Content as a Service and Episerver – Part 1 – Introduction

In these series we are going to speak about content of CaaS:

 

The first item we cover is headless CMS:

 

Headless CMS

Headless sounds like the crazy concept! NO HEAD like above picture! But when you dig into it you will see this is a quite new concept and maybe a start of Content As A Service (CaaS)! Content marketing is fast growing business and for some online business is crucial to provide relative content for their customers in the proper view based on their channel (website, mobile app, …) in right shape! Seems crazy!!! Let’s look into some examples.

As a user, I surf a website using my mobile. The website provides me huge images which takes time to load a page and images with many details which I can’t see on my mobile:

 

Another good example, I have a brand new eCommerce website and my products do not have a proper rating and related content. I would love to purchase product reviews, user’s images, and rating.

You can see the importance of the content and content marketing. Site owners now need to pick a CMS/eCommerce platform which provides facility to use other’s content and expose my content. As part of the series, I want to speak about the CaaS concept and it’s important and how Episerver provides facility to leverage CaaS. In next post, I want to dig into the concept of CaaS and some statistics about this concept. Next to speak about how each aspect of CaaS fit into Episerver services.

Episerver Developer Tool

Episerver is a great tool, especially for developers. Easy to learn and easy to adapt. One of the downfalls of any complex system is debugging. You need to have a good understanding of the architecture and have some domain knowledge about the area you are debugging. To speed up the process we usually rely on tools. Debugging Tools are very important part of the developer’s toolbox. Episerver has a powerful tool which can help you to find issues and improve the application. It helps you to:

  • Container (IoC): Give you “StructureMap container used by EPiServer”
  • Content-Type Analyzer:  content type Synchronization status during initialization
  • Loaded Assemblies
  • Log Viewer (In Memory Logs)
  • Memory Dump
  • Remote Event
  • Routes
  • Startup Performance
  • Templates
  • View Locations

To install this tool you can just install nuget package “EPiServer.DeveloperTools”. Just run powershell script:

And then when you build and run application and login to Episerver Admin area and you can see:

I personally use IoC container, Routes, View Location and Remote Event. Please remember Episerver is not actively supporting this tool and it is not recommended to use this tool in a production environment.

I would say, we are moving more to the cloud, we need more tools like this to help us debugging cloud-based services (e.g. Episerver Find).

Second Episerver Developer Meet Up – Sydney

DXC is one of the most popular services from Episerver and demand of using it growing. Cost effective and good support from Episerver made DXC one of best service in CMS/e-commerce area. Marcus is going to speak about the DXC service. This will help developers to get a better idea of all offering and some best practices which developer need to consider.

E-commerce these days are one other f hot topics and we all engaged in designing and developing e-commerce websites and one key area is payment pages! Many websites owners and solution architect ignoring the importance of the PCI compliance. Gareth is going to speak about PCI compliant and how we as developers need to consider this important factor!

 

Hope to see you in the meetup:

JOIN US

When: April 24th, 2018 6.00-8.00pm

Where: Studio 60’s office, 24 Merriman Street, Millers Point NSW 2000, Sydney

If you can’t make it join us virtually using GotoMeeting!

 

Hope to see you all!

Sydney Episerver Meetup

We have 2 cool sessions planned for this meetup:

“Episerver Insight Preview”  (Marcus Babajews/Damien Dias)

•  Episerver Insight Sneak Preview from a Tech perspective

“Tag your content using Azure Machine Learning” (Aria Zanganeh)

•  Using cognitive services to automatically tag Episerver Content

There will be pizza and drinks during the evening.

If you want to join the party please clock on https://www.meetup.com/Episerver-Community-Meetup/events/244161665/

We hope you can make it!

What is CDN and how it fits to Episerver solution (Part 2) – Setup cloudflare

Welcome to the second post of CDN series. In these series, I’m trying to describe how CDN works and with one example show how it can integrate with Episerver and finally we tackle some caching challenges CDN and Episerver has. In this post, we are going to integrate one sample CDN with one of our existing websites. One of  CDN Episerver is using in their managed services called DXC is called cloudflare. I have not affiliated with this company and used it because it may be used by some of DXC clients. Cloudflare is quite good and stable service. They have a very simple dashboard and quite good and fast support. So let’s dig down into it!

