Experience Sitecore XP


There has been a spattering of blogs out there walking through the installation and setup of Sitecore 9. My series has not deviated much beyond many of these. But I feel if I can write about it, explain it, then can claim a certain level of proficiency.

This is the last in the Sitecore Experience Platform install series and at the end of this you should be up and running.

Basic Terminology

As with any new version there is some updated/new terminology used to describe Sitecore and the different elements used for it.

Sitecore is divided into two distinct product areas.

  • Sitecore Experience Management (XM) – the content management and personalization features.
  • Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) – the content management, personalization, marketing and analytics features.

The Sitecore Experience Platform is divided into many logical areas:

  • Sitecore Experience Database (xDB) – where all experience data of the contact is stored.
  • xConnect – an independent service layer that connects the xDB to Experience Applications and allows other channels to add data to the xDB.
  • Experience Applications – with applications such as List Manager, Campaign Manager, FXM, and Experience Analytics.
  • Experience content management – with applications such as the Experience Editor and Experience Explorer
  • Sitecore Installation Framework (SIF) – to PowerShell and JSON based framework for installing Sitecore 9

Topology Options

To better manage the design of a Sitecore installation, there is now better detailed information on the types topology one might use with Sitecore

  • XP0 (XP Single) – Meant for development and testing scenarios. Sitecore Experience Platform is installed as two instances, Sitecore (content management) and xConnect
  • XM1 (XM Scaled) – Installs only the Sitecore Experience Manager elements for Content Delivery and Content Management roles. No xConnect or xDB is installed in this topology.
  • XP1 (XP Scaled) – Performs an installation of the full stack of Sitecore Experience Platform, allowing for each role to be assigned to specific servers.

Environment Needs

The Procedure

This will follow the steps I used to install an XP0 on my local machine for development. This will generate the following for us:

  • The Sitecore stand-alone website that handles content management, content delivery, reporting, and processing.
  • The xConnect and xDB web services.
  • Search indexes on the Solr search engine.
  • A Windows service that runs the Marketing Automation engine.
  • A Windows service that runs the xConnect indexer.
  • The Sitecore content and xDB databases.
  • A self-signed client certificate for secure communication between Sitecore and xConnect.
  • A self-signed server certificate for running HTTPS on the xConnect and xDB web services.

Getting the Basics Ready

  1. Install Solr (a minimum and maximum of 6.6.2 is required), Solr installation does require SSL setup if you follow my instructions for Solr this will be configured for you.
  2. Install Sitecore Installation Framework (SIF), see my article name
  3. Install Sitecore Foundation, see my article name
  4. Install Web Deploy 3.6 for Hosting Servers (done via the Web Platform Installer)
  5. Install Url Rewrite 2.1 (done via the Web Platform Installer)
  6. Install Microsoft SQL Server Data-Tier Application Framework (DacFx) version 2016
  7. To support DacFx, the target SQL server needs to allow users and logins at the DB level, this can be configured/confirmed by running the following
    SQL scriptsp_configure 'contained database authentication', 1;
  8. Extract the contents of Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (WDP XP0 packages).zip to a working directory. You should see the following
    • Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (OnPrem)_single.scwdp.zip
    • Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (OnPrem)_zp0xconnect.scwdp.zip
    • XP0 Configuration Files 9.0.1 rev 171219.zip
  9. Extract the contents of XP0 Configuration Files 9.0.1 rev 171219.zip, and you should have the following JSON configuration files:
    • sitecore-solr.json
    • sitecore-XP0.json
    • xconnect-createcert.json
    • xconnect-solr.json
    • xconnect-xp0.json

Customizing the Install Configurations

Update the parameters for each configuration file, while updating it is helpful to also include a default value for each parameter to help with future re-use as well as avoiding being prompted during the installation. (I recommend opening the parent folder in Visual Code, to easily access all the files as you work through updating them.)

NOTE: Any paths need to have the slash escaped via doubling it. ‘\’ become ‘\’.

Sitecore 9 Install - Configuration files


The first configuration file does manage is for allowing Sitecore to interact with our Solr install. There are four values of concern in this file.

