

Credit:  Dadi Zhao

3) Vary By Timeout

This one’s a little different, it requires not only a new checkbox but also a new “Single-Line text” field that allows you to enter a timeout value.  The idea, as you might have guessed, is for the rendering cache to expire after a certain amount of time.

Code 1: ApplyVaryByTimeout.cs

Credit: Dylan Young

2) Vary By Url

An oldy but a goody. I’m a little surprised this one just hasn’t made it into the out of the box product. On the other hand, I can see how it could be overused if you don’t understand the context it applies to. Essentially you can take either the Context Item ID or the raw URL and make your rendering cache vary based on that key.

A good use case for this setting could be for navigation that requires the current page to always be highlighted.

Code 1: ApplyVaryByURLCaching.cs  (Context Item ID formula)

Code 2: ApplyVaryByRawUrlCaching.cs (Raw URL formula)

Credit:  The 10 other people that have blogged about this over the years.

1) Vary By Website

Given Sitecore is an Enterprise content management system we often see multi-site implementations launched on the platform. It makes sense then that you have an option to cache renderings that don’t change all that much on one site but have different content on another.

Example Usage: A global navigation used across all sites that requires some content for the context site to show differently.

Code: ApplyVaryByWebsite.cs

Credit: Younes van Ruth

That rounds out the count down of some of the top ways to extend Sitecore’s out of the box rendering cache. Your renderings will likely use a combination of these settings in order to achieve adequate caching coverage.

For a better idea on how you might add the top 5 above into Sitecore. Please see the technical footnote below. 



 

Technical Footnote:

All these extensions will add an extra checkbox in the Rendering cache tab within Sitecore.

cachesettings

In order for this check box to show up you need to add your custom checkbox fields to the template:

/sitecore/templates/System/Layout/Sections/Caching

You can achieve this in several ways. and there are a lot of other blogs “on the line” that describe how to add in these custom checkboxes so I won’t go into a deep dive here.

With regard to the Helix architecture lets outline one way you could set this up. Aceik has a module in the foundation layer that has all the custom cache checkboxes added to a single template (serialized in Unicorn within that module) . The system template above is then made to inherit from your custom template in order to inherit the custom caching fields.

custom

3 comments on “Don’t Forget your Sitecore Caching Strategy”

Don’t Forget your Sitecore Caching Strategy

Releasing a scalable Sitecore instance requires an in-depth knowledge of Sitecore’s multi-layered caching architecture. Here is a run through of what you will need to pull your projects Sitecore caching strategy together. Including Tips, tricks and pitfalls.

HTML/Rendering Cache Settings

HTML caching settings have been part of the core Sitecore product for many versions now. It’s worth chatting about these every now and again as they are critically important to the performance of your Sitecore instance.

CacheSettings

Indeed one of the first things we look for when reviewing a project that has performance complaints is to see if the Sitecore HTML cache settings have been done at all. The difference that properly setup cache settings can have (compared to a site without any) really shouldn’t be underestimated.

There are a lot of blog posts that define the above settings. Here is a good one to get you up to speed. We have also put some information on the various other layers of Sitecore cache at the bottom of this page.

Sample Caching Strategy Document

For the projects I run, I find it useful to have an overall caching strategy page that summarises the settings for every single rendering. This gives us a nice reference point whenever these settings need adjusting to see what might be affected.

cachingstrategy

 

Failure to Cache

In our experience performance, problems are usually reported by clients who have no caching settings turned on at all. This can cause the website to react very slowly or even bring the site down in times of heavy traffic.

Sitecore does have other layers of cache that will kick in (data, item and pre-fetch cache) if you fail to enable HTML caching. The first line of defence is the HTML caching and when properly configured really takes the pressure off all these other areas of caching and prevents the database from getting hit.

