Creating a Simple SDL Web 8 DXA Environment

I set out to create a basic SDL Web 8 DXA machine with default everything installed and configured, following SDL’s installation documentation as closely as possible. I wanted to find the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get up and running from scratch. Although it didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, the end result was indeed a fully functional SDL Web 8 development environment with the sample DXA site up and running, Topology Manager, a working Experience Manager, the ability to create new schemas and map them to application-side View Models, etc. In this post, I specify the key portions of SDL documentation used, some common issues encountered and some advice for getting set up quickly and easily.

I obtained an SDL Web 8 developer license, along with all installation media, by following the instructions here. I had installed Tridion and Web 8 before, but I wanted to start from scratch for a fresh install, using the updated installation media for Web 8.1.1 (which contains some key components not included in Web 8). So I decided to kick things off by creating a new AWS t2.large instance running Windows Server 2012. The t2.large instance type is the smallest one that meets the hardware prerequisites for Web 8. I chose Windows Server 2012 because I wanted to follow the single machine installation instructions, as I found these steps to be the quickest and most intuitive. However, these steps call for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit) and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 SP2. Unfortunately, AWS does not provide this exact combination à la carte. My solution was to use the Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Base AWS image, and then install the free SQL Server 2012 Express Edition myself.

The single machine installation results in a content delivery configuration that publishes pages to the file system, which is not what we want for DXA. However, it is trivial to reconfigure this content delivery to publish to the broker database, as required by DXA, by simply editing the deployer storage config. The single machine installation alone is not sufficient to allow installation of DXA. While it does give you the discovery service, content delivery, a content data store, session-enabled content service and preview service, we then still need to install the context service and Experience Manager, as per the prerequisites. The context service can be set up by following the instructions here. You don’t need to install the context service client or context engine cartridge at this point – just the context service itself. At this point Experience Manager should be pretty much ready.

I also wanted a nice, inexpensive IDE that would fit my needs for basic DXA application development, and for this there is Microsoft Visual Studio Community 2015. The DXA installation media comes with a sample website that you can deploy right away by copying the files over or publish yourself by building the solution in Visual Studio. Instructions are listed here. Note however, that between DXA 1.5 and 1.6, it seems the Areas were removed from the source code. As such, it may be necessary to copy these over manually, or work with an older version of the DXA source code. Once you are able to build, publish and browse your example site, you are ready to continue with the example steps to set up a View and View Model for the Special Offer content type. And away you go…


In conclusion, a basic SDL Web 8 developer machine with DXA can be set up with relative ease following the process outlined in this post. The only cost overhead, if anything, is the Windows Server operating system itself. All other software and licenses you should be able to obtain, using free versions and developer licenses, as outlined above. Stay tuned for some more reading about some of the issues I worked through as part of the installation process.

My final setup has the following specs:

  • AWS t2.large instance
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard
  • Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2676 v3 @ 2.40GHz
  • 2 vCPUs
  • 8.00 GB RAM
  • 64-bit Operating System, x64-based processor
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 SP2 (Express Edition) 11.2.5058.0
  • Web Server role, Application Server role (enabled in Server Manager)
  • IIS 8.5 (included with Web Server role)
  • Oracle Java 8
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.2
  • PowerShell 4.0
  • Microsoft Visual Studio Community 2015 Version 14.0.25431.01 Update 3
  • DXA 1.6 sample web site (.NET version)

One thought on “Creating a Simple SDL Web 8 DXA Environment

  1. Pingback: All I want for Christmas is an SDL Web 8 Developer Course (DXA) | SDL Tridion Developer

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