Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Hotfix Wiped Out My Roles

In this article we will see how the Default Identity Provider used with Identity Server learned a new behavior with role management when resolving users on sign in. This impacts Sitecore 10.2 when the cumulative hotfix 10.2.1 is installed.

Back Story

Here is how things played out for us. After we upgraded to Sitecore XM 10.2 we started to experience an issue on startup (typically after the application pool recycled) related to a concurrency issue when loading the IAR files. Specifically an ArgumentNullException is bubbled up to the Sitecore.Data.DataProviders.CompositeDataProvider which causes Sitecore to really struggle. Recycling the application pool once more generally resolves the issue. After opening a support ticket we learned the issue was recently resolved by a cumulative hotfix outlined here. Problem solved!

Unfortunately the hotfix revealed another issue which relates to how user membership is managed during the signin process. We found this during a deployment and users started to complain about not being able to do anything more than login. 

There exists a SignInProcessor which resolves the user, either by accessing the existing user or creating a new one. The hotfix includes a change to the internal code for this processor. Sitecore Support provided some additional details as to why things changed. I'll put into my own words the message they conveyed in the ticket:

The correct behavior for Federated Authentication is to allow the Identity Provider to control the user roles. The original implementation did not adhere to this and as such you could override the roles assigned to users from within Sitecore.

We are using ADFS and have things configured to require users to be in the Active Directory role "Sitecore-Users". We implemented a Sitecore.Owin.Authentication.Services.Transformation to override the claim roles and specifically only add Sitecore\Sitecore Client Users. You can read more about my implementation here. After the user performs an initial login, an Administrator can then assign roles from within Sitecore. This is super helpful as our corporate process for managing access is more tedious/slower than doing so in the Sitecore User/Role Manager.

The Fix

So imagine you are deploying a hotfix late at night and discover this issue. Opening a support ticket is great but obviously won't pull you out of this hole you just dug for you and the team. After a few minutes of poking around I narrowed the issue down to Sitecore.Owin.Authentication.Pipelines.CookieAuthentication.SignIn.ResolveUser where the new implementation wrecks our current process. Below is the implementation I extracted and used from the original 10.2 version.

Here's the code:

If you do come across this issue you may be on Sitecore XM 10.3+ and find that a new setting is available to restore the original functionality.


Let me know if this helps you out. Thanks for reading!


  • https://sitecore.stackexchange.com/questions/31725/how-to-configure-default-roles-when-using-identity-server-integrated-with-adfs-o
  • https://support.sitecore.com/kb?id=kb_article_view&sysparm_article=KB1001823

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Replacement Task Scheduler for Sitecore

In this article we discuss some of the challenges with the out-of-the-box Task Scheduler included with Sitecore and see how you can replace it with Hangfire, a product to perform background processing for .Net applications.

Update: A NuGet package is available for download here.

There are ton of articles describing the Task Scheduler and oftentimes cover the same information. Below are few to get you started:

Oddly the only things I can find on the Sitecore docs site is from the old SDN. I'll skip linking that here because it is likely to break.

Some of the issues you'll find with the Task Scheduler is the inability to run at a specific time and if Sitecore shuts down the missed tasks are likely to run immediately following startup. With the use of Hangfire we'll address both issues. The format of the schedule field is also a bit crazy and so we'll add to the complexity by including support for the cron format.

So why not SiteCron? You should use it. If however you can't use it, don't want to use it, or simply can't make up your mind then feel free to give this a try.

Here is a quick breakdown of what we'll build:

  1. Pipeline processor inheriting from Sitecore.Owin.Pipelines.Initialize.InitializeProcessor which should give us access to IAppBuilder. Here we'll register Hangfire and handle scheduling of jobs.
  2. Configuration patch to disable the agent used for scheduled tasks and to register our new processor. There are multiple agents used for scheduled tasks, so at the moment we'll only focus on the one that runs for master in the Standalone and ContentManagement roles.