Imagine the following scenario for our made up Sitecore client “Bikes R Us”:

  • A page that has a large extended navigation displaying links to 50 other sub-pages across the site.
  • The content of the page contains several rendering components that also contain links to a number of products across various categories.
  • The code to construct this page traverses not only the tree to build the navigation but also numerous product sub-categories to gather all the links.
  • Developer A – has had no proper exposure to caching strategies before and marks the page as done without any HTML caching settings enabled.
  • The site goes live a month later.
  • “Bikes R Us” marketing team starts advertising via EDMs a month later and things go really well. The campaign also goes viral on Social Media with a bike offer too good to refuse.
  • The page that developer A built experiences more traffic than ever expected.
  • Unfortunately, with no caching the code to construct the page is hit again and again.
  • Data layer and Item caching do assist to a point, however, Developer A never increased the default cache limits so calls to other pages are reducing the effectiveness of these layers overall.
  • After a few hours, traffic to the website increases to the point that the server runs out of CPU capacity and starts sending back 500 errors instead of serving up pages.

The scenario above is entirely avoidable when a proper caching strategy is completed as part of the development. Ideally, the caching strategy should be completed as each component of the website is developed and then tested to save on double handling. The caching strategy should then be reviewed, double checked and fully in place before a full performance test is done on the website.

Unfortunately, what often happens on big site builds is the deadline looms and the caching strategy which should be verified before go-live gets forgotten about. Failure to do so causes severe performance issues and leads to the client asking questions a few weeks/months later.

Incorrectly Configured Cache

On the opposite side of the coin, an incorrectly tuned cache can also cause havoc with some areas of the site. Examples of this include Web Forms for Marketeers and member portals. The caching of forms or components that contain data related to you members will:

  • Cause forms to behave with unexpected behaviour
  • Potentially show sensitive user data belonging to one user to many other users
  • XDB personalised components may behave in an unexpected manner.

 

XDB and Caching

In general, it’s fairly difficult to turn on caching for those components that need to react to personalisation on a per-user basis.  The problem is if your entire homepage is making use of personalisation you may not be able to cache certain components on that page at all. The inability to cache those components properly means the specifications of the server will need to be ramped up to deal with the additional processing that occurs with each page hit.

The “Vary By User” rendering setting is probably going to help you on personalised components up to a point.

Caching and Performance Testing

Caching is closely related to performance testing and your overall caching strategy will affect the outcome of these tests. The aim of the performance test is to benchmark what amount of traffic your production environment can handle during this process.

If your hosting in the cloud why not setup your servers to autoscale when needed.

An often-forgotten point is that performance testing should be complemented by stress testing above and beyond your expected traffic requirements. The main aim of this stress test is to identify the breaking point of your productions environments so that you have this knowledge for the future. This will help your team to prepare for those extra-ordinary traffic events.

When it comes to performance/stress testing there is little point running the test from a single source or development computer. You will be limited by a single network connections capacity and this is not a true test particularly for those making use of cloud hosting.

We always recommend using a service like blazemeter or Azure load tests.

** Thanks to Derek Aceik’s resident DevOps extraordinaire for helping me with the above recommendations.

An additional cache setting

It’s worth getting to know each of the HTML/Rendering cache settings well as you will need to have a detailed knowledge of each of these when looking at your strategy overall. One particular setting we found was missing that we tend to use regularly was the ability to only have a variation based on “Vary By URL”. A member of the team (Jose D) was kind enough to hook this up for us on a recent project. We are happy to share this with the wider community in hope that you also find it useful for your projects.

Increase the default cache limits

Outrageously this is also an often-overlooked part of getting your Sitecore project onto production. The performance tuning guide pretty much spells this out for you. You need to increase the default caching sizes that come out of the box with a Sitecore vanilla install. The caching limits provided are appropriate for developer machines but grossly inadequate for production environments which really need a healthy cache size to be responsive. For instance, out of the box, the HTML cache size is 50MB while on a reasonable production server this should start at 100MB as a baseline. That’s 20 times increase.

Take a look at Sitecore’s performance tuning document in order to get these settings correct. Section 4.1

Fine Tuning

Configuring the cache correctly for your production server can take some time to get right. You will need to monitor the /sitecore/admin/cache.aspx page.

In order to get these settings right have a good look at Sitecore’s performance tuning document. Section 4.2 is very important and give you a guide as to how cache tuning should be performed.

