Sitecore Continuous Integration with Team City and TDS

CIProcess

There are a lot of articles around on how to do automated deployments / continuous integration with Sitecore, which if you’re new to the tools will likely leave you slightly baffled. This article will hopefully show you exactly what you need to do and explain why.

Solution Overview

  1. TDS is used by developers to serialize their Sitecore item changes and push them into source control
  2. Team City is used to detect the changes and run a build script
  3. Team City uses Web Deploy to push the code changes to the web server
  4. Team City calls MSBuild which will trigger TDS which is installed on the server to deploy Sitecore items to the destination server

Prerequisites

  • You have a build server with Team City installed and know how to set it up to do a web deploy
  • You are already using TDS and have your Sitecore items serialized in source control
  • Essentially you know how to do the first 3 steps and just need help with Step 4

Step by Step

UNC Share

On your web server you need to set up a UNC Share on your website’s folder. When TDS does a deploy it will install a web service on your website through this share, do the item deployment and then remove the web service again.

The share needs to give permission to the user that your Team City Build Agent runs as. To find out which user your Build Agent is using:

  1. open the list of services and find TeamCity Build Agent in the list
  2. right click and select “Properties”
  3. in the “Log On” tab you will be able to see which Windows User is being used

Team City Config

In your Team City’s build configuration settings for your project, add a new build step with the following config:

Runner Type: MSBuild
Step Name: Publish TDS Items (or some other identifier)
Build file path: Path to your projects .sln file
Command line parameters:

  • SitecoreDeployFolder: TDS will use this file path to install a web-service on your site to publish the items through.
  • SitecoreWebUrl: This is the url of the site you are going to update. TDS will use this when it tries to call the web service it installed.
  • IsDesktopBuild: false
  • GeneratePackage: false
  • RecursiveDeployAction: Delete
/p:IsDesktopBuild=false;GeneratePackage=false;RecursiveDeployAction=Delete;SitecoreWebUrl=URL OF SITE;SitecoreDeployFolder="UNC PATH TO YOUR SITECORE SITE"

Setting the command line parameters here will take precedence over any that have been included in your TDS projects solution file (which are liable to be overwritten by a developer).

TDS Build Settings

That’s it!

It’s that easy. If you run your build script now your items should all be published to Sitecore.

Alternatives

This certainly isn’t the only way to setup automated deployments and nor is it without issues. The fact a share needs to be set up between the Web Server and the Build Server, could cause an issue with security and may just not be possible if you’re using a cloud server.

Rather than using TDS to deploy the Sitecore items you could use TDS to create a .update package. These would normally be installed through an admin webpage (not great for CI) but there is an open source project called Sitecore Ship that will expose a REST endpoint for the package to be posted to. Brad Curtis has written an excellent guide to this setup here (http://www.bradcurtis.com/sitecore-automated-deployments-with-tds-web-deploy-and-sitecore-ship/), however at the time of writing Sitecore Ship isn’t compatible with Sitecore 7.5 or 8.

Another alternative to installing the update package is to use the TDS Package Installer. This is a tool Hedgehog provide alongside TDS for installing the update package. In this scenario you would need the tool installed on your web server and some way to call it. Jason Bert has written a setup guide for this example (http://www.jasonbert.com/2013/11/03/continuous-integration-deployment-with-sitecore/) however as well as Team City, you will also need Octopus Deploy to call the package installer. Octopus Deploy works by having what it calls Tentacles on each server you deploy to, making it easy to set up scripts to call programs on that server.

Sticking with the example using just TDS, you could also use TDS to deploy the solutions files as well as Sitecore items rather than using Web Deploy. However the downside here is that TDS is unable to modify your Web.Config file, which is one reason to stick with Web Deploy.

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Muddlings with Sitecore Index’s

On a recent Sitecore project we needed to have a faceted product search. For this we opted to use the Lucene based Search and Indexing functionality that comes with Sitecore. Overall this proved very easy to use, but here are the details of a couple of issues we encountered.

Items Duplicating on Publish and never Deleting

The first issue we found was that although the index was being built and we could read it. If we ever deleted an item, it wasn’t removed from the index. Equally if you ever saved and published an item, it would become duplicated in the index.

Doing a manual rebuild of the index would clear the items back down to what we would normally expect. But for some reason changes were clearly just being added to the index rather than updating it.

