Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sitecore Azure Search: Sharing a Search Service in a Development Environment



When developing on the Sitecore Platform using Azure Search, the cloud-based service behaves differently, and so it is best to develop against an actual search service to ensure that you uncover any unexpected behavior before pushing to a higher environment that is using Azure Search.

I put together a quick patch file that updates the Sitecore Index names, allowing your development team to share a Azure Search service.

Simply set the environment variable and drop this file in the "Include/zzz" folder.

Note: There is a platform dependency on the "sitecore_marketingdefinitions_master" and "sitecore_marketingdefinitions_web" naming so those 2 indexes are excluded from the patch.

In a development environment, we can live with sharing these indexes.

Update: Kudos to John Rappel for suggesting to use a variable to make the implementation simple.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Exploring Sitecore Managed Cloud Part 1: Tiers, Sizing, Provisioning and Upgrades



I have been working within a client's Sitecore Managed Cloud environment for the last several months, and wanted to share some insights gained from my experience in a series of blog posts, this being the first.

Tier Configuration

Sitecore Managed Cloud Hosting offers a variety of tiers based on traffic volume.

Each tier has a recommended hardware configuration, as shown here:

When you commit to a tier, Sitecore's Managed Cloud Team will provision your Azure infrastructure to support that tier. You will have the ability to increase to the next tier when traffic increases are expected.

If traffic exceeds the threshold of the currently subscribed tier, an overage charge will be applied. From what I understand, the overage cost is about 25% greater than the additional cost of jumping to the next tier.

Tier Sizing and Overage

Sitecore Managed Cloud has the concept of an “included Azure spend” linked to each tier.

If you need to scale up or out, and the cost associated with your scaling goes above your “included Azure spend”,  it is up to you to pay an overage fee. This fee is based on an “overage multiplier” that Sitecore provides you with.

Here are some overage examples:

  • Additional Traffic beyond tier
  • Additional Web Apps Used (Add 1 or more Content Delivery Web App)
  • Exceed Storage Limits (loading large amounts of videos or pdfs)
  • Exceeding Storage Limits for xDB

XP–XSmall XP–Small XP–Medium XP–Large XP-XLarge
TRAFFIC (in visits/mo.) 0–100k 100k –200k 200k –1MM 1MM –5MM 5MM –10MM
Content Management 1 (B2) 1 (B2) 1 (B2) 1 (B2) 1 (B2)
Content Delivery 1 (B2) 2 (B2) 3 (B2) 4 (S2) 8 (S3)
Bandwidth 20 GB 40 GB 40 GB 60 GB 100 GB

The Azure App Service Plan pricing page provides details regarding what B2s and S3s are:

Sitecore recommends proactive increase of a given topology’s tiers when traffic increases are expected. However, the alternative overage charge poses only a moderate increase in cost to maintain site performance during unexpected, temporary spikes in volume. It also can serve as an indicator that advancement to a larger tier should be considered.

Infrastructure Provisioning

Before provisioning the new infrastructure, the Sitecore Managed Cloud Hosting Team will request that you provide them with the following  information:

  1. Sitecore Version (Eg: Sitecore XP 9.0 Update-1)
  2. Logical Name (Eg: MySuperSolution)
  3. Location of Deployment (Eg: East US)
  4. Location of your Microsoft Application Insights Resources (Eg: East US)
  5. Microsoft Live IDs who can access your Managed Cloud set
From my experience, provisioning will take about a day.

NOTE: As mentioned here: Sitecore provisions you with a temporary license file that is valid for one month. When the temporary license expires, Sitecore stops working, therefore it is important that you upload a valid permanent license.xml file as soon as possible.


Unfortunately, you as a partner or customer will be responsible for upgrades after the Sitecore Managed Cloud Hosting Team has provisioned your infrastructure.

Sitecore initially provisioned our infrastructure using Sitecore 9 Initial Release. After a couple weeks, Sitecore Update-1 was released, and we opened a ticket to request for them to provision all environments on the newer version.

The only reason they did this for us was because we hadn't deployed anything to the new environments, and they could simply delete the existing and provision the new ones using the updated Azure Web Packages.

So the point is - they will NOT upgrade your environment after you have deployed your custom solution into it.