Prefetch Cache

Remember that fine-tuning your site will involve adjusting the items that Sitecore prefetches on startup. Once again the performance tuning document has all the details on how to do this. It’s another important step to get things running smoothly. See the references at the bottom of this article to see how the Pre-fetch cache fits into the overall caching architecture.

Sitecore.Caching.CustomCache

By implementing caching within your code to wrap complex logic you can save your server a lot of processing effort. Particularly around I/O intensive code where a lot of data to be shifted/filtered/searched it really is a great idea and worth adding to your Sitecore coding arsenal.

To get up to speed on how to build a custom cache we recommend reading this document.

The main way to achieve your custom cache is to write an implementation of Sitecore.Caching.CustomCache. You can then wrap your logic with the custom cache to prevent the same code being hit every time.

var cacheKey = string.Concat(
string.Format("MyCustomKey-{0}", Sitecore.Context.Language.Name), ":", filterParam);

var result = this.sitecoreCacheService.GetOrAddToCache(cacheKey, () =>
{ 
 ... 
 return "MyDataResult"
});

return result;

 

Cloudflare / Akamai considerations

Many sites rely on a third-party service provider to sit in front of their website to add an additional layer of caching. This is great and helps sites scale to meet demand. It shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to do a caching strategy at all on the Sitecore side.

Remember that pages are likely to sit in the 3rd party cache only for a certain period of time. So, if your site has 1000s of content pages that are each only accessed semi-regularly the user will bi-pass the third-party cache altogether. In these cases, the Sitecore cache becomes the next line of defence.

With regard to caching and Cloudflare. The cache will only kick in on the media library and your Web API endpoints if the Cache-Control header is set to public and given a valid MaxAge.

  1. For your WEB API endpoints, we found it handy to use the attribute mentioned in this stack overflow page.  See CacheControlAttribute.cs
  2. For media library URLs you need to enable:
<!--  MEDIA RESPONSE - CACHEABILITY The HttpCacheability is used to set media response headers. Possible values: NoCache, Private, Public, Server, ServerAndNoCache, ServerAndPrivate Default value: public--> <setting name="MediaResponse.Cacheability" value="public" />

 

Disable Caching on CM, Enable on CD

Remember to disable HTML caching on CM environments as it may cause issues with the Experience Explorer and Preview modes.

  • Set cacheHtml=”false”  on your CM servers <site> node.

You can also disable the media cache on CM Servers so that content editor never get cached images:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/" xmlns:set="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/set/" xmlns:role="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/role/">
 <sitecore role:require="Standalone OR ContentDelivery OR ContentManagement OR Processing">
 <settings>
 <!--
 CACHING ENABLED
 Determines if caching should be enabled at all
 Specify 'true' to enable caching and 'false' to disable all caching
 -->
 <setting patch:instead="*[@name='Media.CachingEnabled']" role:require="Standalone OR ContentManagement" name="Media.CachingEnabled" value="false" />
 <setting patch:instead="*[@name='Media.CachingEnabled']" role:require="ContentDelivery" name="Media.CachingEnabled" value="true" />
 </settings>
 </sitecore>
</configuration>

 

Note: 

  • Don’t change the setting called “Caching.Enabled” on CM servers.

Reference Material:

Understanding the cache layers

The following is taken from http://learnsitecore.cmsuniverse.net/Developers/Articles/2009/07/CachingOverview.aspx

wcCcM

Definitions:

These definitions are described in the following stack overflow post:

Prefetch cache

This is item data pulled out from the database when the site starts up – from the Sitecore docs:

“Each database prefetch cache entry represents an item in a database. Database prefetch cache entries include all field values for all versions of that item, and information about the parent and children of the item.

Populating the prefetch cache results in smoother user experiences immediately after application restarts. Excessive use of prefetch caches can affect the time required for application initialization.”

Data cache

This cache is to minimise the round trips to the database, it again pulls item information from Sitecore but the difference being it does it when the item is requested (rather than start-up of the site); it will pull the data from the pre-fetch cache if it’s there or go back to the database if not.

Item cache

This cache has objects of type Sitecore.Data.Items.Item which would be used in code; when an item is requested in code it will look in the Item cache, then back up the data cache and up again to pre fetch cache and finally to the database.

