Sitecore revealed the latest version of their customer experience platform at the Los Vegas Symposium 2017, Sitecore 9. The following is brief overview of whats available.
Sitecore have changed the name from Customer Experience Platform to Experience Cloud.
xConnect is a new API which allows developers to integrate data collected by Sitecore with other third party sources. Reading data from the xDB has now been standardised via the xConnect service layer.
Cortex is a new machine learning engine purpose build for Sitecore. It helps discover new audiences and is able run multi-varient tests. Future development of Cortex will bring automated personalisation and is expect to make an appearance towards the latter part of 2018.
First quarter 2018 will bring Sitecore Commerce 9. This will bring a more mature and fully integrate e-commerce solution. Build in .Net Core the new solution will replace Commerce Server. The old store front will be replaced by SXA compomants.
Microsoft and Sitecore have improved the offerings available from the Azure Marketplace. Its now possible to pick your Sitecore version (all 8.2’s and 9) along with topology and size. While is a simple and quick way to spin up a Sitecore install your are limited to pre-made packages. For customer installs, its still advisable to use the Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates instead.
Web Forms For Marketers (WFFM) has finally been replaced. Sitecore Forms has new look with full drag and drop support. It also includes multipage forms and conditional logic.
Sitecore finally offers federated authentication via OWIN. This provides integration with SAML, Facebook, OAuth, WS-Federation and ADD.
Sitecore is moving away from its proprietary UI framework (SPEAK) to a commodity based strategy, Angular First.
Sitecore Installation Framework (SIF)
Installing Sitecore 9 is different from previous versions. The single executable installation method is now gone. Instead all individual services have been split into their own components. To try and simplify the installation process Sitecore created an installation framework called SIF. It combines Powershell and JSON configuration files to build Sitecore environments. By doing this Sitecore have simplified DevOps and automated deployments.
Until dynamic placeholders have only been available using a Sitecore module or custom code. Sitecore 9 now has built in support.
XDB SQL Support
Sitecore 9 can now write analytics data directly to a SQL Database without going via MongoDB first. In fact the initial release of Sitecore 9 has dropped MongoDB completely, however support will be included in future releases.
Sitecore Zenith and Horizon
While its not included yet, Horizon will change the way content editors interact with Sitecore. This will replace both the Content Editor and Experience Editor with a single solution, providing full drag and drop, device emulation, heat maps and machine learning.