Monday, April 2, 2018

SolrProvider SolrSearchFieldConfiguration Error After Upgrade from Sitecore 8.1 Update-3 to 8.2 Update-6



In a previous post, I wrote about upgrading an existing client's large, multisite 8.1 rev. 160519 (8.1 Update-3) instance to 8.2 rev. 171121 (8.2 Update-6).

After multiple rounds of testing, I deployed the upgraded instance to our client's Staging server (Windows Server 2008 R2). When navigating to the Content Editor, I ran into the following Solr related error:

Unable to cast object of type 'System.Collections.Concurrent.ConcurrentBag`1[Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SolrSearchFieldConfiguration]' to type 'System.Collections.Generic.IReadOnlyCollection`1[Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SolrSearchFieldConfiguration]'.

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.InvalidCastException: Unable to cast object of type 'System.Collections.Concurrent.ConcurrentBag`1[Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SolrSearchFieldConfiguration]' to type 'System.Collections.Generic.IReadOnlyCollection`1[Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SolrSearchFieldConfiguration]'.

Digging In

After reviewing the stack trace and decompiling the Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.dll , I focused on the SolrFieldNameTranslator.StripKnownExtensions method in the SolrFieldNameTranslator class:

1:  public string StripKnownExtensions(string fieldName)  
2:    {  
3:     fieldName = this.StripKnownCultures(fieldName);  
4:     foreach (SolrSearchFieldConfiguration availableType in (IEnumerable<SolrSearchFieldConfiguration>) this.fieldMap.GetAvailableTypes())  
5:     {  
6:      if (fieldName.StartsWith("_", StringComparison.Ordinal))  
7:      {  
8:       if (!fieldName.StartsWith("__", StringComparison.Ordinal))  
9:        break;  
10:      }  
11:      string str = availableType.FieldNameFormat.Replace("{0}", string.Empty);  
12:      if (fieldName.EndsWith(str, StringComparison.Ordinal))  
13:       fieldName = fieldName.Substring(0, fieldName.Length - str.Length);  
14:      if (fieldName.StartsWith(str, StringComparison.Ordinal))  
15:       fieldName = fieldName.Substring(str.Length, fieldName.Length);  
16:     }  
17:     return fieldName;  
18:    }  
Looking at line 4 above, the GetAvailableTypes method is shown below:

  private readonly ConcurrentBag<SolrSearchFieldConfiguration> availableTypes = new ConcurrentBag<SolrSearchFieldConfiguration>();  
  public IReadOnlyCollection<SolrSearchFieldConfiguration> GetAvailableTypes()  
    return (IReadOnlyCollection<SolrSearchFieldConfiguration>) this.availableTypes;  

As you can see in the code, when calling the GetAvailableTypes method, it casts the ConcurrentBag<SolrSearchFieldConfiguration> type to IReadOnlyCollection<SolrSearchFieldConfiguration> and this is where the "Unable to cast object" error message came from:

Unable to cast object of type 'System.Collections.Concurrent.ConcurrentBag`1[Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SolrSearchFieldConfiguration]' to type 'System.Collections.Generic.IReadOnlyCollection`1[Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SolrSearchFieldConfiguration]'.


According to, the ConcurrentBag<T> class implements IReadOnlyCollection<T> interface in .NET Framework 4.5 and above. However, according to MSDN, in .NET Framework 4.0 it doesn't implement the IReadOnlyCollection<T> interface. The IReadOnlyCollection<T> interface was introduced in .NET Framework 4.5.

I went ahead and verified that the .NET Framework 4.5.2 was installed on the server. Next I checked my Web.config, and confirmed that the compilation targetFramework was set to "4.5.2" and that my httpRuntime targetFramework was set to "4.5.2":

    <compilation targetFramework="4.5.2"/>
    <httpRuntime targetFramework="4.5.2"/>

I then tried to repair the .NET framework, and even rebooted the server after the repair, and it didn't solve the problem.

Microsoft Security Update Woes

It was obvious that my 2 initial assumptions about not having the .NET Framework 4.5.2 installed or having a configuration issue were wrong.

As it turned out, .NET 4.5.2 did in fact contain the System.Collections.Concurrent.ConcurrentBag<T> class from System.dll which implemented the IReadOnlyCollection<T> interface, but there were a series of security updates that were rolled out by Microsoft, where the ConcurrentBag<T> did not implement the IReadOnlyCollection<T>. The security updates were built based on .NET framework 4.0 which did not have IReadOnlyCollection<T> interface at all.