HTML cache

This output caches the HTML from sublayouts and renderings, there are a nice level of configuration to only cache the HTML based on querystrings, different data etc.

 

1 comment on “Sitecore Helix: Lets Talk Layers”

Sitecore Helix: Lets Talk Layers

Here are some notes from the decision-making process our team uses with regard to what goes where and in which layer. Of course, the helix documentation does go over the guidelines but it’s not until you start working with the architecture that things begin to become clear.

Project Layer

Definition: The Project layer provides the context of the solution. This means the actual cohesive website or channel output from the implementation, such as the page types, layout and graphical design. It is on this layer that all the features of the solution are stitched together into a cohesive solution that fits the requirements.

Comment: The project layer is probably the most straightforward layer to understand. In our project, the modules in this layer remained lightweight and mostly contain razor view files that allow content editors to build up the HTML structure of the pages.

The website content (under home), page templates and component templates are serialized by Unicorn and also live in this layer.

It’s also worth mentioning one particular gotcha you may hit in development to do with template inheritance and you can read more in this blog post.

Feature or Foundation?

Feature Definition: The Feature layer contains concrete features of the solution as understood by the business owners and editors of the solution, for example news, articles, promotions, website search, etc. The features are expressed as seen in the business domain of the solution and not by technology, which means that the responsibility of a Feature layer module is defined by the intent of the module as seen by a business user and not by the underlying technology. Therefore, the module’s responsibility and naming should never be decided by specific technologies but rather by the module’s business value or business responsibility.

Discussion: For our feature modules, we aimed for single concrete features that are independent of each other. They may contain views, templates, controllers, renderings, configuration changes and related business logic code to tie it all together. The point is to always stick to the rule: “Classes that change together are packaged together”.

When building feature modules, it’s also very handy to think about the feature modules removal as you build it. Keep asking yourself how easy would it be to roll back this module and what would I need to do. Doing so will help you to keep those dependencies under control.

Foundation Definition: The lowest level layer in Helix is the Foundation layer, which as the name suggests forms the foundation of your solution. When a change occurs in one of these modules it can impact many other modules in the solution. This mean that these modules should be the most stable in your solution in term of the Stable Dependencies Principle.

 

Discussion: We found that our foundation modules usually consist of frameworks or code that provide a structural functionality to support the web application as a whole. Each foundation module may be used by multiple feature modules to provide them with the support they need to run properly. Our foundation modules contain API calls, configuration, ORM structures (Glass Mapper), initialisation code, interfaces and abstract base classes.

An important point is that unlike feature layer modules, the foundation layer modules can have dependencies to other foundation layer modules. If this was not the case it would be very difficult to construct the foundation layer in the first place.

For the most part, the team can make some fairly quick decisions about what goes where in the initial project planning. And what goes where is fairly obvious after you get familiar with the habitat example project. The main dilemma you’re going to encounter is around where your repositories and services (key business logic) might need to sit.

Business LogicWhat goes where! Help!

Let’s consider the definitions above, they seem straightforward enough. However, in agile projects where things may change rapidly or requirements are not immediately clear (which happens a lot), you’re inevitably going to need to make some judgment calls.

What am I talking about with the above statement, well let’s say one developer codes up a feature module at the beginning of that project. At first, it seems like that particular portion of code is only required by that particular feature. Down the track a requirement surfaces whereby the same business logic needs to be used in another Feature module. Helix rules dictate:

  • Classes that change together are packaged together.
  • No dependencies between feature projects should exist.

A lesser developer may be tempted at this point to duplicate the code in both feature modules to get the job done quickly. This, however, breaks some fairly important fundamental coding standards that many of us try to stick to. Step back to consider the technical debt that duplicate code leave behind vs dependencies between your Helix feature modules.

The solution to this dilemma; it’s time to refactor that feature logic and move it into the foundation layer. After which any feature modules that needs to reference the same code can reference it in the foundation layer.

Remember “with great power comes great responsibility” and this is especially true when touching code in the foundation layer. The code you touch in the foundation layer should be highly stable and well tested as the helix guidelines suggest.

Was the original decision a mistake?

