How to make the most of Sitecore cloud hosting capabilities with your existing solution
Sitecore cloud hosting capabilities are quickly evolving, to offer enterprise businesses more flexibility and scalability. But, not every solution is created equal. Depending on your licence and hosting set-up, your options for harnessing the cloud will differ.
If you’ve recently purchased (or you’re in the process of buying) Sitecore, there’s a good chance you have a consumption based licence. You’ll also have likely considered your hosting options, ranging from IaaS to PaaS and hybrid solutions.
But, what if you’re an existing Sitecore customer with a perpetual based licence? Or, you’ve converted your licence to a consumption based one, but you’re not sure how to make the most of it?
This post is intended to give existing Sitecore customers some simple, practical advice on your options from a licence and hosting point of view. And help you to take advantage of Sitecore cloud capabilities, if you haven’t already.
The rise of Sitecore cloud hosting
Like any good software vendor, Sitecore is continually evolving its offering to meet the market.
Before the explosion in cloud computing, businesses typically hosted their sites internally, on physical servers. In this situation, it was sensible to base a licencing model on the number of servers you needed to meet the demand of your customers. Even with the move to virtual servers, a ‘per server’ model still worked well.
More recently, cloud hosting providers have become dominate players in the market. The ever-improving technical offering from these companies is very attractive to enterprise businesses. Issues such as obsolescence and large capital infrastructure investments are removed.
Part of that has been the advent of Platform as a Service (PaaS). PaaS allows businesses to build and deliver applications for their customers. It provides functional capabilities a layer above Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Which has further distanced companies from the complexity of managing server hardware, operating systems licencing and tools.
Sitecore have met this change with their cloud hosting offering. With the release of Sitecore 8.2, they made available a PaaS enabled version of Sitecore to work on Microsoft Azure.
Sitecore has also updated its licence options to provide consumption based models. These offer unlimited production instances and are based on the number of monthly site visitors. This can give you great flexibility, especially if you’re expecting year-on-year growth related to your investment in the Sitecore Experience Platform. Different to the perpetual based licence, which…
Combining the Sitecore PaaS version alongside a consumption based model can provide powerful and flexible capability. Which is especially valuable for businesses with peak traffic volumes.
What are your options?
Understanding your hosting environment and your current licencing is an important first step. The below matrix shows the possible combinations and possible options, depending on your starting point.
Perpetual (server) based
PaaS (cloud) hosting
Physical / IaaS hosting
An important variable to consider is which version of Sitecore you’re on. Pre Sitecore 8.2 support is limited. And the features now available for building Sitecore environments from the Azure marketplace won’t be possible.
Another key consideration is your solution’s supporting infrastructure. Especially, if you’re using physical or IaaS based hosting. But, before embarking any possible migration, businesses need to ask themselves, “Why aren’t we on the cloud?” and “Do we need the flexibility of a consumption based licence?”
Scenario 1: Perpetual licensed with physical/virtual machine hosting
How did you get here?
- It’s a common base position for existing Sitecore customers to be in. That said, there’s plenty of room in this scenario to take advantage of Sitecore’s emerging cloud hosting capabilities.
- You’re concerned about the security of a cloud based solution. Azure has done a lot to ensure its security credentials and controls are market leading. And it’s important to remember that systems are only as secure as the design allows.
- Some businesses think of cloud hosting as an expensive option and get overwhelmed by all the different aspects of the service. However, cloud hosting is very cost competitive, as providers like Azure and AWS compete for market share. And the technology stack is constantly being updated.
How can you move towards cloud hosting?
- You need an infrastructure design that can be implemented on Azure, factoring in your non-functional requirements such a performance, resilience, availability and security. A good Sitecore partner should be able to do this as part of your solution set-up.
- If you’re on a version earlier than 8.2.1, plan for a Sitecore upgrade to take advantage of the Sitecore web app capability. Again, a competent provider will be able to help you with this.
- Migrate to a Sitecore consumption licence for greater flexibility, especially if you’re expecting steady growth in traffic or high levels of complexity. Having the ability to automatically scale to meet those needs is a huge advantage.
- Speak to your Sitecore account manager or Sitecore partner, either should be familiar with your current environment set-up, usage, traffic and components. All of which needs to be considered when Sitecore calculate the right consumption model and price.
Scenario 2: Consumption licensed with physical/virtual machine hosting
This is a fairly unlikely scenario. But still possible, as consumption based Sitecore licences have been around longer than the Sitecore PaaS enabled release.
All the points raised in Scenario 1 relating to why you’re not already on a cloud platform are still relevant in this scenario. But, in case you’ve jumped straight to this section, here’s a recap on how you can move towards cloud capabilities:
- Make sure you understand the reasons why you’re not already on the cloud
- If there’s an opportunity to move, understand the system requirements and design accordingly
- Ensure your solution is on a later version of Sitecore that supports Sitecore cloud
Also in this scenario, you’d already have the consumption based model. So, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of auto-scaling features from the latest release. Meaning, you miss out on a key benefit of having a consumption based licence.
Scenario 3: Perpetual licensed with PaaS based hosting
In this scenario, you’ll need to understand whether the number of web applications under your licence are sufficient for your needs. Whilst you’ll be able to scale vertically (more resources), you won’t be able to scale horizontally (more server app instances).
How did you get here?
Again, this is a fairly unlikely scenario. It’s possible that you have an earlier (pre-8.2) version of the Sitecore cloud offering, but on a perpetual licence.
How can you move towards cloud hosting?
- If you want more options to scale horizontally, you’ll need to migrate your Sitecore licence to a consumption based model, as outlined in Scenario 1.
- Make sure you’re on the latest version of Sitecore to take advantage of the latest features, including the ability to deploy from ARM templates or the marketplace.
Scenario 4: Consumption licenced with PaaS based hosting
In terms of getting the most from Sitecore cloud capabilities, this is a great place to be in. You’ll likely be able to deal with almost any delivery setup your business needs.
You shouldn’t rest on your laurels though. It’s wise to be constantly evaluating your Azure platform’s performance to make sure spend, performance and maintenance is the best it can be.
A managed cloud hosting provider is a must in this scenario. If they happen to be a Sitecore partner as well, even better. A partner that can manage your entire technical stack will provide more valuable insight and more direct communication, helping you make the most of your solution.
How do you choose?
A lot of the advice above considers how to approach cloud hosting from the Sitecore application perspective. But, there are other system components that can comprise a successful delivery environment. For example, databases, search technology and your approach to managing xDB data all factor into your solution’s cloud capabilities.
You should look at your solution in the round, as these components can also be IaaS or PaaS based. Ultimately, you’ll need to weigh up the cost of migrating or updating the various components of your solution with the benefits of cloud hosting. One approach could be to gradually introduce these elements, as part of migration to a PaaS solution.
For many businesses, you’ll already have considered these costs when choosing Sitecore. And it’s likely that a move to cloud capabilities will only increase your return on investment (ROI).
Get the right Sitecore partner
Of course, as we’ve said before, success can often ride on the expertise of our digital partner. When it comes to getting the most from Sitecore cloud hosting capabilities, you need to be sure your partner has the experience to help you see ROI.
At Kagool, we’re no ordinary Sitecore partner. We’re one of a select few Sitecore Platinum partners in the UK, as well as Microsoft Azure partners. We work more enterprise-level customers than any other UK Sitecore partner. And we were the only UK partner to win awards for two separate projects at the Sitecore Experience Awards 2016.