Deploying code to Sitecore on PaaS

Now that we have our Sitecore environment on Azure PaaS, lets get some code on there!

I’m going to use Visual Studio to deploy my code, in the same way we can publish code locally to the website if we’re not working in the web root of the project. Of course, you can have your deployment process fully automated using things like FTP, PowerShell and more.

In the Azure portal, I can select the server I’d like to deploy to and select the ‘…More’ option to be able to download the PublishSettings file.

publishsettings

Little side note, if you wanted to upload your code through FTP you can get the username and password to use from the PublishSettings file as well – just open the file in your favourite text editor.

publishsettings2.png

All details required for the FTP connection are there. Also, if you were silly enough to put your username and password on the Internet, you can reset your publish settings by going going back to the Azure portal and in the server blade select the ‘Reset publish profile’ options.

Back to deploying our code through Visual Studio: We now can open (or create) our solution in Visual Studio and select ‘<New Custom Profile>’ in the Publish dropdown. Just give the profile a name, go back to the Profile button and select the ‘Import’ option. Here, you can select the PublishSettings file we downloaded earlier.

importprofile

At this point you’ll get an overview of the connection Visual Studio created for you, which we can then validate.

validateprofile

Now all that’s left is to click the Publish button, and we’ll have our Sitecore environment all up-to-date with the latest and greatest code!

Awesome. So now I have my code online – but oh no, an error. How can I debug this, when I just get a simple yellow screen? Well, first of all you could dive into the logfiles to get some more information. In addition I could turn off remote errors, but neither of those might actually tell me what’s happening within my code. What I’d really like to do is to start debugging. This first needs to be enabled in the Azure portal. You can find it in the Application Settings of your app service.

debug

Simply set Remote Debugging in the Debugging section to On, and set your Remote Visual Studio version to the version you use. Alternatively, Visual Studio also asks if it can enable remote debugging if you skip setting  it manually.

Then all that’s left is to publish your website with the Debug Configuration. In your Server Explorer in Visual Studio you can then right click on the Azure website and select Attach Debugger. The browser will then automatically open to the home page, so you might have to browse around a bit to find your error page :-).

Don’t forget to deploy your code using the Debug profile rather than the Release profile if you do want to debug.

PS. If any of your code has a dependency on the data folder, it has set it to the /App_Data folder by default.

Update

It has been pointed out to me that we don’t actually need to download the publish settings from the portal. Instead, when creating a new Publishing Profile, click the ‘Microsoft Web Apps’ publishing target. Sign in the pop up window, and there’s an option to select a web app (or create a new one)

publishprofile

Advertisements

Getting started with Sitecore on Azure PaaS

So now that Sitecore 8.2 update 1 has been released, we can finally stop using the Sitecore Azure module and go use the true power of Azure PaaS.

Be aware that at this point in time Sitecore only has an XP1 and XM1 delivery using the Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates – more on ARM here – and XM1 only on the Azure Marketplace. Keep your eyes peeled for further updates on this, as other options will be released.

Before we get into this, make sure you have the following installed on your machine:

By now, you should have downloaded the ARM templates for Sitecore – or alternatively you can also use the Azure Marketplace to install Sitecore on Azure as well, so lets see how this works.

First of all, Sitecore’s ARM templates will not create the MongoDBs for us, so we need to start by getting that set up. I’m going to use mLab‘s free Sandbox tier for that in this blog post, but feel free to use other options (such as the xDB Cloud offering by Sitecore themselves).

mongodbsetup

At the moment of writing I can’t select Azure’s West Europe (Amsterdam) location, as mLabs does not provide a single node there (the only option that’s free).

mlabsdb

I’ll need to create the database for each of the MongoDBs. After the creation of my database is complete, I just add a user to each as well and copy and paste the connectionstring it’s giving me into the appropriate xX.Template.params.json file. In this file, I need to change:

  • The connection strings to all 3 MongoDB connection strings: analytics, tracking_live and tracking_contact – these need to be set to the correct connection strings given to us in the mLabs overview
  • sqlserver.login – the username for the sql server user. This user will be created in the databases automatically
  • sqlserver.password – the password to use for the user created (make sure this has 8 or more characters or an error will be thrown)

Lastly, I need to update the PowerShell script Run.ps1 to use the correct parameters. I need to set the following options:

  • $ArmTemplatePath – needs to be set to the correct xX.Template.json file location
  • $ArmParametersPath – needs to be set to the file location of our updated .params.json file
  • $licenseFileContent – this needs to point to a valid license.xml file
  • $Name – the name for the deployment
  • $location – the Azure region to deploy in. A good overview can be found here, including which functionality is or isn’t available in the region. Make sure the region you select supports Azure Search – not all of them do.
  • $AzureSubscriptionId – Your subscription ID to use for the deployment. You can find this in the ‘Billing’ blade in the Azure portal.

As an additional (optional) change, one could set up a principle service and use that. I just want to get up-and-running ASAP, so I’ll take the manual login option instead for which I don’t have to make any changes.

I also noticed that in my xP1.Template.json file the Application Insights were set to the location of “Central US”:

{
  "type": "Microsoft.Insights/Components",
  "name": "[variables('appInsightsNameTidy')]",
  "apiVersion": "[variables('appInsightsApiVersion')]",
  "location": "Central US",
  "properties": {
    "ApplicationId": "[variables('appInsightsNameTidy')]",
    "Application_Type": "web"
  },
  "tags": {
    "provider": "[parameters('sitecoreTags').provider]"
  }
}

That’s technically fine, but I’d rather have it in the same region as my other resources, so changed the “location” line to the following instead:

"location": "[variables('resourceGroupLocation')]",

Of course, you’ll need to make sure that location supports the Application Insights.

After this I’m all set so I can run the PowerShell Script. It is at this point that you can safely go get a cup of tea, as this will take a little while. In fact, my deployment took 23 minutes and 49 seconds. I didn’t bother moving the blobs used to install Sitecore in my own data center so I could’ve had an even faster deployment – but just under 24 minutes is still pretty impressive, no?

environment