  1. I created sample Episerver site and hosted that in http://test5.levo.com.au
  2. Register on cloudflare – It is free (select free-personal plan) (not CC require)
  3. Now you need to provide your domain name(s) – my domain name, in this case, would be levo.com – it may take some time to scan domain

  4. Now you can see list of DNS records which domain scan process fetched. In my case none of them items in the list is relevant, so I removed all of items and add one line for test5:

    Cloudflare proposed me to change my Name Server to use Cloudflare which I haven’t. What I did was just is to remove all items and add my “test5” and associated IP address!

  5. Our original image URL was “http://test5.levo.com.au” so now with our latest cloudflare configuration we can access “test5” using “http://test5.levo.com.au.cdn.cloudflare.net”! So without changing name server, we can test our application. Remember in real world scenario if you need to leverage sage DNS and GEO Loaction DNS, you need to use CDN Domain Name Service!
  6. Next step is to add record to IIS website binding:

  7. And obviously new URL to Episerver:

  8. Navigate to cloudflare URL and you should see CDN version of your site!

Question:

  1. How should  I know the site is using the cache?
    1. In Chome navigate to site using developer tools -> Network
    2. Wait until all site is loaded
    3. Find one of your images comes from Episerver:

    4. You can see “CF-Cache-Status:HIT” in  HTTP Header. That means the image is coming from CDN (more information)
  2. What happens if  I delete my asset file from Episerver?
    1. If you are using CDN URL, CDN will provide the image. That means even if you delete image from your web server, CDN keeps the file till TTL finish (more information)
  3. How should I know HTML is cached or not in CDN?
    1. HTTP Header is where to find out:

    2. As you can see “CF-Cache-Status:HIT” is missing
    3. If you need want to cache HTML as well you can refer here.
  4. If I’m going to use CDN, what about if my image or video (or any asset, even HTML of the site) is live and I need to update it?
    1. This is our next post!

In our next post, we will look into how INVALIDATE CDN cache from Episerver.  We are going to build a NuGet package specifically for cloudflare CDN to invalidate cached content when the content is updated in Episerver. This can improve site performance by caching content as much as possible and allow web editors to publish the latest content ALWAYS and finally we plan for integrating visitor group  with CloudFalre PageRules! This will be amazing journey, next post will come soon 🙂

What is CDN and how it fits to Episerver solution (Part 1)

In this series of posts, I’m going to describe what is CDN and how it works with Episerver. And then introduce a challenge with CDN and cache and Episerver and how we can tackle that. In out first post we will dig into CDN concept and understand what problem it tries to solve. CDN stands for “Content Delivery Network” or “Content Distribution Network”. So CDN is a network which tries to deliver the content to end-user. The source of content is web-server and the output of the CDN will be delivered to the user. The challenges which CDN tries to solve are:

  1. Take a load of site assets (e.g. Images, Videos, JS, CSS, …) from the web server and cache them. Usually, on first call CDN servers, fetch the assets from the webserver and cache it. From now on it uses cache version and CDN takes the load off from web server
  2. CDN, as the name says, has a network of MANY servers in different regions which is called “Edge Server”. These servers can improve content delivery to make sure content is going to deliver to end-user using the same server in the same region. This can help website owner to avoid paying for MANY web servers for different region and they will pay much less for expensive compute time (or virtual machine) versus cheap CDN
  3. Depend on different CDN you would get the different feature but usually, comes with a security feature. Means CDN will handle “DDos Attacks“, Provides PCI Compliance, Web Application Firewall and SSL.
  4. Most CDN supports content optimization. For example, they can minify JS and CSS on the fly or can optimize image based on the client device (e.g. on small mobile screen the image quality is not important but a size of the image can consume all of your mobile bandwidth).
  5. Can give your a good analytics about traffic and how to optimize the content delivery to give best experience  to end user.
  6. Compare to compute power we are paying for a web server, CDN is quite a bit cheap.
  7. Most of CDN providers are now support SPDY and HTTP2, means you can deliver content HEAPS faster to your end-user.
  8. Some CDNs are supporting video streaming, so if you are providing many videos or event live video, you can rely on CDN to provides high bandwidth in a different region and tackle the complication of video STREAMING mechanism on different end-user devices.

The list above is common CDN features but it is not limited to above list. There are MANY more features from different providers which are not listed but above list is my main concern about CDN and any more feature can help to improve user experience on your site.

In our next part we are going to use cloudflare and one Episerver site to show your how it works.

Episerver is named a leader among WCM vendors – What that means!

