Understanding Composite Renderings in SXA Sitecore Experience Accelerator

Naturally every well planned traditional (i.e. non-SXA) should be built on the idea of layers. This begins at the data template level with proper template inheritance setup, that is then followed by a well-planned presentation layer leveraging a combination of structural renderings (some fashion of columns and rows) and content renderings.

Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) formalizes this idea through Composite Renderings, Partial Designs, and Page Designs. Each providing a little more structure and detail to the page as you assemble it.

Composite Renderings

Composite Renderings are nothing new to a Sitecore based site, as the name suggests it is a single rendering that wraps children items as well as other renderings simplifying complex presentation needs.

The most basic example of a composite renderings is the all-powerful Accordion. An accordion is a popular method for placing large amounts of related, and important content, on a single page without it feeling overwhelming. When thinking of an accordion we expect to have the following, where callout #1) represents some sort of title that represents the hidden content and #2) is some form of content, which could be as simple as text, or as complex as a video or interactive map.

Composite Renderings - Accordion Explanation

SXA provides right out-of-the-box the following composite renderings Accordion, Carousel, Flipping, Snippet, and Tabs. From this list you are probably very familiar with accordions, tabs, and carousels and how they fundamentally function.

Flipping was a new concept to me by name, while the functionality is something I’ve seen (and sure you have as well) many time over. The idea of a flipping rendering is that on hover or click a different set of content will display. As with all composites, this content can be simple text or other renderings can be layered into it. See the official details at Sitecore Flip Documentation.



I consider the snippet to be the purest form of a composite rendering. The snippet provides a single place holder that you can layer any number of renderings. What makes this useful, is that the snippet can be built with full focus on just it, without concern for the page(s) it will be used on. Once constructed a snippet can be placed on any number of pages to re-use the presentation setup.

Data Source Configuration

A unique feature of the snippet, is that the usage can take a couple of paths depending on intent of usage. Through the Content Editor there are three setting options for a snippet item regarding how to handle the data sources of applied to any renderings placed within the snippet.

Snippet - Data Source Configuration

  • Do not copy – use global data source
    • This is the default setting
    • On this path the renderings within the snippet will ALWAYS reference the content as defined in the site’s data folder
    • Every re-use of the snippet on a page will point to the same content (i.e. data source)
    • If a change is made on a page, all pages will be updated as well
    • When to use this option:
      • This option is helpful if the snippet is leveraged for page structure needs such as columns and rows, allowing the structure to be defined once then re-used through-out the site
      • When placing actual content related renderings within, you must be concerned with the possibility of an update occurring and having that propagate automatically across all usages of the snippet. This could be reasonable for some form of global promotion item but needs to be well considered.
  • Copy global data source to local context upon selection
    • A copy of the snippet, its configuration, and content are added to the page (the data folder below the current page)
    • Changes made to the snippet are only applied for that specific page
    • The user is not prompted of this occurring, it just happens
    • Interesting fact, is all the naming used for the original snippet will be the new copied item as well
    • When to use this option:
      • This option is used when the snippet is a repeatable visual element, where content will differ per page context
      • Use this option when layering snippets into partial designs
  • Ask user whether the copy of global data source to local context is required upon selection
    • This option allows the content editor to choose how to reuse the snippet
    • The editor will get the following message and displays the following message:
      Create Snippet - Prompt to copy or use global
    • When to use this option:
      • Useful for instances where content re-use maybe required in some instances and others the visual appeal is all that is required
      • Need to take into account the level of expertise of the editors, when choosing this setup option

Design and Building a Header Snippet

The best way to understand the snippet is for us to build out a global element for the Paragon Coffeehouse, such as the header.

There are two ways to go about creating our snippet. The first way is working from the context of a page.