On the flip side of the coin its worth considering that it wasn’t a mistake to put that piece of code in the feature layer to start with. Technically if no one else needed to use the code at the time and it was reasonably unforeseen that anyone else would need to use it, then it probably was the correct call.

Accept that things may change

The team members on your helix project will need to be flexible and accepting of change. I think it’s worth being prepared for some open discussions within your team about what goes in the foundation layer and what goes in the feature layer. It’s certainly going to be open to interpretation and a topic of debate. A team that can work together and be open to a change of direction within their code structure will help the code base stay within the helix guidelines as the project evolves.

Good luck!

 

2 comments on “Sitecore Geo-Spatial Results with Azure Search”

Sitecore Geo-Spatial Results with Azure Search

This is the second blog post in this series. In the first blog post, I spoke about setting up Azure Search.

In this post, I am going to talk about using a Geo-Spatial lookup query that Azure Search has built in and the associated Index data type called Edm.GeographyPoint

The Azure Search overview can be found here and the configuration document here.

If you’re simply looking for a working example jump over to our GitHub repository that contains the full working helix site.

https://github.com/Aceik/Sitecore-Azure-Search-Spatial

You can also find the latest version of the Sitecore package here:

https://github.com/Aceik/Sitecore-Azure-Search-Spatial/tree/master/lib/Package


Notice on the configuration document that it has a list of EDM data types and it also references the document from Microsoft which has the same list.

A notable exception is the that EDM.GeographyPoint is mentioned in the Microsoft document but not the Sitecore EDM list. So if you need to implement a geo-spatial lookup and get back results based on a latitude and longitude that isn’t possible with the Sitecore Azure Search provider out of the box.

If you dig a little deeper you can see that EDM.GeographyPoint is not in the search code. Have a look at the source code in Sitecore.ContentSearch.Azure.Schema.dll CloudSearchTypeMapper.GetNativeType()

We asked Sitecore support when and if EDM.GeographyPoint would be supported by the Sitecore provider and the answer was no plans in the immediate future.

The solution we came up with to solve this problem essentially involved two steps:

  • Getting data of type EDM.GeographyPoint into the Azure Search Index.
  • Performing a Spatial Query on the Azure Search Index (using geo.distance) in a timely manner.

To support both of the above operations we had to do a little digging into the core Sitecore Azure search code. Read on to find out about the solution we came up with or jump on over to the GitHub repository to look over the code.

Getting data into the index

As noted above the EDM.GeographyPoint data type simply isn’t coded into the Sitecore DLLs.  You can see this by looking at CloudSearchTypeMapper.GetNativeType() inside the DLL Sitecore.ContentSearch.Azure.Schema.dll.

If you’re still not convinced have a look in the Sitecore.ContentSearch.Azure.Http.dll

EdmTypes

The next thing we tried was adding Edm.GeographyPoint as a field converter.

Once again we hit a brick wall with this solution as that doesn’t change the fact that Edm.GeographyPoint is not actually a known cloud type in the core DLLs.

If you look at the error message you get when attempting to add Edm.GeographyPoint as a Converter it tells us that CloudIndexFieldStorageValueFormatter.cs is attempting to look up the native EDM type.

Exception: System.NotSupportedException
Message: Not supported type: ‘Edm.GeographyPoint’
Source: Sitecore.ContentSearch.Azure at Sitecore.ContentSearch.Azure.Schema.CloudSearchTypeMapper.GetNativeType(String edmTypeName) at Sitecore.ContentSearch.Azure.Converters.CloudIndexFieldStorageValueFormatter.FormatValueForIndexStorage(Object value, String fieldName) at Sitecore.ContentSearch.Azure.CloudSearchDocumentBuilder.AddField(String fieldName, Object fieldValue, Boolean append)
….

