Set dynamic datasource for template field in Sitecore multi-site


This is to share some of the tricks you can use while dealing with multi-sites with Sitecore CMS while designing content solutions.

While dealing with multi-site, we all come across scenario where we want data of some fields to be different per site based on where that item exist. In other words, want to load dynamic data in link types of fields for the data present in that local site.

Of course, the answer is use Sitecore query instead of fixed path. The trick I wanted to share is how to formulate that query.

Lets take one example(I feel if you explain with real life example, people are tend to understand more quickly).

My multi-site content information structure is laid out as follow:

Content

SiteA

Home (All the navigable pages goes here)

Configuration (Master settings for site and features)

Data Library (As name suggested this holds data for the site)

SiteB

Home

Configuration

Data Library

Now, lets assume you have SiteA for Asia-Pacific and SiteB for Europe and there are country data items present under Data Library for both respected sites as shown in picture below.

multi-site-information-structure

Now, you want content editor to select only countries present under that site in field called “Supported Countries” for site’s Configuration item.

sitea-configuration-for-country-items-as-datasource

You can have following Sitecore query as Source of field Supported Countries for the Site Configuration template.

query:./ancestor::*[@@templateid='{B8313310-198B-4596-9532-7E39BAB33503}']/Data Library/*[@@templateid='{7CF67E0D-A30F-4C48-9247-69DE07821520}']/*

Let’s dive in details about how this query is formulated. Before doing that, please thoroughly go through image below.

sc-query-explained

The query is divided in the six parts:

  • Part 1: first part is query keyword, which informs Sitecore that the data source of this field is not just simple item path but complex Sitecore query.
  • Part 2: The the .(dot) present the current item. These items are highlighted in Red. In our example, it is Configuration item. As we are setting query for the field Supported Countries of template Site Configuration. Configuration item under SiteA and SiteB is actual instance of template.
  • Part 3: This is the tricky part, form current item we are getting the list of all the ancestor items. For Configuration item under SiteA, the ancestors are SiteA, Content and Sitecore. For SiteB, ancestors to Configuration items are SiteB, Content and Sitecore. These items are highlighted in violet color. Once we get the list of ancestors, we need to filter out the item which is of template type Site(id of this template is {B8313310-198B-4596-9532-7E39BAB33503}.
  • Part 4: From Filtered Site item, we need to dive in the the sub-tree of Library. To do this we can use the same method of filtering based on template id like we did in part 3 above, but this would be bit costly operation as we need to look for all children underneath site and then filter based on Site Data Library template. Here, I have used fixed path instead, assuming all the sites in this content tree have to have a item called “Data Library”. This is to demonstrate, one can use fixed path query as well with Sitecore query. These are highlighted in green color in content tree.
  • Part 5: The 5th part is same as part 3, except looking for ancestors, it is looking for children and then filtering the child with the template id {7CF67E0D-A30F-4C48-9247-69DE07821520}. This is to find folder type item of template Country Folder, which are highlighted in Sky-blue color in content tree.
  • Part 6: The last part is to get the list of all items under the Countries folder filtered in part 5 above. Here, I assuming none other item present under this folder except for template type Country. If you are looking for particulate type of items you can use filters to get those items. These items in content tree are highlighted in grey color as leaf nodes.

Tip: Be cautious while using descendant or //* in field’s datasource query. This is costlier read operations and may hit the performance of field rendering in Content editor.

Enjoy dynamic field data source and Sitecore query …!!!

Reference
https://sdn.sitecore.net/Reference/Using%20Sitecore%20Query/Sitecore%20Query%20Syntax.aspx

Ongoing publishing issue with Sitecore 7.2


Here I wanted to share simple solution to an ongoing issue of publishing with Sitecore 7.2 with my company. It is such a simple solution but took lots of efforts and time to get to it. Thought to share it so that if someone is facing same kind of issue, can be benefited out of it.

The problem:

Out marketing team(who is also responsible for the content management) continuously reporting us with the issue of publishing. They mentioned that whenever we try to publish any item, the publishing took lot of time to finish. Most of the time publishing dialog stuck at Initialization stage. This issue sometimes go worst, even after waiting for half an hour to 45 minutes the publishing dialog still shows initialization and we need to ask web admin guys to re-cycle application pool and start publishing again(this is worst case scenario).

Publishing Dialog Initalizing

So as a first step, I asked them to avoid bulky publishing. I also suggested then to avoid using publishing related items rather go to individual items changed and only publish those items. The reason is to minimize items count in publishing which keeps publishing process as short as possible and keep them moving.

Even though content authors follow my suggestions, the issue still persist. So we started investigating even more. We planned to take help of Sitecore support personal who visiting us once every month. He suggested us to compare all the config files with pure vanilla version and along with all the other files and folder so we can be absolute sure we are having all the goodies what should be there. After this huge activity we identified couple of missing files and configurations in both CM and CD environments.

