As you’ll discover in a minute, a lot of exciting things have happened to Umbraco Cloud in 2021. If there’s a particular area you’re interested in, why not jump straight to it:
- What’s new in the “new” Cloud?
- New Infrastructure
- Cloud-based Media Storage, improved hosting services, and single sign-on
- New deployment and service layer
- Improved monitoring and incident management
- Feature Parity
- Speaking of Umbraco 9
- Umbraco Heartcore
- The Umbraco Cloud Portal
- And all the other new tools and improvements
- Bring on 2022 🎉
There’s no doubt about it. The big topic in 2021 has been the new infrastructure for the entire Umbraco Cloud platform. It was announced in December last year, along with reasoning for why this was needed. You can find more details in the Status on new Umbraco Cloud infrastructure blog post series. TLDR; we wanted to be able to provide better service, improve stability and open up for new and highly requested features.
Work on the new infrastructure started back in 2020 with a lot of planning, gathering feedback and maturing the project. After the announcement in December 2020, work commenced on the project and has continued throughout 2021 with several big milestones, new features, and the significant task of moving thousands of projects from the old infrastructure.
We can proudly say that the new infrastructure is now in place for the entire Cloud platform including Umbraco Uno and Heartcore. All new projects are created on it and almost all existing projects have been moved over. So, I guess we should really be talking about it as the current infrastructure 😉
What’s new in the “new” Cloud?
A lot! The entire infrastructure for the platform has been updated and modernized to take full advantage of all that Azure, the Microsoft platform we utilize to deliver Umbraco Cloud functionality and hosting, has to offer.
The Umbraco Cloud platform is a complex platform that aims to deliver end-to-end development workflows, maintenance capabilities, hosting services and a long list of end user-focused features through the products (Umbraco CMS, Cloud, Uno and Heartcore) and add-ons (Umbraco Forms and Deploy) that combine to make up the offering. It’s all tied together in the Umbraco Cloud Portal where you can create, update and manage your Umbraco projects.
To deliver all that we want, both now and in the future, we have changed the underlying infrastructure of the web hosting platform of Umbraco Cloud. We have moved away from an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based solution to one where Umbraco Cloud is more closely integrated with Azure's native Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering (Azure App Service). Umbraco Cloud has always been based on services from Azure, but a lot has happened since we launched Umbraco Cloud in 2015 and it makes perfect sense to update the platform to be able to take advantage of all the new features.
If you want technical details on what you get with the different plans on the new Infrastructure see the Umbraco Cloud Plans documentation.
Cloud-based Media Storage, improved hosting services, and single sign-on
The first batch of new features was launched at the end of 2020. These were platform-enabling features that helped lay the groundwork for moving to a new infrastructure but also provide several improvements and new features to Umbraco Cloud.
All Media is now stored in Azure blob storage as opposed to on the same fileserver as the project. This is a more cloud-native approach that provides better resource/workload management and makes it easier to migrate existing projects to the new infrastructure.
Automated TLS certificate renewal, CDN and DNS services are now handled using Cloudflare. The new service takes advantage of Cloudflare's extensive content delivery network, reduced latency, and security capabilities. We’ve just recently seen Cloudflare take proactive steps to mitigate the effects of the log4j security issue and even though Umbraco’s products and service were not affected, it gives us great confidence in the provider. The new DNS service was also a crucial component in the migration process, allowing us to easily switch running projects from the old to the new infrastructure.
Single sign-on for Umbraco Cloud was also introduced, providing improved security and an easier workflow for logging in to Umbraco projects both across the Cloud portal, the backoffice on all environments and even on local clones. This benefits everyone using Umbraco Cloud from developers to editors. Umbraco Cloud’s SSO functionality is based on a new centralized account management system, also powered by Azure services. Aside from the benefits already mentioned, this enabled us to seamlessly transfer authentication to the new infrastructure.
New deployment and service layer
With the platform enabling features in place, the work started on building an entirely new infrastructure for Umbraco Cloud. This includes the deployment engine, allocating projects, automatic upgrades and managing multiple environments and transferring changes between environments. There is also a large service layer for Umbraco Cloud for handling all the features in the Cloud Portal, managing minor and automated patch upgrades, baseline functionality, monitoring and a whole lot more.
While a massive task, it was also very exciting - it’s not often you get to rebuild a project, with all the learnings and feedback gathered over 6+ years, improve and optimize both the architecture and functionality and deliver to both existing and new users. If you’re interested in how it all (or at least some of it works), Mikkel Holck Madsen from the Cloud Platform Team has written a blog post for 24 days in Umbraco detailing how we manage the automated upgrades of thousands of Umbraco sites every month. It’s well worth a read!