  1. Expand the content tree to your Home page.
  2. Right click and select the option for Experience Editor
    Create Snippet - Open Experience Editor
  3. Once in Experience Editor, from the Toolbox expand ‘Composites’ section
  4. Click on Snippet
  5. Drag Snippet into the Header placeholder and drop it.
    Create Snippet - Drag Snippet to Page
  6. After dropping the Snippet, you’ll be created with the familiar ‘Select the Associated Content’ modal. From this modal we will create a new snippet content item that will be referenced by the rendering by clicking Create next to the folder we want to place the information into…for this sample click next to ‘Snippets’ for the current site.
  7. Next you will see the ‘Insert Item’ modal, in which we decide what to create…select Snippet Item
  8. Provide a name, for the example will call it Global Header.
  9. Click OK
    Create Snippet - Create Snippet Item
  10. After creating the ‘Select the Associated Content’ modal will refresh with our new item. Select Global Header and click OK
    Create Snippet - Select Global Header Snippet
  11. The page will update, and you will see a helpful message in the header placeholder now stating, “No components in snippet.” By clicking into the rendering, the toolbar will pop-up and provide an action to ‘open item for editing’. Click this.
    Create Snippet - Edit Snippet
  12. Upon clicking a new window/tab will open with the Experience Editor of the snippet. This allowing you to start building it by dragging the different elements required.
  13. Our header is constructed of the following elements
    Create Snippet - Snippet Header
    A. Page Structure creating 3 rows for content
    B. Image (re-usable), within a column
    C. Flip Composite Rendering
    D. Login control within Flip-side
    E. Navigation in own row
    F. Breadcrumb in own row.
  14. Closing the Snippet tab, and refreshing our home page we see the following
    Create Snippet - Snippet Header on Home Page
  15. Let’s return to the Content Editor and create a second page (calling it ‘Company’) and open it in Experience Editor.
  16. From the Experience Editor, drag the Snippet rendering into the ‘Header’ placeholder. When the ‘Select the Associated Content’ modal appears, select Global Header and click OK.
  17. You should end up seeing the same header as above.
    Create Snippet - Snippet Header on Company Page



Getting Started with Sitecore Experience Accelerator

For the past two years I’ve been running a demo site, called the Paragon Coffeehouse. With the official release of Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) 9, I realized it was time for an upgrade. The Coffeehouse site was built on MVC but before Helix was the best practice for Sitecore site development, so I was hesitant to just upgrade my code references and run the upgrade package. So instead I thought about how I might as well take this opportunity to refresh the site with a new build. Given a mixture of needs as well as for curiosity sake, I’ve decided that this re-build would be done on Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA).

SXA Background

SXA was a highly talked about feature at the Sitecore Symposium 2016 as a new offering with the release of Sitecore 8.1. The biggest downside at the time I felt was the extreme additional cost in licensing for a customer, so I never heavily researched it as an alternative. The change to licensing structure with Sitecore XP 9 allows this module to be included by default allowing for it to be a true alternative for site builds.

The idea behind SXA is to provide a speed to market approach to a site build leveraging a collection of pre-built components and providing a way to extend and style (or theme) them as needed by the organization.

“SXA separates structure from design, so front-end designers, creative designers, content authors, and developers can work in parallel and you can deploy and maintain multiple sites quickly and cost effectively. Once a basic user experience plan is in place, everyone can get started on the platform. For example: the content author can start entering the content in the wireframe environment, while the front-end developer works on the theme, and the developer sets up the data templates.” (Introducing Sitecore Experience Platform, Getting Started with SXA, March 21, 2018)

Where to Start, how about installing…..

Before SXA can be installed you will need to install Sitecore PowerShell Extensions, you’ll see it listed as ‘Sitecore PowerShell Console’ when searching for the module from the Sitecore Marketplace. You will want the latest version available https://marketplace.sitecore.net/en/Modules/Sitecore_PowerShell_console.aspx

Once this has been installed via the package manager, download and install the SXA package from dev.sitecore.net. If you are installing in a more production ready scenario, where CM is separated from the CD, be sure to follow the additional configuration steps in the SXA 1.6 Installation Guide. Which boils down to coping some files manually to each CD server to support SXA.