So we have gathered all those missing pieces and deployed to the respected environments.

After this we have reported a side effect from marketing, that what ever we are deploying to Fail-over publishing target(which is our DR cum internal Preview servers) it also eventually published to production(which is very strange to us and this was not the behavior before we deploy the missing bits).

Root cause

So, I started investigating in context to new side effects. While going through the log file for CM server, my eyes struck with an strange log entry which looks something like below.

5768 2016-03-10 11:03:57 INFO AUDIT (ad\paragd): Execute workflow command. Item: master:/sitecore/content/Site1/Home/test, language: en, version: 11, id: {23005A37-6BB5-4025-AC5B-047A8D3F3719}, command: /sitecore/system/Workflows/Site1 Workflow/Draft/Submit, previous state: Draft, next state: /sitecore/system/Workflows/Site1 Workflow/Awaiting Approval, user: ad\paragd
ManagedPoolThread #3 2016-03-10 11:03:59 INFO Starting update of index for the database 'master' (1 pending).
ManagedPoolThread #3 2016-03-10 11:03:59 INFO Update of index for the database 'master' done.
ManagedPoolThread #16 2016-03-10 11:03:59 INFO Starting update of index for the database 'master' (1 pending).
ManagedPoolThread #16 2016-03-10 11:03:59 INFO Update of index for the database 'master' done.
5284 2016-03-10 11:04:00 INFO AUDIT (ad\paragd): Execute workflow command. Item: master:/sitecore/content/Site1/Home/test, language: en, version: 11, id: {23005A37-6BB5-4025-AC5B-047A8D3F3719}, command: /sitecore/system/Workflows/Site1 Workflow/Awaiting Approval/Approve, previous state: Awaiting Approval, next state: /sitecore/system/Workflows/Site1 Workflow/Approved, user: ad\paragd
5284 2016-03-10 11:04:00 INFO AUDIT (ad\paragd): [Publishing]: Starting to process 2 publishing options
4572 2016-03-10 11:04:00 INFO HttpModule is being initialized
568 2016-03-10 11:04:00 INFO HttpModule is being initialized
5456 2016-03-10 11:04:01 INFO Job started: Publish
2736 2016-03-10 11:04:01 INFO Job started: Publish to 'web'
.
.
.
2736 2016-03-10 11:04:01 INFO Job ended: Publish to 'web' (units processed: 11)
7052 2016-03-10 11:04:01 INFO Job started: Publish to 'web_Failover'
.
.
.
7052 2016-03-10 11:04:02 INFO Job ended: Publish to 'web_Failover' (units processed: 11)

Above lines, I found in the log just above the log line for manually triggering of publishing just for the single publishing target which is “fail-Over”.

4392 2016-03-10 11:04:18 INFO AUDIT (ad\paragd): Publish item: master:/sitecore/content/Site1/Home/test, language: en, version: 11, id: {23005A37-6BB5-4025-AC5B-047A8D3F3719}
3600 2016-03-10 11:04:28 INFO AUDIT (ad\paragd): Publish, root: {23005A37-6BB5-4025-AC5B-047A8D3F3719}, languages:en, targets:WWW_Failover, databases:web_Failover, incremental:false, smart:true, republish:false, children:false, related:false
3600 2016-03-10 11:04:28 INFO AUDIT (ad\paragd): [Publishing]: Starting to process 1 publishing options
2864 2016-03-10 11:04:29 INFO Job started: Publish
5240 2016-03-10 11:04:29 INFO Job started: Publish to 'web_Failover'

Solution

From above behavior on the log file, it was clear that the workflow has to do something with this. When I checked the default workflow assigned, I found that there is an auto publishing action configured with final stage of the workflow as shown in below screen grab.

Auto publishing action item configuration

But alone having auto publish action configured, should not be making publishing this slow. So I have investigated more and found the real culprit.

The auto published action is configured with deep=1 as parameters.
So now, I have dive into the de-compiled code and found this is very dangerous parameter configured with auto publishing action.
Having deep parameter set, you are instructing auto publisher to publish everything underneath the selected item(approving item here) to every publishing targets(in this case 2 targets).

So, if you are approving leaf node/item, the auto publishing will be quick as it will only publish that node along with no child. But if you are approving, lets say home node of the site, you are actually publishing not just that root home item but pretty much the whole site to all available publishing targets…!!!(Very shocking…isn’t it?).

So now after approving the item, when you trying to publish that home node to selected target, it always queue up in the publishing queue and Sitecore publishing dialog box show you Initialization message screen as shown above. The item publishing will be picked up when previous auto publishing job is done. This is the case with just one editor, if you have 5-6 content editor, then the situation can go into really worst.

So the easy solution is to remove that auto publishing action item which was publishing lot of unwanted items to all targets in background without any visible signs.

So we did that and everyone is happy ever after…..