Improved monitoring and incident management
A large focus in the new architecture has been to increase internal monitoring and reporting in order to act on performance degradation and incidents in a more efficient way. We’ve already seen measurable improvements in this area, with fewer sites affected and vastly decreased time to resolution.
It has been easier to identify and address the few incidents we have seen on the new platform. Most importantly, only a dozen or so sites were affected, as opposed to hundreds if not thousands previously. The average recovery time from incidents has also been reduced from between 4 to 8 hours, it’s now down to 20 minutes. This clearly shows that the new platform is more resilient and we will continue to improve on this going forward to provide the best possible and most stable service to our customers.
December 1st we celebrated complete feature parity between the old and the new platform as well as a whole bunch of additional features only available on the new infrastructure such as friendly GIT URLs, support for IDN hostnames, and more, including support for the recently released Umbraco 9.
Speaking of Umbraco 9
Another big project that came to fruition this year was the launch of a new major version of Umbraco - Umbraco 9 running fully on ASP.NET Core and .NET 5. This was of course available on Umbraco Cloud on launch day, September 28th, 2021. Umbraco 9 projects on Umbraco Cloud come with many improvements compared to older versions.
We have completely revamped the project structure to be more in line with best-practice development approaches for ASP.NET Core. Not only is it easier to add additional code projects and set up a Visual Studio solution, but Umbraco 9+ projects are now also using .NET build tasks to provide the output as opposed to a custom deployment process. All-in-all a more stable, secure, and transparent development workflow that makes it easier to collaborate in teams and then there’s the speed - Umbraco 9 is way faster, we’ve seen reports averaging around 35% faster 🎉 and in some cases more, improving both development and end-user experience. You’ll notice it even just by clicking around the backoffice, it’s snappy!
None of this would have been possible on the old infrastructure. See the Umbraco 9 on Cloud blog post for more details and check out the Umbraco 9 on Cloud blog post or the Building an Umbraco 9 site on Umbraco Cloud video:
And if you’re considering reaping all the benefits of Cloud and Umbraco 9 with a current on-premises Umbraco 8 website of yours, why not get inspired by the step-by-step tale by Candid Contributions.
Umbraco Heartcore has also received a number of patches, upgrades, and features throughout the year. We’re also excited to announce the formation of a dedicated Heartcore development team, responsible for improving and evolving the headless offering in 2022 and beyond. Next year is going to be even more awesome!
Block List Editor with GraphQL support in Umbraco Heartcore
The Block List Editor is now available for all new Umbraco Heartcore projects. This functionality is similar to Nested Content, allowing you to add lists of items (blocks) but with a lot of great new features and improvements to enhance both the developer and editing experience.
For new projects, the new editor was made available on November 25th, 2021, and we’re planning to add this to all existing projects early in the new year. Project owners will be contacted directly with information on the upgrade.
Upgraded Umbraco Heartcore and Umbraco Uno
Both Umbraco Heartcore and Umbraco Uno have been updated to the latest version of Umbraco 8. This has been done to benefit from all the features and improvements in Umbraco CMS, Forms and Deploy, and to get them ready to run on the new infrastructure.
As of this writing, all new projects are created on the new platform and we’re in the process of migrating existing projects as well.
The Umbraco Cloud Portal
The portal is your Umbraco Cloud home where you can create, update, and manage your Umbraco projects. We’re constantly improving and tweaking the user experience and adding new features to the portal. We, of course, spent quite some time this year on getting the portal ready to support projects running on the new infrastructure. Aside from all the improvements gained from the new infrastructure, there has also been time to introduce some new features and workflows to the portal to make your Umbraco Cloud experience even better:
Improved subscription management
Throughout 2021 we’ve worked on and introduced a new subscription management system for Umbraco Cloud. With the new subscription management, all your Umbraco Cloud subscriptions are managed, renewed, and updated directly in the portal. There are improved workflows for agencies/organisations, multiple payment methods, and more.
This provides easier access to see your Umbraco Cloud subscriptions, which you can now find directly in the portal.
The new subscription management provides a better overview, easier access and gathers all your subscriptions in a single monthly bill. It’s currently available for new Umbraco Cloud users (new since launch) and will be introduced to existing customers at the beginning of the new year.
Named firewall rules
Managing your firewall rules on your Umbraco Cloud projects has also become easier. You can now add a name when you add your IP in the Umbraco Cloud portal. The name will then stick to your firewall rule in the overview and you will never forget which IP belongs to who again 😉 Side note: Your older firewall rules will not have a name, to add one, just delete the IP and add it again with your desired name.