Working around this limitation took a bit of trial and error but eventually, we nailed it down to the following steps:

  1. Created a new search configuration called spatialAzureIndexConfiguration.
  2. Create a new index configuration based on the new configuration in step 1.
  3. In the search configuration from step 1.
    • Add the following computed field.
    • <fields hint="raw:AddComputedIndexField">
       <field fieldName="geo_location" type="Aceik.Foundation.CloudSpatialSearch.IndexWrite.Computed.GeoLocationField, Aceik.Foundation.CloudSpatialSearch" />
       </fields>
    • Add a new cloud type mapper to map to EDM.GeographyPoint
    • <cloudTypeMapper ref="contentSearch/indexConfigurations/defaultCloudIndexConfiguration/cloudTypeMapper">
       <maps hint="raw:AddMap">
       <map type="Aceik.Foundation.CloudSpatialSearch.Models.GeoJson, Aceik.Foundation.CloudSpatialSearch" cloudType="Edm.GeographyPoint"/>
       </maps>
       </cloudTypeMapper>
    • Replace the standard index field storage value formatter with the following the following class.
    • <indexFieldStorageValueFormatter type="Aceik.Foundation.CloudSpatialSearch.IndexWrite.Formatter.GeoCloudIndexFieldStorageValueFormatter, Aceik.Foundation.CloudSpatialSearch">
       <converters hint="raw:AddConverter">
         ...
       </converters>
       </indexFieldStorageValueFormatter>
  4. Our new formatter GeoCloudIndexFieldStorageValueFormatter.cs  inherits from the formatter in the core dlls and overrides the method FormatValueForIndexStorage. It detects if the field name contains “_geo” and basically prevents CloudSearchTypeMapper.GetNativeType from ever running and falling over.

 

The computed field GeoLocationField returns a GeoJson POCO which is serialised to the GeoJson format (http://geojson.org/) which is required for storage in Azure Search Index.

Getting data out of the index

The GitHub solution demonstrates two solutions.

Both solutions above at the end of the day allow you to perform an OData Expression query against your Azure Search Indexes. Using the “geo.distance” filter allows us to perform spatial queries using the computing power of the cloud.

The only downside is that search results returned don’t actually include the distance as a value. They are correctly filtered and ordered by the distance yet the actual distance value itself is not returned. We suggest voting for this change on this ticket :). For now, we suggest using the System.Device.Location.GeoCoordinate to figure out the distance between two coordinates.


References:

In researching for possible solutions already out there we had a look at the following implementations for Lucene and SOLR:

  1. Sitecore Solr Spatial: https://github.com/ehabelgindy/sitecore-solr-spatial
  2. Sitecore Lucene Spatial: https://github.com/aokour/Sitecore.ContentSearch.Spatial

Special Thanks:

  • Ed Khoze –  For the research, he did and help with the initial prototype. Plus google address lookup advice.
  • Jose Dominguez – For getting the OData filtering query working.

 

0 comments on “Aceik’s Jason Horne Wins Sitecore “Most Valuable Professional” Award”

Aceik’s Jason Horne Wins Sitecore “Most Valuable Professional” Award

Technology2016Elite distinction awarded for exceptional contributions to the Sitecore community

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia — February 22, 2016 — Aceik, today announced that Jason Horne, Founder and Technical Lead has been named a “Most Valuable Professional (MVP)” by Sitecore, the global leader in experience management software. Jason Horne was one of only 177 people worldwide to be named a Sitecore Technology MVP this year. There are more than 10,000 certified developers in Sitecore’s global network.

Now in its tenth year, Sitecore’s MVP program recognizes individual technology, digital strategy, and commerce advocates who share their Sitecore passion and expertise to offer positive customer experiences that drive business results. The Sitecore Technology MVP Award recognizes the most active Sitecore experts from around the world who participate in online and offline communities to share their knowledge with other Sitecore partners and customers.

Aceik provides a complete range of Sitecore services; architecture, development, integration, support and maintenance, intranets, expert help, existing site audits and upgrades. As Sitecore specialists, Aceik strives to provide excellence in every Sitecore project we  undertake.

Aceik contributes to the Sitecore community through thought leadership content on our blog, the Sitecore community blog and stack overflow. We co-founded the Sitecore Melbourne meetup group, founded the Sitecore ANZ certified developers group and continue to be involved in the ongoing management of these groups with the goal to share knowledge, learn and build the Sitecore community within Australia and New Zealand.

