Today, we are announcing the general availability of Sitecore® Experience Platform™ (XP) 9 and the Sitecore Experience Cloud™. This is a hallmark occasion featuring not only the debut of one of the largest amounts of new functionality in a single release from Sitecore, but also the full transformation of our organization into a cloud company. In this blog, I’d like to walk you through the best aspects of what we’re announcing today.

Completing the transition to the Cloud

In July 2016, we announced a strategic cloud partnership with Microsoft around Azure. From Sitecore 8.2 Update 1, we began supporting our products natively on Azure leveraging platform-as-a-service building blocks. Since that time, we debuted our Managed Cloud and Managed Cloud Premium offerings to offer full management and monitoring of the underlying Sitecore infrastructure. Now, today, all this comes together with the Sitecore Experience Cloud, which:

  • Has all aspects of the platform running in a fully “serverless” capacity using Azure PaaS building blocks, without the need for any virtual machines to configure, manage, or patch
  • Allows customers and partners to deploy on their own Azure subscriptions through a single, unified interface on Azure Marketplace
  • Provides advanced capabilities for more sophisticated customers for self-deployment on their own Azure subscriptions using the Azure Toolkit
  • Offers fully managed Sitecore hosting with multiple options dependent upon the desired service model
  • Offers partner-managed solutions leveraging our native underlying support for the Azure platform

Sitecore is the only vendor offering full freedom of choice in the cloud to self-deploy, foster a managed services partner ecosystem, and offer first-party managed services.

xDB: Freedom of choice

Another major change in Sitecore XP 9 is freedom of choice for the Sitecore® Experience Database™ (xDB). We now support natively Microsoft SQL Server 2016 or above, SQL Azure, and in forthcoming updates, MongoDB and Azure CosmosDB (formerly known as DocumentDB). Now customers can benefit from their big data platform of choice for collecting and connecting customer data.

Sitecore xConnect™: Unifying the view of the customer

Introduced in this release is our next-generation big data API framework, titled Sitecore xConnect. xConnect provides an industry-standard set of RESTful OData services to xDB, allowing you to customize exactly the type of data you want to import or extract. xConnect is designed for massive scale such that any facet of customer intelligence—be it from a CRM system, ERP system, point-of-sale system, or Internet-of-Things (IoT) device—can be imported, analyzed, and then used to create a highly personalized and contextual digital experience. Conversely, the same API framework can be used in reverse to easily use digital experience data collected through Sitecore XP into other systems.

Sitecore® Forms

We are also introducing Sitecore Forms, our next-generation toolset that allows digital marketers to easily create and manage forms-based interactions. Sitecore Forms features a new drag-and-drop canvas of pre-made, mobile-friendly elements and a new visual interaction designer to easily orchestrate the interactive elements of a forms experience. Sitecore Forms is fully integrated into Sitecore XP 9 and allows form content to be fully leveraged for personalization. Forms are fully reusable and can feature varying look-and-feel across sites and devices.

Marketing automation

We are also introducing our next-generation user experience for marketing automation. Rebuilt from the ground up based upon significant customer user experience research, our new automation toolset provides a built-for-marketers toolset with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface for orchestrating experiences across digital channels.

CRM connectors

Full integration with your favorite CRM system is now possible as well, as Sitecore XP 9 features pre-built connectors to both Salesforce Sales Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM systems.

Headless content delivery

Our Sitecore® Services Client API has been enriched to provide a first-class experience when consuming Sitecore content while using standards-based RESTful services. We are also introducing the technical preview of Sitecore® JavaScript Services, which will allow JavaScript developers to work natively in their environment of choice (like React or Angular) in a manner disconnected from Sitecore while still preserving the full marketer value proposition of in-context editing, tracking, and personalization. Sitecore JavaScript Services will be generally available in an update to Sitecore XP 9. 

Sitecore Experience Accelerator 1.5

The Sitecore XP 9 wave is also complemented with the availability of Sitecore Experience Accelerator 1.5. This update, our fifth since debuting SXA a year ago, provides a number of enhancements for sharing content across multiple sites and several new or revised components to offer more flexibility for look and feel. 

Most secure and compliant release yet

Sitecore XP 9 features a plethora of security improvements. First and foremost is Federated Authentication, which allows customers to authenticate using the SAML provider of their choice, such as Azure Active Directory. The same capability can also be used to let end-customers authenticate via social login such as Facebook, Google ID, etc. 

Sitecore XP 9 also supports complete at-rest and in-motion encryption of data for the first time. Likewise, this is the first release where settings are hardened by default. Last, via the newly introduced xConnect API framework, brands doing business in the European Union will have the mechanisms necessary to manage their personally identifiable information (PII) data against the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements.  

Easiest path for upgrading yet

Sitecore XP 9 offers express migration from Sitecore 6.6, 7.2, 7.5, and XP 8. Any Sitecore XP 8.1 or later customer can upgrade directly to Sitecore XP 9. Collectively, this represents the most friction-free path forward for existing customers.

Sitecore Cortex™ machine learning

Finally, with Sitecore XP 9 we announce Sitecore Cortex, our platform for machine learning. Built upon the foundation of xConnect and xDB, Sitecore Cortex provides a scalable service for processing data in the Sitecore Experience Database to offer capabilities like surfacing highest value audience segments or optimizing user paths through your site. In the near future, Sitecore Cortex will deliver such capabilities as automated personalization and intelligent segmentation for improved marketing performance.

Collectively, the Sitecore Experience Platform 9 is the single largest wave of innovation ever released by Sitecore. We are incredibly excited to see the innovations our customers and partners will make in the market with all of the new capabilities announced today.

For more information, download our white paper “Why upgrade to Sitecore XP 9” or the Sitecore XP brochure.

Ryan Donovan is EVP of Product Management at Sitecore. Find him on LinkedIn.