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22/06/2016

Review of Magento 2.1 Release Candidate

In the past few weeks Magento has released several Magento 2.1 Release Candidates, with the latest being Magento 2.1 RC3. To be able to review and test the new functionality I’ve been setting up the new Magento EE 2.1 Release Candidate on our internal test site at Inviqa.

There were a few issues initially due to me failing to read the instructions properly devdocs.magento.com where it had a big disclaimer saying “We did not publish sample data for RC1. Do not attempt to install RC1 sample data or upgrade to RC1 if you already have sample data (you can, however, perform a fresh RC1 installation in a different location in your web server’s docroot).” And of course I had sample data in my Magento EE 2.0.6 install. I eventually managed to get passed this by removing and re-installing the sample data using the php bin/magneto sampledata:remove and php bin/magento sampledata:deploy.

Following on from RC1 testing I did a clean install of the Magento EE 2.1 RC3 edition late last week and it works really well. A long with a whole host of bug fixes, as per release list in link above, there are also some changes to key features as well as brand new features.

Magento 2.1 CE and EE – New Features and Changes

In both Magento 2 Community Edition (CE) and Enterprise Edition (EE) the following features has been added

  • Braintree In-Context Checkout
  • PayPal In-Context Checkout
  • Changes to Management interfaces

With the new In-Context Checkouts available for both Braintree and PayPal customers will get a much better and integrated experience when buying on your online store. I’ve tested out the Braintree In-Context Checkout with Hosted Fields, and the User Experience for the customer is very slick. In RC1 there are were issues that I’ve spotted such as the Capture functionality seems to send the Capture notification to Braintree, but it is not registered in Magento. This has been fixed in the Magento 2.1 RC3.

Magento 2 Braintree Hosted Fields

There have also been changes to the Management Interfaces on Category, Product and Content pages where the left-hand side nav has been removed and the tabs are now stacked on top of each other in a similar fashion to inside the main Admin configuration. I’m currently in two minds whether I like the new changes. I feel it does add to the scrolling and makes the administration of Categories and Products much more laborious task on the face of it however with a bit of time testing and using it, I may well find it better. There are definitely some positive changes, especially in the product creation / edit interface where you get a nice pop-over when you want to add ‘Advanced Pricing’, please see some of the screenshots below for comparison.

Magento 2 Product Edit interface

Magento 2.1 EE – New Features and Changes

In Magento 2 Enterprise Edition (EE) the following features has been added on top of the features mentioned above:

  • Content Staging and Preview
  • Elasticsearch – replacing Solr in Magento 2.1 Enterprise

The Staging and Preview functionality in Magento 1 wasn’t very good and very little used amongst our client, so when Magento stripped out this functionality for the Magento 2 GA with purpose of rebuilding it I was very happy. And let me tell you, after testing the new Content Staging and Preview functionality that is in the Magento EE 2.1 RC, I’m getting very excited about the future of Magento 2 as a serious challenger to the bigger eCommerce platforms such as Demandware and Hybris. The new functionality is very slick and the functionality will be really useful for Magento 2 Enterprise Merchants where they can plan and preview promotional campaigns.

Magento 2.1 Staging and Preview

As you can see in the screenshots below you can tie in changes to Products, Categories, Content pages and promotional rules to a ‘Campaign’, and with a nice dashboard get a good view of when and what is released. For all the complaints of Magento 2 being slow and sluggish without enough power, I must say it works surprisingly smooth and fast – and I only use a 2gb DigitalOcean instance (Centos7, PHP7, Apache 2.4).

There are of course some snags and small issues, but that’s expected for a RC and hopefully these will be resolved when Magento EE 2.1 is released. As you probably can tell I’m really excited to tell new and existing clients here at Inviqa (formerly Session Digital) as we’ve had some many request for functionality like this when discussing new build with Magento Enterprise merchants.

I haven’t had time to review the Elasticsearch functionality yet however it is next on my list and I will of course update this post with my thoughts and findings.

Summary

When we at Inviqa work with existing and new potential clients to map out the future of their online and offline commerce offering, we carry out a platform review between platforms such as Magento 2, Demandware and Spryker. Magento has got excellent traction in recent years with SMEs, and now Magento 2 is looking to challenge bigger merchants. If Magento can keep up and deliver regular releases throughout the year with added features such as the Content Staging and Preview I think the future is bright, they will have an excellent chance in being the platform of choice of leading Enterprise merchants.

Paal Soberg is an experienced eCommerce professional who’s specialised in the Magento eCommerce platform. He’s a Magento (1 & 2) Certified Solution Specialist and currently works as a eCommerce Solution Consultant at Inviqa