Yesterday, Sitecore released its newest version – Sitecore 9. Sitecore 9 brings an array of new features and many improvements. One of them however is very crucial and dictates actually, how to even begin the journey with Sitecore 9 – the Sitecore Installation Framework (aka SIF).
So what is SIF? If we boil it down to its very essentials, it is a set of PowerShell functionality and scripts that allows you to install Sitecore. Now you might be asking, why would you need anything like that, if there is already SIM (Sitecore Instance Manager) to do the job.
Well, Sitecore has evolved and it now composed of – possibly – any number of discrete components that would be needed to install in many different configurations (XM, XP0 – XPn etc.) and on many infrastructure constellations; on-prem, cloud IaaS, cloud PaaS, hybrid and so on. The aim of SIF is to become the master deployment framework for any Sitecore implementation in any configuration and on any installation.
To the meat and potatoes
To get started with any new installation of Sitecore 9+, you first need to install SIF. This means installing and importing the SIF PowerShell module that enables operation with Sitecore packages and their relative configuration.
After the installation of SIF, it is possible to immediately run the installation of Sitecore itself, by choosing what type of installation should be performed (XM for CMS only mode and any XP for the full platform, including xDB). However, if the standard installation routines were not up to your needs, you can fully customize the installation process, including packages to be installed and steps to be performed.
While the Sitecore root zip folder still exists (and can be grabbed independently), Sitecore comes now with predefined packages with the root folder wrapped with additional layers of information and most importantly, databases no longer available for simple attachment. The main purpose is the cloud-first approach that Sitecore is taking. That means that Sitecore databases are deployed via DACPAC files in the cloud, as well as on-prem, using the very same principles, brought in by SIF.
Sitecore SIF is very well documented on the Sitecore Developer Portal and is ready to be used as-is, but most importantly, as the foundation for any deployment of Sitecore 9 and related components (such as xConnect) to any environment.