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Out with the old, in with the new. How will 2019 look for Tridion specialists?

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Dec 31, 2018 05:12 PM |

It's New Year's eve: a traditional time to look backwards and forwards. I've spent a little time contemplating these grand themes in the context of my life as a Tridion specialist. Where are we now and what will the new year bring?

Let's start with 2018. The major event this year, of course, was the release of SDL Tridion DX, incorporating SDL Tridion Sites 9. So the first thing you see is that we got the Tridion name back. Hurrah! OK - enough of that: getting the name back is good, but there are other things to get excited about.

Firstly - Tridion DX brought SDL's two content management systems together: the web content management system "formerly known as Tridion", and the SDL Knowledge Center. The new branding names the first "SDL Tridion Sites" and the second "SDL Tridion Docs". So now we have both the web content management and structured content management features in the same product. To be honest, I suspect at first the number of customers who want to combine the two will be small, but for companies that do need to straddle these two worlds, the integration provided by DX will be a killer feature. As time goes on, we'll probably find that having both approaches available helps to prevent the need to knock a round peg into a square hole in some implementations. It's also clear that this represents a significant engineering effort at SDL. They haven't just put everything in the same shrink-wrap, but for example, the content delivery architecture has had a major revamp to get the two systems to play nicely together. Even this got a new branding: the Unified Delivery Platform!

I suspect, though that in 2019, I'll be mostly busy with pure WCM work. Sites 9 brings a raft load of enhancements that help to keep it current in the fast-moving world of modern web development. The most interesting is perhaps the new model service. We've seen a model service as part of the DXA framework, but Sites 9 has a "Public Content API", which boils down to a GraphQL endpoint. Tridion's architecture has always had great separation of concerns, so in many ways, it can take the current trend for headless sites in its stride, but a GraphQL service will make it easier to consume content directly, without having to build server-side support as part of your implementation. GraphQL allows you to specify exactly which data you want to get back, and will enable developers to ensure the data traffic between server and client is clean and lean.

There are also other interesting new features. A good example is regions within pages. In practice, the build-up of a web page is done this way - we have different areas of the page showing different kinds of content, and it's great to see that this kind of structure can now be modeled directly in the content manager. I'll stop there; there are far too many new features for a short blog post.

The Sites 9 release has meant a matching update (2.1) to the DXA framework, which is now using the new public content API and of course has support for the new page regions.

So going in to 2019, things are looking really great for anyone beginning a greenfield project on SDL Tridion. That's not the whole story, though. At the other end of the spectrum, there are always customers who are waiting for the right moment to upgrade from an older version. This might be the year when we finally say goodbye to our old friend vbScript. As I understand it, from the Sites 9 release onwards, the legacy support won't even install any more, so organisations that still have vbScript will be planning how to migrate before the next "major" release puts them out of support. To be fair to SDL, by my calculation it's 16 years since compound templating was introduced. That ought to be ample time, you'd have thought. Putting that a bit more positively, we now have very much better ways of doing things, and a Tridion 9/DXA 2.1 approach is a very much better place to be. 

I suspect the other main themes for 2019 will be cloud computing and devops. As organisations move forward to the new product versions, they are also looking at their architectures and working practices. Fortunately, Tridion as a product is already highly cloud-capable, and the move away from templating on the content manager has definitely had an impact on how easy it is to implement continuous integration and delivery/deployment.

It will be a year of transition for many of our customers: not only the technical transitions that I've mentioned, to new architectures and techniques, but also for the business people who are looking to take the next step towards a unified on-line experience for their customers and visitors.

I'm looking forward to it. Bring it on!

A happy new year to you all.