Looking through Sitecores “Sitecore Search and Indexing Guide” (http://sdn.sitecore.net/upload/sitecore7/75/sitecore_search_and_indexing_guide_sc75-a4.pdf) wasn’t much help, as far as we could tell the index was set up correctly. Comparing to the default index that comes with a blank install of Sitecore didn’t help much either.

In the end it transpired in your index’s field name definition you must include a field for “_uniqueid”. We had assumed that some sort of config like this must be needed, however Sitecore’s indexing guide doesn’t actually mention it anywhere.

<fieldNames hint="raw:AddFieldByFieldName">
  <field fieldName="_uniqueid"            storageType="YES" indexType="TOKENIZED"    vectorType="NO" boost="1f" type="System.String" settingType="Sitecore.ContentSearch.LuceneProvider.LuceneSearchFieldConfiguration, Sitecore.ContentSearch.LuceneProvider">
    <analyzer type="Sitecore.ContentSearch.LuceneProvider.Analyzers.LowerCaseKeywordAnalyzer, Sitecore.ContentSearch.LuceneProvider" />
  </field>

Index not updating in the Content Delivery environment

At this point our index’s were working fine in our own test environments. Upon deploying to our clients servers however the index’s were never updating on either there Content Management or Content Delivery servers. Doing a manual rebuild of the index would cause the Content Management servers index to update, but the Content Delivery servers index constantly remained empty.

Clearly there was some sort of difference between there’s and our environments. We didn’t have any direct access to there servers, so we checked out the config settings that are view-able by going to /sitecore/admin/showconfig.aspx

Sure enough there was a difference.

This Sitecore install was running 7.2 and prior to that the latest version they had used was 6.6. They had set up a custom config setting which removed the hooks section from config. This was because some of the default hooks Sitecore has interfered with performance monitoring tools they use on there sites. Unfortunetly it was also removing a hook that loads Sitecore.ContentSearch. Without this index’s are never updated on events.

<hooks>
<hook type="Sitecore.ContentSearch.Hooks.Initializer, Sitecore.ContentSearch" patch:source="Sitecore.ContentSearch.config"/>
</hooks>

Using Datasources

A few weeks ago I blogged about Databinding to the a datasource rather than the context in Sitecore. Today I spotted this excellent video from Martina on the Master Sitecore YouTube channel. It’s only focused on MVC, but gives a good explanation of what DataSources are and how you can use them. With an extra tiny bit of information on using them for personalization and testing at the end.

Item and Field Names in Sitecore

Item and Field names in Sitecore might sound like a simple subject, but there are a few options that you may not be aware of.

Item Names

When you create an item in Sitecore it will ask you for a name to give the item. That name then appears in the content tree and at the top of the details pane to identify what your looking at.

Item Name Content Tree

It’s also used for the URL in the front end of your site.

Item Name Page URL

All fairly basic stuff. However in this example you will see that I’ve placed a hyphen between “Company” and “News” to make the the URL a little more friendly, rather than having a space or no gap at all. While good for the URL it comes at a sacrifice to the admin experience where a gap would be nicer.

On a multilingual site the URL’s are also still using this same name. If your languages are English and US English that may be ok, but if your second language is French then they would probably prefer a URL in French.

Display Names

This is where Display Names come in. By setting a Display Name for your item you can configure a name to show in the admin that contains the space which can also differ per language.

Item Name Display Name

However at this point the URL on the front end of your site will still be “Company News”. Through a config setting though you can set Sitecore to use item display names rather than the item name when constructing a URL.

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/"> 
  <sitecore> 
    <linkManager> 
      <providers> 
        <add name="sitecore"> 
          <patch:attribute name="useDisplayName">true</patch:attribute> 
        </add> 
      </providers> 
    </linkManager> 
  </sitecore> 
</configuration>

Of course at this point your URL will be back to having a space within it.

Field Names

When you define a template in Sitecore you create add a section name and then add a field within that section. All simple stuff, however what you generally find is you have to prefix the name of your fields with the name of the section. This is because when it comes to accessing the field data in code, the sections don’t exist and you need a way to avoid having two fields just called “Title” or “Text”.

Field Name Sections

While this solves the issue from a code perspective, for content editors it’s far from ideal.

Fortunately there is a solution to this. By navigating to the actual field item within the content tree, we can specify a Title for the field that will be used in the editor rather than its name.

Field Name Title

On top of that if you click the Configure tab and select Help, you can enter some help text that will appear next to the field name in the content editor.

Field Name Help Text

Field Name With Display and Help