In order to check whether one of the aforementioned security updates was installed, you could review the version of C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0.30319\System.dll

For the regular .NET framework 4.5.2 this version looks like 4.5.2... , but if a security update was installed it will look like 4.0.30319.36388.

The Final Solution - So Simple It Hurt

Upgrading the .NET framework to 4.6.1 solved this issue because we were back to having the System.Collections.Concurrent.ConcurrentBag<T> class from System.dll which implemented the IReadOnlyCollection<T> interface.

Monday, February 26, 2018

My Upgrade Experience from Sitecore 8.1 Update-3 to 8.2 Update-6

I was assigned the task of upgrading an existing client's large, multisite 8.1 rev. 160519 (8.1 Update-3) instance to 8.2 rev. 171121 (8.2 Update-6).  This particular client wasn't ready to go all the way to version 9.0, but will do so in the near future.

It took me longer than anticipated to get things up and running, simply because I needed to perform some updates to their custom solution.

Side Notes

The Sitecore solution that I was upgrading was using Castle Windsor as the Inversion of Control container along with Glass Mapper.

Getting Ready

To get started, I navigated over to the site to arm myself with the files needed to perform the upgrade. The files that I downloaded from the site included:

  • Upgrade guide: Sitecore-8.2-Update-6-Upgrade-Guide.pdf
  • Sitecore update package: Sitecore 8.2 rev. 171121 (update package)
  • Configuration files for upgrade: Sitecore 8.2 rev. 171121 (config files)
  • Sitecore Update Installation Wizard: Sitecore Update Installation Wizard 2.0.2 rev. 170703
  • ZIP archive of the Sitecore site root folder: Sitecore 8.2 rev.

The software tools I use when performing upgrades are:

The road to 8.2 Update-6

These are the steps necessary to perform the upgrade:

Disabled xDB located in Sitecore instance \Website\App_Config\Include\Sitecore.Xdb.config
  • <setting name="Xdb.Enabled" value="false" />
  • <setting name="Xdb.Tracking.Enabled" value="false" />

The instance didn't have Email Experience and WFFM modules, so I didn't need disable their respective config files.

Ran the SQL database script called "CMS82_BeforeInstall.sql" located in \Sitecore 8.2 rev. 171121 (config files)\Database Upgrade Script on all Sitecore databases:
  • Core
  • Master
  • Web
  • Reporting (Analytics)

Installed the Sitecore Update Installation Wizard 2.0.2 rev. regular Sitecore package.

After it completed, I proceeded to install the "Sitecore 8.2 rev. 171121.update" update package using the installation wizard:  /sitecore/admin/UpdateInstallationWizard.aspx.

You will need to unzip the Sitecore 8.2 rev. 171121 (update package).zip in order to obtain the "update" file that Sitecore requires.

After clicking the "Analyze the package" button,  I opted NOT to install files as I preferred to start with a clean copy of the web root of Sitecore 8.2 Update-6.

I feel like this is a cleaner approach as it helps avoid having legacy cruft make its way into the new instance.

The package installation completed without any issues.

Instance Preparation and Comparing Files

I proceeded to stand up a clean version of Sitecore 8.2 Update-6 alongside my legacy 8.1 Update-3 instance and used the Beyond Compare app to compare the files. 

Apart from the Web.Config, the Sitecore.config was the next file where I saw the most differences.

Pro Tip: It is best practice is to move any differences that you find in vanilla config files to separate patch files. That way, life will be much easier for future upgrades.

Updating your Custom Solution

As some of the config files compared could exist in your custom solution, it is best to update the files in your solution as soon as you have completed your comparisons / merges on your Sitecore instance.

I worked in a new branch in source control, so that I could gradually update the files, and commit them as I made progress.

Sitecore 8.2 moved to .NET Framework version 4.5.2 from 4.5 in 8.1. So the target framework in each of the solution's projects needed to be updated:

NuGet Fun

The custom solution I was working with had all the Sitecore referenced assemblies in a single Nuget package, consumed via a custom feed. I opted to switch to the Sitecore public NuGet feed:

A lot of time was spent making sure the correct NuGet packages were loaded so that references where correct. As I was working with 8.2 rev. 171121, I matched my NuGet packages to the version by using the 8.2.171121, "NoReferences" packages.

