Hey, it's Saturday night. Let's take a look at the Sitecore 9.1 Initial Release that was made public earlier this week. I've heard a lot of positive things about this release and there were a lot of appealing features showcased at the recent Sitecore Symposium. I figured I'd spend some time taking a high level look at this release and use this post as a way to detail my experience installing it as well as outline some of the new features I'm excited about.

Documentation

Whoa. Check out https://doc.sitecore.com/. This site is a huge step forward for Sitecore documentation. I love the version selectors in the top navigation. They remind me of the .NET version selectors of MSDN documentation which are extremely useful.

Documentation is available all the way back to Sitecore 6.0 in the archive. Older versions will download as PDF's but it's going to save developers a lot of time trying to find the information they're looking for now that everything is in a central place.

Quick Install Guide

Where have you been all my life? A developer workstation focused guide is now available to download. It lists all of the prerequisites required to install this version and how to actually complete the installation with SIF. I love the prerequisite installer and it will officially make me stop missing installing Sitecore with ZIP files and database backups.

Installation Thoughts

Hit this step in the quick install guide "Download the XP0 Configuration files 9.1.0 rev. 001564.zip file from the Sitecore Downloads page." This file isn't directly downloadable but is bundled in the "Packages for XP Single" ZIP file you'll need to download anyway.

While installing prerequisites, I encountered Install-SitecoreConfiguration : The 'Install-SitecoreConfiguration' command was found in the module. Argh. This is a fairly new machine. I wrote about fixing this common Powershell error here. After fixing it, prerequisites were installed like magic. Sit back and enjoy some music while it does its thing.

Don't forget to start Solr before running the SIF installer. If you receive TLS trust errors, make sure your SSL certificate is trusted on your system. There are some other hacks out there you can find by googling as well that will ignore TLS issues and bind trust every certificate. Trust your certificate though.

If you receive "Start-Service : Failed to start service 'Sitecore XConnect Search Indexer - sc910.xconnect-IndexWorker", check to make sure the license you copied into your "ResourceFiles" folder isn't expired. Oops.

RIP admin/b. A password gets generated and printed out at the end of the SIF installation process. This is another great step forward and should prevent installations from being accidentally exposed with the default password.

Love at first load

Sitecore login screen

First really visible change is when you try to access /sitecore to login into Sitecore, you're redirected to a new Identity Server login URL. The look and feel is the same as the login page that we're already used to.

Dashboard after logging in

After logging in, we're presented with the familiar dashboard. Email Experience Manager (EXM), which was included by default starting in Sitecore 9.0 Update 1, is the first dashboard icon in the list. This 9.1 release contains a fair amount of improvements and enhancements, which are listed in the 9.1 release notes. I hope to dig into EXM a little in the future but a good resource I've been following is SitecoreHacker's 25 Days of Sitecore EXM. Certainly the first Sitecore related Advent calendar I've ever seen.

Scanning through the release notes, I noticed this: "Search - support for the Lucene search provider will be deprecated in Sitecore XP 9.2." It'll be sad to see it go but it's abundantly clear that Sitecore has been pushing site's towards using Solr as the default. Gone are the days of having different indexes on every server.

Layout service output of the default home item

Sitecore Javascript Servers (JSS)! General availability was released side by side with Sitecore 9.1. There's a lot of great documentation, including a Quick Start guide, here. I went through the Server Setup part which consisted of installing a package from the JSS download page. After installing the package I was able to create an API key and verify the installation was successful. One of the most notable changes here is that API Key's are now stored in the master database.

Sitecore Cortex is now installed with Sitecore 9.1 as well. Cortex allows machine learning to be integrated within the Sitecore platform. There were some really great talks at Symposium that covered some of the features of Cortex and I'll be exploring some of what's possible in the future.

Conclusion

This feels like a pretty solid release from Sitecore. It feels familiar from an interface perspective but has plenty of new features packed in it. I'm really excited about JSS being generally available now and I'll be really focusing on digging in further and building some real things using it. There are some nice Sitecore Forms changes that I'll be exploring later as well.

From a developer perspective, the quick start guide was a good step forward. I did have a few issues with having my license expired when I went to install and I kinda wish I could uninstall that incomplete install but I think it may be something I have to clean up manually. SIF still feels like magic and is light years ahead of the old fashion way of installing Sitecore.