“We are grateful for the leadership, expertise, and ongoing contributions that Jason Horne has made to the Sitecore community,” said Pieter Brinkman, Director of Developer and Platform Evangelism, Sitecore. “Jason Horne has demonstrated a mastery of our technology and exemplifies the spirit of Sitecore.”

Sitecore’s experience platform combines web content management, omnichannel digital delivery, customer insight and engagement, and strategic digital marketing tools into a single, unified platform. The platform is incredibly easy to use, capturing every minute interaction—and intention—that customers and prospects have with a brand, both on a website and across other digital channels. The end-to-end experience technology works behind the scenes to deliver context marketing to individual customers, so that they engage in relevant brand experiences that earn loyalty and achieve results.

Aceik is a boutique web development company specialising in the technical implementation and support of Sitecore solutions. 100% of our work is Sitecore related and we pride ourselves on being experts in our field.

Jason Horne, Founder and Technical Lead
Aceik
jasonhorne@aceik.com.au
0426971867

0 comments on “Automate friendly field descriptions”

Automate friendly field descriptions

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As you may well know when creating and naming fields in Sitecore we also need to create a friendly title for the content editors. By default Sitecore doesn’t make this as easy as it could be and therefore there are a number of naming conventions and solutions for this simple but fundamental issue.

I have always taken the approach of camel casing my field names. It makes sense from a coding perspective. It is a good practice as most developers understand this convention and its benefits. Also when integrating with ORMs such as glass a camel case field name will map directly to the property name of the class without additional mapping attributes.

The obvious issue with using camel case field names is that the default value the content editors see is the field name. Camel case is great for developers but not as good for content editors, so we need to manually write a friendly display description for the editors. This leads to double entry of field name and field description and then keeping this consistent.

Solution:

Auto generate a friendly field description based on the field name by splitting the camel case and adding spaces. For additional information sometimes required we use the help text option.

Example:

Field Name:

PageTitle

Generated Field Description:

PageTitle1

Addition information:

PageTitle2

Implementation:

Tap into the item on saving event and add some basic code to auto generate a display title based on the field name.

namespace Aceik.Framework.SC.Extensions.Events
{
    using System;
    using System.Text.RegularExpressions;

    using Sitecore.Data;
    using Sitecore.Data.Items;
    using Sitecore.Events;

    /// <summary>The item on saving events.</summary>
    public class ItemOnSavingEvents
    {
        /// <summary>The field title name.</summary>
        private const string FieldNameTitle = "Title";

        /// <summary>The field template id.</summary>
        private readonly ID fieldTemplateId = new ID("{455A3E98-A627-4B40-8035-E683A0331AC7}");

        /// <summary>The on item save.</summary>
        /// <param name="sender">The sender.</param>
        /// <param name="args">The args.</param>
        public void OnItemSaving(object sender, EventArgs args)
        {
            var contextItem = Event.ExtractParameter(args, 0) as Item;

            if (contextItem == null)
            {
                return;
            }

            if (contextItem.TemplateID == this.fieldTemplateId && contextItem.Fields[FieldNameTitle] != null)
            {
                contextItem.Fields[FieldNameTitle].SetValue(SplitCamelCase(contextItem.Name), false);
            }
        }

        /// <summary>The split camel case.</summary>
        /// <param name="input">The input.</param>
        /// <returns>The <see cref="string"/>.</returns>
        private static string SplitCamelCase(string input)
        {
            return Regex.Replace(input, "([A-Z])", " $1", RegexOptions.Compiled).Trim();
        }
    }
}

Patch in the following config:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
  <sitecore>
  <events timingLevel="custom">
      <event name="item:saving">
        <handler patch:instead="*[@type='Sitecore.Tasks.ItemEventHandler, Sitecore.Kernel']" type="Aceik.Framework.SC.Extensions.Events.ItemOnSavingEvents, Aceik.Framework.SC.Extensions" method="OnItemSaving"/>
      </event>
    </events>
  </sitecore>
</configuration>

As the description is being auto generated it restricts your ability to add a custom description, however you can add additional information to the display title by adding help text. This blog explains it well: http://firebreaksice.com/sitecore-item-and-field-names/