Building the Site

Tenant vs Site

SXA is built around the idea of a single install that can support many URL scenarios, while providing a consistent editing experience, shared content resources, and shared/unique security. To allow for this type of separation and sharing SXA resolves around the ideas of tenants and sites.

Tenant is a collection of sites. All sites within a tenant can share assets (this include themes, data/content, page designs, partial designs, and composite renderings). Sharing across tenants is not possible.

“With SXA’s multitenant architecture, you can provide each tenant a dedicated share of the Sitecore instance including its data templates, configuration, user management, tenant individual functionality, and non-functional properties.”

Sites is a collection of pages that are referenced/visited by a unique URL. A site can have many URLs associated to it (i.e. ways to visit) but each URL can only point/references ONE site.

“Sites in the same tenant are related, for example, because they share the same set of templates or part of the media library. Sites are the items that represent the website and consist of pages, data, designs, and partial layouts.”

Creating the Coffeehouse IA

In planning my new and improved Coffeehouse site I’ve chosen to leverage the ‘tenant folder’ item to add additional structure to Sitecore which should allow me to expand my empire into other lines of business (such as brewery or maybe a hospital) without reworking my IA. This is as simple as right clicking on Content and selecting Insert -> Tenant Folder
SXA - Create Tenant Folder

Within my ‘Paragon Coffeehouse’ tenant folder, I can add further folder structure or begin creating tenant collections. I’ll create two tenants. The first will be called ‘The Coffeehouse’ which will house the main site that will eventually move into production, to support learning and experimentation I’ll also create a tenant called ‘Coffeehouse Experiment’.
SXA - Create Tenant the Coffeehouse

As part of the tenant creation process, the name this item modal looks a bit different, from here you can choose the different features of SXA for any site housed as part of the tenant.
SXA - Create Tenant the Coffeehouse Feature Select

A tenant contains three sections of fields which unless for very specific business reasons should not be changed.
SXA - Tenant Fields

  1. Configuration section most importantly defines the location for ‘data’ templates, themes, and media library artifacts should be referenced from, in addition it allows for post create updating of the types of features that are accessible in the tenant
  2. Sharing allows children sites (siblings) to share content and media assets
  3. Security allows for the designation of a specific user domain users must belong to access, this shouldn’t be manipulated manually but instead via a context menu command ‘Setup Security’ see instructions on Sitecore Document site.

Once we have our tenant defined and created, we can begin adding sites. This is as easy as a right click Insert, as well.
SXA - Create Site

Followed by a setup modal allowing additional configuration steps to be taken of your site, split over four tabs.
SXA - Create Site - General and Features Tabs

On the General tab you assign the Site name (#1) and most importantly the URL that will serve-up the content in ‘Host Name’ (#2). The next tab Features allows for the designation of specific SXA site level features that will be available for your site. Outside of a very specific micro-site scenario all these options should be left selected to maximize creative freedom (#3).
SXA - Create Site - Theme and Grid Tabs

The next two tabs relate to the styling/design aspects of the site. The Theme tab provides the opportunity to set the default theme for the site from the existing themes (#2) as well as the creation of a new one (#1). The Grid tab allows you to select from one of the foundational CSS frameworks used by the site, the options available are Bootstrap, Foundation, and Grid960.