Sitecore 9 Install - sitecore-solr.json

If you followed my Solr install instructions your values should be:

  1. https://sitecoresolr:8983/solr
  2. “C:\sitecoresolr\solr-6.6.2”, this is the path which the directory sever exists in.
  3. “solr-6.6.2”
  4. “coffeehousexp”


Sitecore 9 by default is meant to run as a secure application. This default secure state requires that SSL certificates are trusted and in-place at time of installation, instead of as an afterthought. On a local development machine, this means a self-signed certificate needs to be properly created and trusted.

This can easily be accomplished on a DEVELOPMENT machine via the xconnect-createcert.json file.

Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-createcert.json

  1. Set a name for the certificate, I recommend using the same value as used for your Solr core prefixes for easy identification.
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehouse"
  2. Set the location the newly generated cert was saved, I recommend the same location as all your other install files. (Don’t forget to escape the slashes.)
    "DefaultValue": "C:\Sc9Install"
  3. Set the name of the root certificate.
    "DefaultValue": "SitecoreDevelopmentCert"


Updating sitecore-xp0.json. This file drives the main installation of Sitecore, you’ll note that there a number of items missing ‘DefaultValue’ which we want to complete to allow for easy reproduction.

Sitecore 9 Install - sitecore-xp0.json part 1

  1. Add a new default value pointing to the location of Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (OnPrem)_single.scwdp.zip
    "DefaultValue": "C:\Sc9Install\Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (WDP XP0 packages)\Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (OnPrem)_single.scwdp.zip"
  2. Add a new default value pointing to your local license file.
    "DefaultValue": "C:\SitecoreVersions\license.xml"
  3. Add a default value indicating the prefix all DBs should be named with. (Hint: make this the same as the solr prefix.)
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehouse"
  4. Add a default value indicating the prefix all DBs should be named with. (Hint: make this the same as the solr prefix.)
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehouse"
  5. Name of the certificate as defined in xconnect-createcert.json, step 1.
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehouse"
  6. Enter the name of your site, for my purposes this will be ‘coffeehouse’.
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehouse"
  7. Opportunity to update that admin password (and drive you nuts during development when you change it now but forget.)
  8. and 9. are easy way to make sure all your connection strings are set accordingly.

The next segment shown of parameters continue the thread of security by allowing unique SQL users and passwords to be generated for each connection string. My only suggestion is to prefix all of these with your site name, so for future cleanup it is easy to remove.
Sitecore 9 Install - sitecore-xp0.json part 2
Sitecore 9 Install - sitecore-xp0.json part 3

In portion 4 of the parameter list we get back to values that require updating for a local environment.

Sitecore 9 Install - sitecore-xp0.json part 4

  1. Set the connection to your SQL Server Instance
    "DefaultValue": "PLW\LOCALSQL2017"
  2. If you have a custom Solr install this value you will need updated.

The final portion of the parameters deal with xConnect.

Sitecore 9 Install - sitecore-xp0.json part 5

  1. Enter the URL that will be used for xConnect connectivity.
    "DefaultValue": "https://xconnect.coffeehouse.com"
  2. Another opportunity to make sure things are secure. (Feel free to skip over for your local setup.)


This configuration setup should mirror what was done for sitecore-solr.json.

Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-solr.json

If you followed my Solr install instructions your values should be:

  1. https://sitecoresolr:8983/solr”
  2. “C:\sitecoresolr\solr-6.6.2”, like Sitecore-Solr.json this will point to the parent directory of Solr’s server folder.
  3. “solr-6.6.2”
  4. “coffeehousexp” (you should provide the name for your local site, this allows the same Solr instance to be used for all your Sitecore Instances, as each will be named uniquely.)


The final file to be updated is for xConnect configuration. A number of these values have been previously set as part of sitecore-xp0.json, in which case the values need to be consistent between the two files.

Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-xp0.json - part 1

  1. Add a new default value pointing to Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (OnPrem)_zp0xconnect.scwdp.zip
    "DefaultValue": "C:\Sc9Install\Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (WDP XP0 packages)Sitecore 9.0.1 rev. 171219 (OnPrem)_zp0xconnect.scwdp.zip"
  2. Add a new default value pointing to your local license file.
    "DefaultValue": "C:\SitecoreVersions\license.xml"
  3. Name the XConnect instance will be installed as, make sure this is unique to this instance.
    "DefaultValue": "xconnect.coffeehousexp.com"
  4. Name of the certificate as defined in xconnect-createcert.json, step 1.
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehousexp.com"
  5. Add a default value indicating the prefix all DBs should be named with. (Hint: make this the same as the solr prefix.)
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehouse"
  6. Add a default value indicating the prefix all DBs should be named with. (Hint: make this the same as the solr prefix.)
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehouse"
  7. Name of the certificate as defined in xconnect-createcert.json, step 1.
    "DefaultValue": "coffeehousexp.com"

Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-xp0.json - part 2

This next section deals with SQL accounts and passwords.

  1. and 2. Allow for the SQL Admin account to be setup, this will be used for DB creation and access.
  2. Set the Solr URL if it has been changed from the default setup of ‘https://sitecoresolr:8983/solr’
  3. to 7. are the different SQL User Accounts that are created, these need to match any changes made in sitecore-xp0.json.

Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-xp0.json - part 3

The final section contains a mixture of SQL setup as well as final XConnect updates.

  1. to 4. are the different SQL User Accounts that are created, these need to match any changes made in sitecore-xp0.json.
  2. Set the connection to your SQL Server Instance
    "DefaultValue": "PLW\LOCALSQL2017"
  3. Setting the type of configuration that is to be setup for XConnect, possible options are unclear at the time, so we will leave it as is.

Finally, Time to Install

The order of installation is very important as the steps are inter-related.

  1. Open a PowerShell prompt as Admin
  2. Confirm that SIF is fully updated by running
    Update-Module SitecoreInstallFramework
  3. Change directory to the location of your config JSON files.
  4. Run
    Install-SitecoreConfiguration -Path .\configs\xconnect-createcert.json

    Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-createcert.json - Install Output

  5. Run
    Install-SitecoreConfiguration -Path .\configs\xconnect-solr.json

    Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-solr.json - Install Output

  6. Run
    Install-SitecoreConfiguration -Path .\configs\xconnect-xp0.json

    Sitecore 9 Install - xconnect-xp0.json - Install Output

  7. Run
    Install-SitecoreConfiguration -Path .\configs\sitecore-solr.json

    Sitecore 9 Install - sitecore-solr.json - Install Output

  8. Run
    Install-SitecoreConfiguration -Path .\configs\sitecore-XP0.json

Post-Install Sitecore Steps

After all the scripts have successfully ran it is time for a few final post steps to ensure completion.

  1. Login into the admin side of Sitecore, http://local.coffeehousexp.com/sitecore.
  2. User the Admin password you specified in the sitecore-xp.json
  3. From the Launchpad, open Control Panel then click on Indexing Manager
  4. From the modal be sure all indexes are selected and click Rebuild.
  5. Once that completes, we will need to rebuild the Link Database. From the Control Panel click Rebuild Link Databases
  6. Select Master and Core only, and click Rebuild
  7. Next up is a deployment of the Marketing Definitions. Still in the Control Panel click Deploy marketing definitions
  8. From the shown modal make sure everything is selected and click Deploy
  9. Return to the Launchpad and open the Content Editor and perform a full site republish
  10. Open a new browser and hit your site to be welcomed by the new SC9 base site, http://local.coffeehousexp.com
    Sitecore 9 Install - Homepage



Cleaning up log messages for Geo IP Location

Starting with Sitecore 8.1 Geo IP lookup services come pre-installed and configured. All a site owner than need to do is log into the App Center and purchase the service. This is great from an implementer standpoint this is great as it’s one less configuration step that we have to take.

On the downside, if the site owners never purchase the lookup service the log will quickly clutter with ERROR messages.