As an Admin, you find this option under your project in the "Settings" dropdown under the "Connection details" option.
Improved usage metrics on Umbraco Cloud
The ‘Usage’ page on your Umbraco Cloud, Uno, and Heartcore projects has also been updated with a clearer indication of when a project is nearing or exceeding usage limits for a given plan.
This page shows the number of Content Nodes, custom domains, Media storage, and bandwidth currently in use on the project. This small UX update provides a better overview using progress bars and badges to clearly indicate if plan limits are close to being, or has been, exceeded. You can access the Usage page for an Umbraco Cloud project in the Settings drop-down.
Improvements to the Umbraco status page
We’ve made a bunch of improvements to https://status.umbraco.io. It’s not directly in the portal but we do link to it for scheduled maintenance and incidents, and this is also where you can get notifications on automated upgrades.
You can now find categories for each of the Cloud products and for the Cloud portal itself. We’ve also added public monitoring to our.umbraco.com and umbraco.com as well as an overhaul of the monitoring on Umbraco Cloud.
This should make it easier to get an overview and allow us to provide better and more granular communication for scheduled maintenance, upgrades, and incidents. You can sign up to receive email notifications on the status page and/or follow the Cloud status Twitter account.
And all the other new tools and improvements
I’ve tried to highlight some of the biggest new improvements to the Umbraco Cloud platform in 2021. It’s not comprehensive, there’s a ton of things that aren’t mentioned but still contribute to making Umbraco Cloud a better offering now than it was a year ago. A lot of these are behind the scenes, not least borne by the new infrastructure, and you benefit from it all, simply by being on Umbraco Cloud.
But, we shouldn’t forget the long list of features added to Umbraco CMS, Umbraco Forms, and Umbraco Deploy. They are a huge part of the Umbraco Cloud offering, they come for free with all Cloud, Heartcore and Uno projects, and there have been tremendous improvements to all of these products, meaning a whole bunch of new features for all Umbraco Cloud users.
- 1 new major release (Umbraco 9)
- 8 minor releases
- 17 automated patches rolled out for the CMS
Unattended installs and upgrades, a new Media Picker, tabs for organising properties, a whole bunch of performance enhancements and optimizations, accessibility enhancements, UI and UX updates, and thousands of fixes. That’s just some of the highlights in the 35 releases of Umbraco CMS we saw in 2021 - and they were all immediately available or rolled out automatically on Cloud.
- 1 new major release (Umbraco Forms 9)
- 12 minor releases (and 2 more coming next week)
- 13 patches automated patches rolled out
… and that's excluding the 16 patches released for Umbraco Forms (all the way back to version 4) to address a vulnerability issue. All Umbraco Cloud sites were automatically patched and protected as soon as the fix was released.
Umbraco Forms saw a number of new features such as reCaptcha v3, folders for organizing forms, page based conditionals and in a couple of days you also get a localized Forms section in your Umbraco Cloud projects. All these features and many more fixes and improvements were released for both Umbraco 8 and 9, and available on release day on Umbraco Cloud.
- 2 major releases (Umbraco Deploy 4 and 9)
- 5 minor releases
- 13 automated patches rolled out for Umbraco Deploy (and one more coming next week)
Umbraco Deploy is responsible for deploying schema and transferring content for Umbraco Cloud and Umbraco Heartcore. 2021 saw the dawn of some great new features such as a new management dashboard for triggering Deploy operations and separate restore options for trees and workspaces. Just as importantly, Umbraco Deploy was constantly optimized to handle all the many new features in both Umbraco CMS and Forms.
Bring on 2022 🎉
Looking back at it, 2021 has truly been an amazing year for Umbraco Cloud. We set out with the goal of providing an improved and future-proof platform for developing and hosting Umbraco projects for both existing and new users. I think it’s fair to say that we have delivered on that. Kudos to our Cloud development teams for all the hard work. Building a new platform, delivering improvements, new features, and migrating thousands of sites while also keeping our normal service going is no small feat. A big round of applause should also go to our support department that has played a big part in the success.
Now it’s time to look ahead! The new year is only a few weeks away and there’s a lot of exciting things to look forward to. Looking at the Product Roadmap, we have quite a few features lined up, such as a new regional data center in the U.S. and expanded CDN capabilities. But don’t worry, there’s much more to come 🚀
If you haven’t done so already, or it’s been a while, you really should give Umbraco Cloud a go. You get a 14-day completely free trial, so why not give it a spin?
I’ll of course keep you updated on new roadmap items in Product Updates, and I think we just might do a few more Cloud updates throughout the year - as you can see, there’s more than enough to write about 😅