After creating the second test site our Content Tree looks like the following and supports two unique URLs without ever editing configuration files….
SXA - Starting out IA

References for the deeper dive

Helix Project Creation Script

Creating Helix Solutions and Modules with PowerShell

Helix is a set of overall design principles and conventions for Sitecore development, put forth by Sitecore in hopes of providing the community a path toward standardized solution development. As noted in the official documentation:

Helix provide a set of guidelines for your Sitecore projects. The Habitat example provides you with a pre-built and tested set of common modules that you can use as an inspiration to your project. Both improve the efficiency of your projects, reduce costs and time to market. As more and more people and organisations adopt the Helix conventions and principles, it will become a Sitecore standard. This means that people who are familiar with the conventions or the Habitat example will be able to work more easily on other convention-based projects with minimal training. It will be easier for Sitecore Product Support to understand projects built using the conventions, enabling them to resolve issues more quickly. Sitecore will test its software using the conventions so any compatible project that has been implemented for a customer will be more reliable. And since Sitecore will test its software using the conventions, Sitecore will be able to provide better guidance on how to update and upgrade existing Sitecore projects when new versions and new products are released.

(“Why be interested at all in Helix or Habitat?“, http://helix.sitecore.net/introduction/what-is-helix.html#why-be-interested-at-all-in-helix-or-habitat, April 16, 2018)

Some Basic Principles

Before we can dig into the script and creating Helix based solutions and modules, I want to reference some basic principles from the Helix documentation.

A Module is a conceptual grouping of assets which relates to a business requirement. For example, when the company asks that their Sitecore solution contains website search, all assets, business logic and configuration relating to search belongs to the Search module.

In technical terms, project often refers to Visual Studio project, but conceptually can also to the process of implementing the business requirements into an implementation.

The layer concept in Helix supports the architecture by making the dependency flow completely clear everywhere in the solution, in Sitecore, in Visual Studio and even in the file system. Furthermore, the layers provide a structure that is extremely suitable for creating and maintaining solutions of any size and steers both new and experienced developers to producing more maintenance-friendly and clean code. Layers helps control the direction of dependencies the importance of which is described by the Stable Dependencies Principle or SDP, which is one of the cornerstone principles in Modular Architecture:

Helix - Dependencies Direction

File System and Solution Layout

In the Helix documentation, (and a review of the sample Habitat site) one will find a very specific recommended (if not expected) layout and naming of folders both in the Visual Studio Solution as well as the file system. The uniqueness of this ‘recommended’ layout makes the initial setup of a solution very time consuming and increasingly error prone when you start to deal with adding modules at the different layers. The following two images, taken from the Helix documentation show what the Visual Studio Solution and corresponding file system begin to look like.

Helix - Visual Studio Solution, from Sitecore           Helix - File System, from Sitecore

Helpful but difficult

My team enjoys the flexibility as well as cleanliness of a solution built on the Helix principles. What we find most difficult is the extra leg work required in making the file system as well as the Visual Studio Solution appropriate to meet the principles. Trying to solve this problem has led us to try several solutions available in the Sitecore Community, many function very nicely, but didn’t always meet the needs of my teams. So I setout to solve some of these issues, including :

  • No use of custom templates and files to ease setup across machines
  • Option for serialization project creation
  • Pre-loading basic NuGet packages for a module
  • New projects added into the solution by default

Helix Project Creator PowerShell Module

Enough with the intro stuff and into the meat of what you’ve come looking for…a script to ease your Helix headaches and focus on the fun of implementing solutions. TheCodeAttic.Helix.ProjectCreator can be pulled from GitHub at https://github.com/gillissm/TheCodeAttic.Helix.PowerShellProjectCreator.

Setup and Use the Simple Manual Process

The first thing you need to do is retrieve the script from the GitHub repository. As this is hosted on GitHub there are numerous ways you can go about getting things ready to use. In an attempt to make adaption as easy as possible I’ve simplified setup to the following four steps for you:

  1. Open PowerShell command prompt as Admin.
  2. Change the directory to a working/temporary location
  3. Enter the following command
    (Invoke-WebRequest -UseBasicParsing -Uri https://raw.githubusercontent.com/gillissm/TheCodeAttic.Helix.PowerShellProjectCreator/master/ProjectCreatorEasyInstall.ps1).Content | Out-File "ProjectCreatorEasyInstall.ps1"
  4. Then enter
  5. Now go implement some awesome Sitecore solutions!