The important part

Sitecore configuration patch to register the code:

  • Register processor in the own.initialize pipeline. The first option allows you to provide the amount of time to delay running scheduled tasks after Sitecore starts up; this is extremely helpful if you want to disable jobs and need some extra time or the jobs are process-intensive and you want to give Sitecore time to warm up. The second option allows you to adjust the frequency in which schedules configured in Sitecore (from the Content Editor) are updated in Hangfire; this is important for cases where Admins create/update/remove scheduled tasks.
  • Disable the the Master_Database_Agent so the old scheduler doesn't run.
Sitecore processor:

  • You'll need references to Hangfire.AspNetHangfire.Core, and Hangfire.MemoryStorage found on Nuget. I went with in-memory storage because I like things simple and having to setup connections to a database and custom tables sounds like a pain. Also, I feel like looking at the LastRun field was enough to satisfy what I needed.
  • In the Process method we do the basic configuration for Hangfire. I don't care about the dashboard like described here and here. Once again, I like things simple and adding another thing to maintain is just not for me. If you want to then go knock yourself out. We also schedule a fire-and-forget background job to initialize the scheduler which includes registering Scheduled Tasks defined in Sitecore.
  • Once the first background job runs, which may execute tasks that missed their scheduled run time, the recurring jobs are configured. Any scheduled task with an empty/invalid schedule is ignored. The creation of the recurring jobs are chained to the Initialize method so we can ensure that anything missed runs before we schedule others. This may be a problem if you have really long running jobs.
  • The default schedule format {start timestamp}|{end timestamp}|{days to run bit pattern}|{interval} is compatible but converted to a cron schedule format when registered (see GetSchedule method). The interval may be converted to a precise time when using the daily TimeSpan format. For example, the value 1.04:30:00 will run daily at 4:30 AM. The conversion code produces a cron format 30 4 * * * which is what ultimately gets provided to Hangfire. If you want to replace the default schedule format with a cron schedule format go right ahead as both formats are supported. The only problem I saw with this is when using the SPE Task Manager because the tool doesn't know anything about cron.

We've had it running for quite some time now and it has been a game changer for us. Think of all the scheduled tasks that seem to randomly run during deployments or competing with processing power needed by Content Editors.

Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you on your projects. Feedback welcome.

More Hangfire:

Disclaimer: After sharing this post I was reminded of an important distinction one should make with bolting on more features to the Sitecore platform. I found Hangfire helped solve an issue we were having with our scheduled tasks. Every day we run tasks that execute SPE scripts and these can be quite CPU intensive. The data belongs in Sitecore and the tasks need to be run outside of business hours (late night or early morning). As a separate application we built a sync with Quartznet using dotnet 6 (latest LTS version at the time) which dramatically improved the developer experience, performance, and maintainability.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Windows Hosts Writer 2.0

 Today I'm pleased to announce the release of Windows Hosts Writer 2.0! In this article we'll learn about what is new and how to get started. Also, a reminder about the pain of managing the hosts file.

There are many steps needed to get a website running locally. For traditional sites hosted with IIS you have to add application pools, websites, perhaps configure services accounts...the list goes on. One of the tasks that feel the most tedious is adding entries to the hosts file. If you are not familiar, this is an extension-less file found at C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts and contains IP-to-Hostname mappings. Each row will have an IP address such as followed by the hostname such as scms.dev.local

If you open the hosts file you may already see something like the following:

As you can see from the above image, there is not much going on. This file comes in handy when you want a fancy url to loop back to the local machine. So now you must be wondering how does Windows Hosts Writer (WHW) relate to this? When paired with Docker it can save a tremendous amount of time in managing the everchanging IP addresses.

A while back Rob introduced the Sitecore community to a neat tool distributed through its own Docker container. Check out his series of articles detailing the improvements made over time.

Finally, what is so important about this new 2.0 version of WHW? I'm glad you asked before bailing out on this lame blog post. Below is a breakdown of all the goodies.

  • Support for .net 3.1 ends December 3, 2022 while 6.0 is the latest version released with LTS. We went ahead and upgraded before we forget.
  • Fixed an issue with the TERMINATION_MAP feature. 🥇
  • Aliases that are space-delimited are treated like all the other host entries.
  • Consolidated the Dockerfile which enables contributors to debug locally with Visual Studio, build from docker-compose.yml, and ensure @RAhnemann can still do releases. 👍🏼
  • Encriched the readme with helpful details on getting started. Run docker compose up -d from the root directory to try it out.
  • Updated the referenced Docker.Dotnet assembly to address the dreaded exception Docker.DotNet.DockerApiException: Docker API responded with status code=BadRequest, response=400 Bad Request. This might have been revealed after upgrading Docker to 4.7.1.
If you want to get started, check out the readme on GitHub. The Docker images have been pushed to DockerHub here.