But the story does not ended here. I was thinking while going to home that day, when the auto publishing action was configured and present with default workflow since the edges then why approving the item wasn’t picked by both the CD servers?

So next day, I have kept my investigation going and discover the ScalabilitySettings.config file which was missing on all CD servers. While deploying the missing configurations and file we have deployed this file on all CD serves started picking the events execution for all CDs.

So, happy publishing….!!!!

Reference

https://sitecorebasics.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/is-your-sitecore-publishing-stucks/

Sitecore Active Directory Configuration: Read User Data from AD Group


The problem:

while working on the Allowing access to the organization’s users as Content Author on the Sitecore CM server using Sitecore’s Active Directory(AD) Module, we encounter very strange issue of not able to read user data from the AD user group. So the idea is to enable group of employees in organization to grant access to the CMS server to do the content authoring duties and enable their windows credential to get access to the Sitecore CMS.

In other words Sitecore’s User Manager wasn’t displaying user from active directory group.

Steps to reproduce issue/problem

  1. Install Sitecore’s Active Directory Module from here.
  2. Configure AD connection string to point to a logical group in the active directory structure.
    <connectionStrings>
        <add name="ManagersConnString" connectionString="LDAP://testsrv/OU=Managers,DC=testdomain,DC=sitecore,DC=net" />
    </connectionStrings>
    
  3. Configuring the ASP.NET Security Providers(Membership Provider)
     <add name="ad"
     type="LightLDAP.SitecoreADMembershipProvider"
     connectionStringName="AD"
     applicationName="sitecore"
     minRequiredPasswordLength="1"
     minRequiredNonalphanumericCharacters="0"
     requiresQuestionAndAnswer="false"
     requiresUniqueEmail="false"
     connectionUsername="[put the username here]"
     connectionPassword="[put the password here]"
     connectionProtection="Secure"
     attributeMapUsername="sAMAccountName"
     enableSearchMethods="true" />
  4. Activating Switching Providers

In web.config file, in <system.web> section, browse for <membership> element and find the provider called sitecore and set its realProviderName attribute to switcher.

<membership defaultProvider="sitecore" hashAlgorithmType="SHA1">
    <providers>
        <clear/>
        <add name="sitecore" type="Sitecore.Security.SitecoreMembershipProvider, Sitecore.Kernel" realProviderName="<strong>switcher</strong>" providerWildcard="%" raiseEvents="true"/>
        <add name="sql" type="System.Web.Security.SqlMembershipProvider" connectionStringName="core" applicationName="sitecore" minRequiredPasswordLength="1" minRequiredNonalphanumericCharacters="0" requiresQuestionAndAnswer="false" requiresUniqueEmail="false" maxInvalidPasswordAttempts="256"/>
        <add name="switcher" type="Sitecore.Security.SwitchingMembershipProvider, Sitecore.Kernel" applicationName="sitecore" mappings="switchingProviders/membership"/>
    </providers>
</membership>
  1. Open Sitecore’s User Manager Check the user listed from AD.

Here we are just interesting in getting the users from the Active Directory not the Roles. But you can extent Sitecore Securities to get the roles and the some of the additional User related data using configuring Role Manager and Profile Provider settings.

Root Cause

There are no actual user data present under the AD group. we have checked that, if you change the connection string to the node in the AD tree which contains the actual user under it will work. But if you are trying to point your AD connection to a Logical Group it won’t work.

Solution :
While dealing with the AD most of the time we have great difficulty to see and check what’s the structure and values of element/user properties.
For that I personally recommend the simple ans easy to use tool called “AD Explorer”. It is free and handy tool which gives you the graphical representation of you AD tree and also helps you to find the correct connection string.

It’s free tool and you can download it from https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb963907.aspx

AD Explorer for Group

  1. Step 1

Change the connection string to point to the parent node of the logical group.

<connectionStrings>
    <add name="ManagersConnString" connectionString="LDAP://testsrv/DC=testdomain,DC=sitecore,DC=net" />
</connectionStrings>
  1. Step 2

In the system.web/membership/providers add the attribute customFilter for the “AD” node as shown in below configuration done in step 2 in reproduction steps above.

<add name="ad"
type="LightLDAP.SitecoreADMembershipProvider"
connectionStringName="AD"
applicationName="sitecore"
minRequiredPasswordLength="1"
minRequiredNonalphanumericCharacters="0"
requiresQuestionAndAnswer="false"
requiresUniqueEmail="false"
connectionUsername="[put the username here]"
connectionPassword="[put the password here]"
connectionProtection="Secure"
attributeMapUsername="sAMAccountName"
enableSearchMethods="true"
customFilter="(memberOf=CN=Managers,DC=testdomain,DC=sitecore,DC=net)" />

Once it is all done, Open Sitecore’s User Manager and check there are users listed from AD. It would be looks like image below.

User Manager with AD Users

 

Happy Active Directory Configuration 🙂