Setup and Configure the Manual Way

As an alternate to the above, you can pull the script from the GitHub repository and load it into Package Manager Console each time you need it with the following steps:

  1. Download from the GitHub repository to your local system in the manner that suits your workflow the best.
  2. Each time you wish to leverage the module in Visual Studio you will need to enter the following in the Package Manager Console
    Import-Module "C:\MyFiles\TheCodeAttic.Helix.PowerShellProjectCreator.psm1"

    Helix - Open Package Manager Console

Manual Process – Full Setup

OR you could download and configure the module manually (this is what ProjectCreatorEasyInstall.ps1 does for you.)

  1. Go to C:\Users\\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Modules
  2. Create a new folder called “TheCodeAttic.Helix.PowerShellProjectCreator”
  3. Download the GitHub repository into the above directory
  4. Go up a level in the file system, should be at C:\Users\\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\
  5. Open (or create) NuGet_profile.ps1
  6. Add the following
    Import-Module TheCodeAttic.Helix.PowerShellProjectCreator
  7. Each time you run Visual Studio the module will be available to use in the Package Console Manager

Using Helix Project Creation

Create a new Helix Solution

  1. Open Visual Studio as Admin
  2. Open the Package Manager Console
    Helix - Open Package Manager Console
  3. Create a new Helix based solution by running Invoke-VisualStudioSolution
    Invoke-VisualStudioSolution -SolutionPath 'C:\Code\Coffeehouse.Demo.SXA'  -SolutionName 'Coffeehouse.Demo.SXA'

    Helix - Open Package Manager Console

Add a new module to a solution

  1. Open Visual Studio as Admin
  2. Open your Solution
  3. Open the Package Manager Console
  4. ‘Wake-up’ the $dte object by running
    Helix - Wake-up $dte
  5. Add new module by running Invoke-NewModule
    Invoke-NewModule -ModuleName 'Coffeehouse.Demo.SXA.Coupon' -Layer 'Feature' -UseGlass -UseTDS

    Helix - Executing Invoke-NewModule

    Helix - Invoke-NewModule output

    Helix - Invoke-NewModule output, continued

  6. Go write some Sitecore code!!!!

Proof is in the pudding, they say

After running the Invoke-NewModule command your solution explorer should now look like the following:

Helix - New Module in Solution Explorer

And your file system will have the this:

Helix - New Module in File Explorer


The Sitecore Community members are always out to help each other, and some other Helix project creation solutions that may fit your work stream better are:

The Easier Way to Sitecore XP 9

This article was originally posted in its entirety on the Paragon Blog here: http://www.paragon-inc.com/blog/sitecore-9-install-the-easy-way.

You’ve either arrived because you made it through the full series or a quick google landed you here as you where looking for a quick and easy Sitecore XP 9 install.

Most of the following was taken from the Sitecore Installation Guide but is a little buried in all the documentation, so this will be a long term refernece for myself, my teams, and now you!


The Steps

  1. Install MS SQL 2016 SP1 or later
  2. Install Web Deploy 3.6 for Hosting Servers (done via the Web Platform Installer)
  3. Install Url Rewrite 2.1 (done via the Web Platform Installer)
  4. Install Microsoft SQL Server Data-Tier Application Framework (DacFx) version 2016
  5. 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 script
    sp_configure 'contained database authentication', 1;
  6. 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
  7. Extract the contents of XP0 Configuration Files 9.0.1 rev 171219.zip, and you should have the following JSON configuration files, this should be the same directory as the WDP packages in step 6:
    • sitecore-solr.json
    • sitecore-XP0.json
    • xconnect-createcert.json
    • xconnect-solr.json
    • xconnect-xp0.json

    At this point the working directory should look like this:
    Sitecore Easy Install - Working Directory

