Faster, Lighter, and Mac-Ready: What You Need to Know About Umbraco 9

Umbraco has just released Umbraco Version 9. While you might not suspect it by looking at the application, this is one of the biggest new releases in a long time: it's faster, lighter, and it's even able to run on a Mac.

  • Joe Kepley
  • Oct. 01 2021

Umbraco has just released Umbraco Version 9. While you might not suspect it by looking at the application, this is one of the biggest new releases in a long time. It doesn’t look much different on the surface, but let’s talk about what’s different under the hood.

.NET Core

In 2014, Microsoft made the decision to officially expand their .NET programming environment to allow for open source, cross-platform development. This has brought a lot of changes to .NET along the way. 

.NET Core version 3 was released in 2019, and in 2020, Microsoft released .NET 5.0, which drops the ‘Core’ name and cements the work from Core as the way forward for .NET. 

Many commercial and open source projects, including Umbraco, started projects to migrate their existing work onto the new framework. Umbraco dubbed their effort ‘Unicore’ and has been working for two years in parallel with their normal releases to align with the new .NET. With the release of 9, that work becomes the main Umbraco CMS release.

Cross-Platform

One of the most notable features of this release is that Umbraco will now run on Linux and Macs in addition to Windows platforms. While the most popular methods of hosting Umbraco sites will likely remain Windows servers or Azure App Service environments for a long time, this frees up teams to work on Macs or Linux desktops when developing sites, meaning designers who might prefer a Mac can work directly on a running instance of the site. This improves workflows and makes it easier for a diverse team to collaborate. 

The one caveat is that all of the supported options for data storage still require a Windows platform for now, but this can be worked around with a Docker container or a shared Azure database and Storage configuration.

Performance

The underlying changes in .NET have made .NET 5 faster than the previous versions in almost every respect. In addition, the Unicore team have taken the opportunity to simplify Umbraco’s underlying architecture and incorporate performance optimizations as part of the migration process.

The result is that the new version feels faster on the same hardware. Editors will notice a more responsive experience, and system administrators may even be able to consider provisioning smaller (and cheaper) cloud instances in some cases. Developers will also find more cases where standard .NET Framework libraries are being used instead of CMS-specific features, which makes the site easier to understand and maintain.

A New System For Packages

One of the changes that comes with aligning with the framework means that Umbraco add-on packages now use Nuget, .NET standard package manager, for managing downloadable add-ons. This requires a different installation method from Umbraco 8, but allows for package dependencies to be included in code versioning. If you’re used to installing packages from the admin, it will be a change in how you work, but it’s not really any harder, and should result in better management of your site long-term.

What’s This All Mean?

If you’re considering Umbraco for a web project, what was already a great tool is now even better. But there are some things to consider for existing projects.

Should I Upgrade My Site?

Little has changed conceptually in Umbraco 9 with regards to how content is stored, displayed, or rendered. So for the most part, content can be upgraded from Version 8 to Version 9 pretty easily. However, since the underlying frameworks have changed, templates and any custom code for your site might need to be migrated by a developer.

Is Upgrading Worth It?

The answer to this question depends a lot on the site. If you have a fairly simple Umbraco 8 site, upgrading to 9 should be straightforward, so the cost is low, and the benefit is a faster site that’s ready for the next release. If you operate a high traffic site that’s either on a large server or a lot of servers, you could potentially realize savings over time with a more efficient site, so it’s an investment that may pay dividends going forward.

If you have a lot of sites, are running more complex code that may take more time, or have other conditions that make the jump to .NET 5 more challenging, you don’t necessarily need to move right now. Umbraco is still releasing new updates for version 8 as of this writing, and will fully support 8 for 2 years after the final release, with security updates a full year after that. (there’s not yet a scheduled end-of-life for version 8; Umbraco version 7 is currently scheduled for end-of-life in September 2023)

If you’re not planning on upgrading now, you have time, but the release of version 9 is a great time to start making a plan for how and when you plan to upgrade in the future. It’s easy to ignore new releases, but at some point in the future either Umbraco or Microsoft will no longer support the software needed to run an old site, and it’s far better to have a plan than be caught off-guard some years down the road. CMS systems are like a roof, or a car; they work well for a long time, but it’s not a surprise that they won’t last forever, and it’s best to have a plan for how they’ll be managed.

Thinking About Upgrading?

Want to check out the new release? Umbraco Cloud provides a simple way to start an Umbraco project. You can start a new site with a two week free trial just by providing an email address. 

Not sure if this is a good time to move to the new release? Or do you have an older site and you want to start planning ahead? Blend specializes in .NET CMS development, and has a staff of Umbraco-certified developers that can help you make the decision.