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Upgrading Kentico Xperience to Xperience by Kentico in 2023

Xperience by Kentico, the upcoming next-generation DXP from Kentico, was released in early access via the Xperience Adopter Program (XAP) nine months ago in July 2022. Since then, Kentico has been very busy working on upgrade tools to assist XAP customers in upgrading from older versions to the next-generation platform.

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By Andy Thompson, 3 March 20235 minute read

Xperience by Kentico, the next-generation DXP from Kentico, was released in early access via the XAP just last year, in the second half of 2022.

As we now know, this time it's not just a simple version bump with a few new features. It's a big jump, to a completely overhauled, modern platform. There has been a lot of talk of it requiring a 'migration', rather than a simple 'upgrade'. But considering Kentico's been around for the better part of two decades, we've seen upgrades in the past that required migration work too, for example moving from the Portal Engine (WebForms) to MVC.

Why is it a big deal this time?

There are always at least two major components of an upgrade:

  1. The 'back end' – CMS itself, Kentico. Often referred to as the 'admin', the 'back office', or if you've been working with Kentico as long as we have, even the 'CMS Desk'. It's the secure interface you log into, for all your content management and digital marketing needs.
  2. The 'front end' – your website, or websites. Or potentially other channels, such as data feeds, or a mobile app. This is the part of the application that doesn't come out of the box and is unique to your site's features and visitor experience.

In the past, we were lucky that Kentico CMS upgrades were generally pretty simple. You would just run the upgrade package against the CMS back end, and it would update some files, and run some database scripts. You then make any changes required in your front end, which in most cases were fairly minimal. A few years back I even used to take pleasure in upgrading our own site as quickly as possible after a new version came out, then blogging about how easy it was!

Admittedly, there have been a few upgrades in the past that have been much more significant, for example going from Portal Engine (WebForms) to MVC. But they were still considered upgrades by Kentico, and not a new product.

So why are Kentico treating it differently this time, with guides, toolkits, two products in parallel, and even an entirely new product name?

The reason is that this is the first time they've rebuilt the back end, which is the part they're primarily concerned with, as the software vendor. 

Diagram showing Kentico upgrade paths, separated into front and back end components

In the past, as shown in the diagram above, the upgrade path for the back-end CMS, was always very straightforward. You could install a very early version of Kentico (my record is 3.1a) and simply run the upgrade procedures back to back, to get the CMS all the way through to version 13. The majority of the work was then in getting your actual website updated in line with the code/database changes, and implementing the new features.

This time, it's finally the CMS's turn to change. Due to the fundamental changes in the completely rebuilt platform, an in-place upgrade is not an option. You're going to need to set up a new installation of the next-generation Xperience by Kentico and migrate your website across into it.

Incidentally, this time the front-end part of the upgrade could actually be relatively straightforward again if you're already on K13 and .NET 6!

So can I upgrade from K13 to Xperience by Kentico?

OK, I'm going to say it. Yes, you can. Or perhaps more accurately: yes, you will be able to (at the time of writing, the new platform is still part of an early Xperience Adopter Program).

The current version of Kentico is 13, and the next version is Xperience by Kentico. And yes, you can upgrade your website to take advantage of it when the time is right for you (more on timeframes below).

The only thing is, you're going to need to migrate the back end onto the new platform. And of course, this could be a significant undertaking for very large, complex sites.

Upgrade support from Kentico

The good news is that Kentico has promised significant and continuing upgrade support from day one. And the even better news is that they're already delivering on it!

Public documentation on Upgrading from Kentico Xperience 13 exists, and continues to be updated as the next-generation Xperience by Kentico platform continues to be developed.

An Open Source Upgrade Toolkit is available publicly on GitHub, containing scripts to assist you with migrating your content and other data from Kentico 13 (MVC5 and .NET Core both supported) to Xperience by Kentico (next-gen). This will continue to be updated with new scripts as new features are added to the new platform. Or in other words, as soon as something exists in the new platform, Kentico will update the upgrade toolkit to support migrating into it from the older platform.

To assist even further in easing the pain of upgrading, Xperience by Kentico will even include a 'legacy mode' Page Builder mode, to support Widgets that have been migrated from Kentico 13, even if they have not been converted to the new Xperience by Kentico Page Builder.

This sounds like a big deal

Yes, it is! It's the next generation of Kentico's Digital Experience Platform.

But Kentico understands this too. Typically, CMS and other software vendors will support a major version of their software for around two years, at which point it falls out of support, and you really should have upgraded (this could be the single most common reason for upgrading).

For this reason, Kentico has extended its Long Term Support (LTS) for Kentico 13, by another four years. Since Kentico 13 has already been out for a couple of years, this represents a total of six years of support for this version.

During this LTS period, Xperience by Kentico and Kentico 13 will exist side-by-side. Customers will have all the time they need, and far more time than anything offered by any competing traditional DXP vendor, to plan and carry out their upgrade to the next-generation Xperience by Kentico platform. And that whole time, Kentico will continue to update and support their upgrade toolkit and support.

Sooner or later

Hopefully, this clears a few things up. Kentico 13 is still the latest and greatest platform, fully supported for years to come. Meanwhile, Xperience by Kentico is getting ready for you to upgrade (sorry, migrate 😜) to it, whenever you and the next-generation platform are ready for each other.

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