  8. Open a PowerShell Command prompt as Admin
  9. Change directory to your Working Directory as defined in step 7
  10. Download the install script from Sitecore Easy Install Gist by running the following
    (Invoke-WebRequest https://gist.githubusercontent.com/gillissm/1a3d826e6287e4cd106acea941748643/raw/c59dd9cef02d7e4adec1a90188d099948af43662/SitecoreEasyInstall.ps1).Content | Out-File "SitecoreEasyInstall.ps1"
  11. Open SitecoreEasyInstall.ps1 in your favorite editor (my recommendation is to open the entire working directory in Visual Studio Code).
  12. The first section of the file are global parameters that will define how your environment is configured and installed so update accordingly based on the instructions. At a minimum all values in the ‘CUSTOM TO THE ENVIRONMENT’ section should be completed.
    Sitecore Easy Install - Install Parameters
  13. From the PowerShell prompt run
  14. Grab some coffee (or beer, I won’t judge) while it runs. (On my machine I was up and runninng in about 10 minutes.)
  15. Enjoy Sitecore Experience Platform 9!!!


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


Solr Setup for Sitecore XP


As we continue through the steps for Sitecore Experience Platform installation, the next thing we must have is Solr. This tries to simplify that process.


When installing Sitecore 9 for local development or on-premise for your organization Solr is now the only search provider fully supported. Lucene can still be used to support search within the Context Editor, but all analytics related, and site search scenarios now use Solr or when in the cloud Azure Search Provider.

The following guide will be focused on setting up Solr to support Sitecore 9 on local developer’s machine, where everything (SQL, Sitecore, Solr, etc…) are all installed on the same machine. The steps taken can be used to setup an all in one development or QA server, but should not be used for production setup.

Choose a method

When installing Solr there are many different options that become available, from a direct install, to a pre-packaged solution like Bitnami, a cloud solution, or even a Docker container.

I initially set out to write this guide leveraging Bitnami, as I’ve had a lot of success and quick setup leveraging it, but as it happens old versions of their packages are difficult to find, and Sitecore 9 is tied to Solr 6.6.2. I repeat Sitecore 9.0 update 1 is tied to Solr 6.6.2!!! (I’ve burned a week or so trying to make it work with Solr 7.2 during this series.)

Docker is an intriguing scenario to me, but I’ve got a lot more learning to do before I can successfully get up and running, and I’m in a hurry to start my Sitecore XP 9 life…so this lands me with doing a traditional local install.

As mentioned, Solr is a critical component to Sitecore XP 9, and historical a critical piece to large site implementations. To that benefit there are many write-ups out there regarding Solr installs for Sitecore. The one I found to be very helpful was done by fellow MVP Jeremy Davis. Who has written up Sitecore Installation Framework (SIF) PowerShell module to simplify and streamline the installation you can read his article at https://jermdavis.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/solr-installs-with-sif/.

I’ll be walking you through the steps I took leveraging his excellent PowerShell module.


  1. Ensure PowerShell will allow for running of unsigned modules by opening a PowerShell prompt as Admin
    Run Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted
  2. Install Java if you don’t already have it.
  3. Install Sitecore Installation Framework (SIF), if you need this check out my how-to from last week .
  4. Copy Jeremy’s PowerShell module code into a new file name ‘SolrInstall-SIF-Extensions.psm1‘ from his Gist at https://gist.github.com/jermdavis/49018386ae7544ce0689568edb7ca2b8#file-solrinstall-sif-extension-psm1
  5. Copy the associated JSON config into a file named ‘SolrInstall-Config.json‘ from https://gist.github.com/jermdavis/49018386ae7544ce0689568edb7ca2b8#file-solrserver-json.I’ve created a fork of the config JSON file that includes updates for JRE runtime and most importantly updated NSSM version for Windows 10 Creator Update machines, find it at https://git.io/vAJXS.
    Solr Install - Files
  6. Open the config JSON, SolrInstall-Config.json, in your preferred editor (my recommendation is Visual Studio Code)
  7. Review the Parameters section and confirm that the default values are correct for your installation. Note for Sitecore 9.0 and 9.0 update 1 do NOT change the Solr version. I found I needed to change the following

    JREVersion => 9.0.4, this should be the JRE value used in the folder path to your Java installation, ie C:\Program Files\Java\jre-9.0.4

    NSSMVersion => 2.24-101-g897c7ad, there is a known issue with stable 2.24 version of Non-Sucking Service Manager on Window 10 machines where it will not start the service.