As Jeremy Davis pointed out: "...the .NoReferences packages include the binary files but don’t have dependencies on other packages. So if you want to pick out individual DLLs without having to import all of the other assemblies that file depends on, choose these packages. It’s a bit more effort to manually add each of these that you need – but it means your project only refers to the specific files you want."

Note: When updating packages like WebGrease for example, it is important to match the assembly version in the Sitecore bin folder to the NuGet package versions.

Working with Solr

As I was using Solr as my search provider, I used Patrick's Powershell script to set my config files to use Solr.

The Sitecore instance was using the Single Instance Solr Configuration - Patch #391039, that I discussed in this post:

Support for Solr out-of-the box with this patch was added from Sitecore 8.2 Update-1 on, so I didn't have to include any configurations and files referencing this patch. Most of my work involved me changing my Solr index configurations

Sitecore.Support.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SwitchOnRebuildSolrSearchIndex, Sitecore.Support.391039

Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SwitchOnRebuildSolrSearchIndex, Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider


 <index id="my_custom_master_index" type="Sitecore.Support.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SwitchOnRebuildSolrSearchIndex, Sitecore.Support.391039">

 <index id="my_custom_master_index" type="Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider.SwitchOnRebuildSolrSearchIndex, Sitecore.ContentSearch.SolrProvider">

Bye Bye IsPageEditorEditing, Hello IsExperienceEditorEditing

As Darren mentioned in his post, Sitecore depreciated the variables IsPageEditor, and IsPageEditorEditing in Sitecore 8.0 Update 6, but kept the methods in all versions of 8.1. 

It would have been nice to have used the Obsolete attribute so that there wouldn't be such a surprise when upgrading to 8.2, and having all your usages of this method break your solution.

The fix was simple enough though. I performed a "find and replace" 



Problems with Castle Windsor

The solution I was working in was using Castle Windsor and Castle Core I opted to update Castle Windsor to version and Castle Core because I wanted the bug fixes and enhancements of the newer releases.

After deploying the updated assemblies to my upgraded Sitecore instance, I ran into the following error:

Could not load file or assembly 'Castle.Windsor, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=407dd0808d44fbdc' or one of its dependencies. The located assembly's manifest definition does not match the assembly reference.

Castle Core changed the AssemblyVersion attribute to only include major version numbers so that they could avoid assembly binding errors with future releases/upgrades of Castle Core:

In my case, the error was happening because I had assemblies that were compiled against the new AssemblyVersion strategy.

Applying the following assembly binding redirects in my Web.config, fixed the issue.

        <assemblyIdentity name="Castle.Core" publicKeyToken="407dd0808d44fbdc" culture="neutral" />
        <bindingRedirect oldVersion="" newVersion="" />

        <assemblyIdentity name="Castle.Windsor" publicKeyToken="407dd0808d44fbdc" culture="neutral" />
        <bindingRedirect oldVersion="" newVersion="" />

Minor Problem with Glass Mapper

Like Castle, I also opted to update Glass Mapper to a higher version. By doing so,  I ran into a small issue, similar to what is described here:

In my case, I discovered that I was simply missing the Glass.Mapper.Sc.Mvc references to the new assembly in the MVC 52 folder in the Nuget package, and the updated assembly in my Sitecore bin folder.

Minor Problem with WebGrease

After making my way through the above-mentioned problems, I ran into a WebGrease version issue. 

Inner Exception: Could not load file or assembly 'WebGrease, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35' or one of its dependencies. The located assembly's manifest definition does not match the assembly reference. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80131040)

The fix for this was to simply update my assembly binding redirect in the Web.config.

        <assemblyIdentity name="WebGrease" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" culture="neutral" />
        <bindingRedirect oldVersion="" newVersion="" />

        <assemblyIdentity name="WebGrease" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" culture="neutral" />
        <bindingRedirect oldVersion="" newVersion="1.6.5135.21930" />

Let Me Hear You Say "Hallelujah"!

After I completed all these updates and fixes, I was presented with a beautiful new instance of Sitecore 8.2 Update-6 where my site loaded beautifully and my logs were clean.

Per Sitecore's upgrade guide, I completed the following final steps:
  • Cleared the browser cache. 
  • Published the site. 
  • Rebuilt the search indexes and the link database. 
  • Redeployed marketing definitions. 

I made sure to review my Sitecore logs after performing all of these tasks, and was happy to report that they stayed error free.