SUGCON is one of the greater Sitecore support events. With SUGCON being in London this year, it was a great opportunity to go for the first time to this event. Since I didn't know what to expect, I'd like to share my experience with you on how I lived through those two days.

Recently a few colleagues and myself attended SUGCON 2019 in London. This was my first experience with a SUG event and boy it did not disappoint. I’d like to take a minute for you to sit right there and tell you all how I experienced my SUGCON trip - if you dare.

My overall experience is that a lot is moving, specifically towards the Azure. With the keynote from Mr. Donovan Brown, SUGCON was off to a great start. Many features on Azure that probably more people need to know about was told in a very accessible and fun way. I couldn’t wait to start creating some more pipelines and migrating Jira to Boards.

Then we hopped on the Sitecore Host train. A fairly basic idea, but if implemented correctly, could be very easy to add new features. The thought of creating a plugin and adding it to your Sitecore instance is very powerful. But thus far, it hasn’t convinced me yet. Maybe because it still pretty new, maybe because the keynote didn’t convince me. Who knows. I’ll be waiting until the opportunity arises that I can get hands-on.

Anyways, it’s time for the break-out sessions now! I was really looking forward to these. There were a few very interesting topics and could really improve the way I work with Sitecore I felt. I was looking forward to a few topics in particular:

  • Sitecore JSS
  • Sitecore and Docker
  • PAAS/Azure integrations – optimizations
Headless is for me the way to go. There are few downsides to going headless and they do not compete with the advantages they come with. Plus, who doesn’t like a platform or website that is connected through an app, site, desktop app… by only adjusting the content once? If you aren’t convinced yet, you should be now. So, for me it was clear. Try and follow (almost) every JSS break-out session and absorb as much information as possible. And what better way to start that with Sitecore Commerce & JSS.

Since Commerce is pretty new, and I didn’t work with it yet, I was very intrigued on how to two were combined. Commerce can cover a lot of ground with many bells and whistles, opposed to JSS which is really simple, as in passing information (very bluntly said). Since 45 minutes isn’t much to explain how two big solutions can be combined, I must say they both did a terrific job. I can only say one thing here, the integration is well built, but it needs to be a bit more polished. There’s time for it to grow, and with JSS rising to be one of the topics of 2019 and even more in the future, I highly doubt the polishing won’t happen.

 

Next up. The JavaScript/JSS Evangelist Anastasiya Flynn. As someone who’s eager to learn new perspectives and code, I was looking forward to tips and tricks and how you can accelerate time to develop. A very informative sessions on the basics, with here and there a little fancy trick, that did it for me. Using the full potential of the JSS framework with GraphiQL (a query previewer in JSS), she showed how you can setup the queries how you like and to filter out the data you need.

I won’t be taking you through every break-out session I went to, but I wanted to let you know that it is very informative to have other people try things and share their experience with you. The best part of SUGCON was that all attendees were eager to share their own experiences with the others. One of the best examples of this is at the end of a break-out session about the migration of Sitecore 8 to Sitecore 9 and how the whole setup has a major impact on Azure deployment. With Sitecore 8 you have a structure where everything is one ginormous mainframe and Sitecore 9 where everything is split into small pieces, (micro-)services. Since we, Sidewalk, try to update our own website to the latest Sitecore when it arrives, and recently migrating to Azure App Services, this was very welcome to hear. But what I wanted to set the spotlight on, is that after an attendee asked a question about App Services sometimes having downtime, another attendee briefly explained that he had the same issue and talked through the solution he found that solved this (sort of). This is the reason we have these sorts of events. This is what makes communities and makes a platform, framework great. I believe the best frameworks are those with a driven community behind it.

 

Before getting too emotional, I’ll continue with a topic that I really needed to know more about. Sitecore and Docker. We’ve been working with virtual machines for a while now and while this is a great way of working, there’s still too much overhead. If you’re working a, let’s say, 6 projects that all have Continuous Integration tracks, you need to have 6 VM’s for those projects. Most of these VM’s take up around 40-50 GB’s of storage. That’s 300 GB’s only on VM’s. Needless to say, that’s way too much GB’s that could be used for something else. For that reason, we were experimenting with Docker container for a few weeks on and off. The struggle was real. I was the only one with time that was trying to setup these containers while I really did not have any hands-on experience yet. Here’s were the Docker break-out session came in handy.

Mr. Sean Holmesby, a whale-loving Australian, came to talk about his pains when trying to setup Sitecore and Docker. I recognized a lot of the stuff he went through and was surprised with the solutions he came by. From simple commands and the important difference between repository and registry to the more “complex” building containers and connecting them together. It was good to see that I wasn’t the only one struggling with this topic. Because Sitecore doesn’t make their own images available, this is really suited for production environments yet. But for development and testing environments, it’s a great way to reduce the overhead.
We’re already the second day by now and it’s coming to an end. The last presentations are some announcements about JSS and the integration with SXA, and Sitecore 9.2! There were no major changes happening, but some welcome small updates. A few of them. An overview page of all your active personalized pages, Sitecore HostSitecore Install Assistance or short SIA, and more great improvements! 
The coolest JSS announcement was the JSS Rendering Host. You can set any Node.js server and run your JSS instance on it A few advantages about this: no need for Node.js to run on your Sitecore server, you have full control over your Node.js management, your JSS app artifacts do not need to be deployed to your Sitecore server… and all other benefits of running Node.js as it’s own instance. Further with the JSS/SXA integration, you can now do all the things in SXA you normally can, except for the obvious ones. The SXA Component Library, Theming and the Creative Exchange are not supported, you still have the traditional Experience Editor, and SXA Layout features won’t work in disconnected mode. But this is to be expected since this wouldn’t make sense to have this with JSS.

And something to not forget: JSS + Sitecore Forms integrations! Finally, we can work with forms without doing some funky business.

 

Further they announced Rainbow Serialization integration with Sitecore! A lot of people were stoked about this and why wouldn’t we. You can use it with Unicorn and at the time of writing this, Hedgehog Development have announced to support Rainbow as well. They both have their ad- and disadvantages. But let’s not start a TDS-Unicorn war here. ;)

 

To get a recap of SUGCON 2019, you can check the videos on their website. https://www.sugcon.eu/video-downloads/

 

Overall, my first experience with a SUG event, and namely a big one, SUGCON, was very positive. From the selfie with Mark Frost, to the breakout-sessions, the great food and people, the many MVP’s present, the fun sponsor events… It was great. And I can’t wait to go again next year!

 

Last but not least: a big congratulations again to our MVP's for yet another year of being awesome!

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