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

Sitecore Install Framework

Sitecore Installation Framework (SIF)

This is the first in my series breaking down the installation of Sitecore Experience Platform 9. I’ve tried to chunk the required steps, allowing you to take your time moving through the installation. The serires will conclude with how I suceeded in installing everything in 15 steps.


The Sitecore Install Framework (SIF) enables users to deploy and configure a Sitecore environment using a standard configuration design that can be extended through custom PowerShell functions.

It is based on a combination of Microsoft PowerShell commands and JSON based configuration files.

Installation of SIF is provided in two flavors, a manual process and a MyGet feed based process via PowerShell.

You can find SIF at https://dev.sitecore.net/Downloads/Sitecore%20Installation%20Framework/1x/Sitecore%20Installation%20Framework%2011

SIF Install

As I prefer to script for repeatability and ease of sharing with my dev team, this guide will be based on installing SIF 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
    Register-PSRepository -Name SitecoreGallery -SourceLocation https://sitecore.myget.org/f/sc-powershell/api/v2

    SIF - Register Sitecore Gallery

  3. Install the SIF module, at the prompt enter
     Install-Module SitecoreInstallFramework
  4. PowerShell will ask if untrusted scripts can be ran, enter ‘A’ and hit Enter.
    SIF - 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 SitecoreInstallFramework
  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 SitecoreInstallFramework -ListAvailable

    SIF - Available Versions

You should now be ready to continue forward leveraging SIF to install and manage your Sitecore 9 Experience Cloud instance.

How to plan for performance

Recently I had the opportunity to sit through a series of management courses. One of the main focuses was how to provide an environment to help motivate your team members and increase performance. In parallel to these courses I was working with a client to define the steps required to properly secure and architect a scalable Sitecore installation. After some extensive research and reading, followed by re-reading I’ve tried to compile the ‘Unofficial Sitecore Planning Checklist’.

As Sitecore has matured as a product so has the method of documenting the product, sadly it seems we continue to be in a slow shift to easily consumable and discoverable documentation, it reminds me of the early days of my SharePoint work, where the community documented better the product team. Because of this positive growing pain, you may end up on really old blog posts as well as some ‘ancient’ PDF documentation, which is still plenty applicable. Finally, this checklist is a starting point as documentation and feature sets continue to change and growth with the product always check for the latest before finalizing your organizations plans.

Some Basics

Begin with Sitecore Experience Platform 8.0 the ability to scale both horizontally and vertically was introduced through flexibility to place different Sitecore components on individual or combined servers.

The key components to be accounted for during server architecture is

  • Content delivery (CD) server (including personalization)
    • the touch point to the visitors, HTML, personalization, etc..flow from here
  • Content management (CM) server
    • Central nerve to the entire site, authoring and reporting occur here
  • Content databases (SQL)
    • SQL databases that houses your content
  • Session state server
    • This is the method you choose to track contacts while the actively visit the site.
    • Listed as an actual server this can take the form of a server, SQL database, MongoDB collection, or just ran in memory.
  • Collection database (MongoDB)
    • Storehouse for xAnalytics as data is collected
  • Processing server
    • Performs the heavy lifting job number crunching
  • Reporting database (SQL)
    • Just a database that all the pretty tables and charts come from
  • Reporting service
    • Service that moves data from SQL to those pretty tables and charts
  • Email Experience Manager Dispatch database (SQL)
    • Finally a clearly named item (database used to manage the queueing and sending of emails)
  • Email Experience Manager Dispatch service
    • Another straight named item (API that the servers use to perform the actual sending, dispatching, of emails)

You’ll notice there are a number of SQL databases that are required to support the system. These can all run on the same SQL instance or cluster without issue.

If you plan to place any of the service components on individual servers, you will need be properly licensed by Sitecore for an additional server install as they all require an installation of Sitecore just like a content delivery or management server.

Checkpoint 1: CM and CD Setup

  • CD Server
    • Bare minimum requirements: 16GB RAM, 4 cores resulting in 8 threads
    • Things to watch out for
      • Site must process heavy business or search logic making it computationally heavy CPU increase may be needed
      • Caching strategy may require additional RAM to support better cache retrieval of HTML and images
      • In-Proc Session State will be store to RAM, in which case a high traffic site is going to need more RAM
  • CM Server
    • Bare minimum: 16GB RAM, 4 cores resulting in 8 threads
    • Things to watch out for
      • As increase of con-current authors editing increases additional RAM becomes required to provide the better experience (this number may be around 10 to 15)
      • In a standard installation the CM server performs the additional duties of processing server, reporting service, and EXM Dispatch manager
        • All these will impact the performance of the CM requiring both additional CPU (helps with processing) to additional RAM (helpful for large EXM dispatches as each email is built in memory before being sent.)

Checkpoint 2: Experience Database (xDB)

The Experience Database commonly referred to as the ‘xDB’, is based on the NoSQL solution MongoDB. The xDB is the primary storage for all analytics information and the registry of contacts and engagement automation states. Both Content Delivery and Content Management servers talk to the xDB performing read and write actions against it.

Because data is written and read at high rates from the xDB as visitor’s sessions start and end requires a proper amount of RAM and high speed disk, such as SSD, to maximize performance.

Using MongoDB as your collection database, you should install plenty of RAM and use SSD drives. Sharding can also improve performance significantly. Read the documentation on the MongoDB website to learn about the MongoDB architecture, replication, sharding, and configuration options. (taken from xDB Hardware Guidelines)

Depending on the version of Sitecore running there are official supported MongoDB versions. This does not mean a newer/older version will not work with your version of Sitecore, but Paragon nor Sitecore can guarantee the behavior.

Sitecore XP 7.5 series Sitecore XP 8.0 Initial Release to Update 4 Sitecore XP 8.0 Update 5 and later Sitecore XP 8.1 and later Sitecore XP 8.2 and later
Mongo 2.6 mmapv1 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mongo 3.0 mmapv1 No No Yes Yes Yes
Mongo 3.0 Wired Tiger No No Yes Yes Yes
Mongo 3.2.1 mmapv1 No No No No Yes
Mongo 3.2.1 Wired Tiger No No No No Yes
Mongo 3.2.1 Enterprise with data-at-rest encryption (Wired Tiger only) No No No No Yes

For the latest supported version table see Sitecore’s documentation: https://doc.sitecore.net/sitecore_experience_platform/setting_up__maintaining/xdb/platform/software_recommendations.

Sitecore recommends that MongoDB is setup in a replication architecture with sharding enabled. The minimum configuration is to run two full capacity MongoDB servers for data and a third lower capacity server to act as the arbiter. This third server would not need to handle any data in the basic configuration.

MongoDB can run on either Windows or Linux/Unix servers, as long as the proper version of MongoDB is used the Sitecore application does not care.

Additional Helpful references