ManagedPoolThread #12 16:01:15 ERROR Failed to perform GeoIp lookup for dd4795c0-1dca-ea8d-93c4-06d7f7aa5063
Exception: System.Net.WebException
Message: The remote name could not be resolved: ‘discovery-ces.cloud.sitecore.net’
Source: System
at System.Net.HttpWebRequest.GetResponse()
at Sitecore.CES.Client.WebClient.ExecuteRequest(String requestUri)
at Sitecore.CES.Client.ResourceConnector`1.Request(String endpoint, Object[] parameters)
at Sitecore.CES.Discovery.EndpointSource.GetEndpoint(String serviceName)
at Sitecore.CES.GeoIp.SitecoreProvider.GetInformationByIp(String ip)
at Sitecore.Analytics.Lookups.GeoIpManager.GetDataFromLookupProvider(GeoIpHandle geoIpHandle)

The Fix

The fix isn’t hard; all it requires is a simple patch config to disable the lookup service.

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">
            <setting name="Analytics.PerformLookup">
                <patch:attribute name="value">false</patch:attribute>

For the full details on the lookup service checkout the full documentation at https://doc.sitecore.net/sitecore_experience_platform/setting_up__maintaining/ip_geolocation/setting_up_sitecore_ip_geolocation.

Guide To Creating Dimensions And Filters

Quick Refresher: The customer has asked the Sitecore team to provide additional reporting views using data already being collected by Experience Analytics. (To understand the full request take a look at the first part of the guide.)

This post covers the first two steps

Step 1: Create New Dimension

All of the data that is reported against, starts with a dimension. A dimension consist of a Sitecore Artifact in the Marketing Control Panel and a corresponding, compiled aggregation method and table(s) to support the proper data.

Therefore, creating new dimensions is a task that involves both developers and business intelligence analysts. The BI Analysts work with the customer to help define the questions that they want to ask of the data, and then help the developer understand how the currently collected data can be aggregated to get the needed answers.

This is a process in itself, which we will investigate further in future posts.

Step 2: Create New Filter

Filters are created once, and can be reused throughout different segments. Filters are built using the Sitecore Rules engine to define conditions that must be matched so the element will be added to the resulting data set.

  • Launch the Marketing Control Panel from the Sitecore Launchpad
  • In the content tree, expand Experience Analytics -> Filters
  • Right-click on Filters, choose Insert from the context menu, and then select Filter
  • In the dialog box, provide a Name for the filter
  • Click OK to close-out the Message Dialog
    Image One
  • There are minimal data fields to be filled out for a filter. Expand the Data section of the item and you will see a Rule field to complete
  • Click Edit Rule to open the standard rule editor
  • Choose the rule that best fits the data that you are looking to filter. Sitecore has done some backend magic, which spoofs the ‘current contact’ to allow rules to properly pull users into the filter in the form of Sitecore.ExperienceAnalytics.Aggregation.Rules.AggregationAdaptor.AggregationAdaptorTracker object
  • Finally, be sure to select the action ‘add visit to segment’ to ensure that the contacts are added to the resulting dataset
  • Click OK
    Image Two

As always, feel free to tweet me questions or comments @thecodeattic or on Sitecore Slack Community as @gillissm.

This post originally appeared at https://www.paragon-inc.com/resources/blogs-posts/guide_to_creating_dimensions_and_filters.



Collapse and Expand the Accordion

One click, two click, three click, where is that field? Once a day, I get so lost expanding and collapsing field sections when working in Sitecore’s Content Editor interface, that my poor mouse almost takes a unplanned trip across the office. As the industrious Sitecore developer I am, I decided enough was enough. My decision lead to the creation of Custom Content Editor Buttons.

Solr and Sitecore Upgrade Cocktail

There is nothing worse than getting half-way to three quarters of the way through a Sitecore upgrade, just to be hit in the face with a strange error related to Solr. In the recent months, my team and I have seen an increase interest in Sitecore upgrades involving Solr implementations. In my latest post Sitecore Upgrades Mixed with Solr, I review some of the hurdles we’ve faced to help you on your path.

Debunking Sitecore Configuration Files

One-hundred and forty and counting configuration files, so much power to customize, extend and tweak Sitecore. This is the daily struggle for a Sitecore developer or admin to guess what or where something should happen,  in my latest post I debunk how all these files work together.

Making Forms Event Smarter

Web forms are a powerful mechanism to engaging site visitors. In part 3 and  part 4, I take you even deeper into what is needed to make Sitecore Web Forms for Marketers even smarter. I’ll show you what’s needed to go from simple form into a smart progressive form, that auto-completes.