    SolrHost => sitecoresolrMake note of this name as it will be critical to future steps of the install process

    SolrPort – should be updated if you already have an instance of Solr running on the default port 8983.

  8. Confirm the Variables point to valid paths on your machine. I found the following required updating for me

    JREPath => C:\Program Files\Java\jre-

    NSSMSourcePackage => https://nssm.cc/ci/nssm-

  9. Open a PowerShell command prompt as Admin.
  10. Confirm SIF is update and installed by running
     Update-Module SitecoreInstallFramework
  11. Confirming everything installed correctly is as easy as running the following command, at time of writing the current version is 1.1.0
     Get-Module SitecoreInstallFramework -ListAvailable
  12. Change directory to the location of your config JSON and PowerShell Module file
  13. Before running the install the PowerShell Module needs to be placed in one of the known module library locations, found via running.

    Solr Install - Module Locations
    NOTE: The psm1 file needs to be placed into a folder of the same name minus the extension with in the location you pick above.

  14. Run the install via the following command
     Install-SitecoreConfiguration .\SolrInstall-config.json

    Solr Install - Install Script
    NOTE: If you end up with the install running and then failing with a message of “Failed to start service ‘solr-6.6.2 (solr-6.6.2)'” then you are most likely facing the NSSM Windows 10 issue, and will need to either manually install the pre-release build or delete what you have and re-run the install job with an updated config such as this one https://git.io/vAJXS.
    Solr Install - Install Script - Service Start Error

  15. Solr should open in your browser or you should be able to reach it via: HTTPS://sitecoresolr:8983/solr
    Solr Install - Solr Admin Screen

Getting Ready for Security in Sitecore XP 9

Security in Sitecore 9 Experience Cloud

The next step towards installing Sitecore Experience Platform 9 is making sure we can easily handle the creation of locally signed certificates.


Sitecore 9 by default is meant to run as a secure application. To help with managing these new security needs, the good (and smart) people at Sitecore have provided some PowerShell scripts to help. These scripts are found as part of the Sitecore Fundamentals module, which can be installed manually via a download from Sitecore, or through a custom MyGet Feed as shown here.

Sitecore Fundamentals Install

As I prefer to script for repeatability and ease of sharing with my dev team, this guide will be based on installing Sitecore Fundamentals via the MyGet feed approach.

Setup PowerShell to interact with the Sitecore MyGet feed

  1. Open a PowerShell command prompt, ensure you are running it as Admin
  2. Register the connection to MyGet feed, at the prompt enter (Note: if you have followed my SIF Install skip to step 3.)
    Register-PSRepository -Name SitecoreGallery -SourceLocation https://sitecore.myget.org/f/sc-powershell/api/v2

    Sitecore Fundamentals - Register Sitecore Gallery

  3. Install the Sitecore Fundamentals module, at the prompt enter
     Install-Module SitecoreFundamentals
  4. PowerShell will ask if untrusted scripts can be ran, enter ‘A’ and hit Enter. (Note: If you have already set this value during SIF Install won’t apply to you.)Sitecore Fundamentals - Accept Untrusted Scripts
  5. Before performing any other steps, and each time before you use the module, you will want to perform a check and update of the module via
     Update-Module SitecoreFundamentals
  6. Confirming everything installed correctly is as easy as running the following command, at time of writing the current version is 1.1.0
    Get-Module SitecoreFundamentals -ListAvailable

    Sitecore Fundamentals - Available Versions

You should now be ready leverage Sitecore Fundamentals as needed in maintaining and installing Sitecore.