Sitecore 5.3 Enhancements Part 1: The new installer

Sitecore 5.3 is, as we believe Sitecore, the release which merges the requests and experiences of partners, developers and customers into one new release. Based on these experiences Sitecore has developed a brand new client and looked once again at the requirements for developers / content architects before creating this new generation of their own platform. In this serie of posts I’ve decided to write down my experiences till now and hope these posts can be the base of Sitecore 5.3 development by other developers and a helping hand for salesmen while speaking with their customers.

I have been a lucky guy during the development from 5.3. Was able to chat a bit with the engineers and got some updates by Lars, etc. They even allowed me to play a bit with an early alpha. At that time it was a bit to alpha to build a website with it, but it was at least nice to play a bit around :).
One of the things missing in this alpha was the installer. So the day the first beta came available, the installer was quite a (nice) surprise for me. For those guys who haven’t seen the installer yet, the following images show the installer step by step:

Step 1
Welcome to the next generation!
Step 2
Requirements are available!
Step 3
Please provide a license…
Step 4
A website has a name 🙂
Step 5
Choose a folder location
Step 6a
Beta 1: Choose you DBMS!
Step 6b
Beta 2: Choose your DBMS!
Do you see the difference?
Step 7
Supply server and logindata
Watch out for this and that!
Step 8
Select the files you need.
Step 9a
Get ready! For the launch!
Step 9b
Vroeeeem! 10 minutes for coffee!
Step 10
Let’s get wild!

Alright, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Small note for those who taught this is really it… This works fine if you are using one site under XP and for 2003 it works deliciously. In at least 15 minutes you’ve got everything up and running!
The installer creates a structure which is easy to understand, for this reason I’ve cloned this structure immediately as Best Practice for older Sitecore Projects at the office:

A main disadvantage is that the installer isn’t light weight. When you click on the image below, you’ll see 2 MSI-Executables which cause a total of  98% CPU usage with less then 100 Mb of memory usage… This is when the MSI  is extracted to the temp directory to run a smooth installation. Hope this will be resolved in a later stadium.

Back to the steps: Till step 6 everything is simple and as expected. Then it becomes a bit harder, what to choose? What’s the difference between SQL Server 2005 and SQL Express? As you can see this window has been changed between the 2 Beta’s. Hope it will improved a little more with information about what you can expect after installation. What kind of files, etc.
At step 7 I would appreciate a little more details about stuff you can expect, error details and help links, but without, it works fine too as long as the error stay as clear as they are. Bad point of this  window, when you use ‘Windows Integrated Security’ this won’t come up in the config-files.
For step 8, it’s a little more complicated. As I’ve requested a long time ago, you are now able to select what kind  of files you to be placed on disk, but when I’ve selected SQL Express, there not a hair on my head, which thinks about placing SQLite database on my development station. I don’t get the clue why there’s only SQLite and not all of the database or no one, just this one? Are so many people actually switching between databases during development or even when they run it on a live server?
Between step 9 and 10 you have to wait between 5 and 10 minutes. Then your Sitecore is ready. Same time as it was for unzipping the normal dists.

Deploying
First of all, this installer is 10 times prettier to take with you to your customer. The first half year we definitely have created more intranets then ever and deployed over and over on in-house servers. Sysop’s are always happier when an engineer brings him an installer instead of a dump of his source repository.
Ofcourse you still have to deploy your solution on top of this installer but with a simple MSI-installer, created in VS2005, it shouldn’t be a problem at all. It would even look structured :).

Automatic / Silent Deployment
A wish for was definitely was a quite deployment option so you would be able to integrate the installer in your continuous integration process. But I guess this is definitely a step to far for now. The installer has some commandline options, but they are limited to the default options from the different manufacturers. I will investigate this but as far as I’ve seen now, there aren’t options.

Uninstall
I did already expect it, the uninstaller work fine. It’s better to detach all your databases from the different engines, but when you’ve done that, the installer runs smoothly.

Conclusion
The new installer is in more then one way an improvement. Although there’s still room for some improvements, it’s a big step forward. Main advantages:

  • No longer configuring after you run the installer
  • Different database support
  • Pretty way which can be shown to customers

Some (possible) improvements:

  • Possibility for silent deployment
  • More help provided at the different setup steps
  • Review of the functionality provided in the installer(does someone actually want more databases for example)

As this was the first post of the serie, it isn’t the biggest and the deepest review ever. Everybody needs a begin, so do I. When you’ve got comments, additional information or …?? Don’t hesitate to contact me!

2 thoughts on “Sitecore 5.3 Enhancements Part 1: The new installer”

  1. information overkill 🙂 as usual, you sure write detailed and informing when you post, and that’s always a good thing.

    let’s see part 2! 🙂

    P.

  2. Good job Alex, as usual.

    First time online in around 2 weeks, and then this post. It’s really a good start on info updating. Thanks!

    Best,
    Lars

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