Recently Forrester announced Adobe, Acquia, Episerver are new leaders in WCM (Web Content Management). So what that mean and how Episerver made this?

  1. Support cloud
  2. Modularized components
  3. API Support
  4. Micro-service based
  5. All-in-one platform for CMS and eCommerce

Episerver does not have strong API and not built based on Micro-service architecture. Episerver but is working heavily on support cloud. I think Episerver  is doing well but need to consider to work more on below to be able to maintain the current position:

  1. Try to make application more modularize
  2. Go to support Micro-service architecture
  3. Accelerate work on Analytics and Personalization
  4. Introduce Episerver platform more to the public (e.g. Graduate developers, the key person in enterprises, …)
  5. Keep pushing on cloud concept

I really happy which I’m part of Episerver and hope to help the community to improve this awesome product.

How to activate Episerver performance counter and use it

One of the good tools to use for performance monitoring is “Performance Counter”. This works well out of the box with Episerver CMS. Setting it up is quite simple, you need to change web.config and add “enablePerformanceCounters” to “episerver->applicationSettings” :

<episerver>
<applicationSettings enablePerformanceCounters=”True”  />

Remember to remove this on production. In the Episerver.dll 10.0.1.0 which I’m using there is a bug which does not create proper category so if you want you can manually create the category:

I put this in “StartPageController” and this is one-off and you need to remove it. After the code is being run you need to run “Performance Monitor”:

1

 

And then select “Performance Monitor” from the left-hand nav, then click on “Green Plus”:

2

And select “EPiServer CMS 7” from the top list and select “_total” from the bottom list and click on “Add” and press “Ok” button. And now you can see performance counter:

3

 

Microsoft Access is still alive!

I’m reading about SQL and NoSQL stuff and end up with the site called db-engines.com. There is a  ranking page as below:

Rank DBMS Database Model Score
Dec
2016
Nov
2016
Dec
2015
Dec
2016
Nov
2016
Dec
2015
1. 1. 1. Oracle Relational DBMS 1404.40 -8.60 -93.15
2. 2. 2. MySQL Relational DBMS 1374.41 +0.85 +75.87
3. 3. 3. Microsoft SQL Server Relational DBMS 1226.66 +12.86 +103.50
4. 4. 5. PostgreSQL Relational DBMS 330.02 +4.20 +49.92
5. 5. 4. MongoDB Document store 328.68 +3.21 +27.29
6. 6. 6. DB2 Relational DBMS 184.34 +2.89 -11.78
7. 7. 8. Cassandra Wide column store 134.28 +0.31 +3.44
8. 8. 7. Microsoft Access Relational DBMS 124.70 -1.27 -15.51
9. 9. 10. Redis Key-value store 119.89 +4.35 +19.36
10. 10. 9. SQLite Relational DBMS 110.83 -1.17 +9.98

MICROSOFT ACCESS IS STILL ALIVE AND IT IS NUMBER (7) in the list. This is so weird. I don’t understand how this site measures the rank of the site! It says it is using popularity but how I have no clue! But this shocked me!

Rebuild Episerver DB to use MongoDB!!! What you think?

I recently doing some small work with MongoDB and just realize Document Based NoSQL DB is really fitted for CMS! So let’s speak about it.

Prons:

  1. Entity stored as BSON (brother of JSON!). That means your content properties will be persisted as the current structure in MongoDB.
  2. MongoDB can Scale Out that means if your site has heaps of content and heaps of traffic, instead of complexity around scaling of SQL Server you can use easily horizontally scale application.
  3. It is FREE!
  4. CMS now days is very tight to Web Analytics and MongoDB is designed to store and process this kind of data! Having said that it doesn’t mean because of just analytics we have to move all of our DB to MongoDB, but if we use SQL Server and we need MongoDB for analytics, it added complexity to project and speed up new developer with the project will become really hard!

Cons:

  1. Currently, Episerver is built on top of SQL Server and I think changing that may need some work!
  2. Many vendors built plugins and they all need to learn and change their packages!
  3. All developers need to learn MongoDB! (To me it is Prons but for business not!)
  4. Technically on my experience “SQL Server” is not a bottleneck for Episerver (thanks for awesome cache)! But in my opinion, next generation of CMS is more dynamic and based on user taste it needs to transform content presentation based on what user is looking for! So very soon it becomes a problem!

 

I really like the idea of you guys! Let me know what you think!