In April I have been at the annual Magento conference “Imagine” in Las Vegas, for the second time after 2012. This post is about what I experienced there and how that changed my view on the current state of Magento – the product and the company. I have written about the facts and announcements made at Imagine 2016 in my previous blog post.
My main goals have been:
- Get a feeling about the mood in the international Magento community and what they think about Magento 2 and Magento Inc. (especially the American community, as I believe I know quite well what many Europeans are thinking).
- Meet many people and talk to them about Magento and Business – especially people I don’t meet at the European events regularily.
- Have a great time.
- Make our Solr module a bit more well-known 🙂
To make it short: My expectations were fulfilled and exceeded. Magento organized a near-perfect event with many opportunities for networking. Well done!
The current State of Magento
You have to differentiate between the product Magento (especially Magento 2, as Magento 1 is more or less abandoned except security patches) and the company Magento including its employees.
Regarding the product, not much has changed since the release in November 2015. My opinion from half a year ago still stands, although there are more extensions available right now. But: despite the announcements, there hasn’t been a 2.1 release yet, it is currently postponed until June 2016. I hope to see improvements in the next release – until then I wouldn’t recommend starting new projects on Magento 2 (with a few valid exceptions under certain circumstances).
The main problems seem to be in the installation / upgrade mechanisms and in the frontend area:
- It’s not possible to use the web installer when installing Magento with Composer (and there’s no hint for that)
- In several tries I didn’t manage to install the official sample data with Magento Enterprise Edition 2.0.
- There are quite a few issues in installing and upgrading Magento as Sven Wappler pointed out at our last Magento Meetup Aachen, see his slides (German only, but you’ll understand the context). One example: if you have an additional repository in your composer.json, the upgrade process fails with the error message “Sorry, we can’t take that action right now.” which is not self-explanatory at all. This leads to the conclusion that the process is not well tested in a project environment.
- The data migration tool seems very buggy – which was also shown by Sven Wappler in his talk. He needed several retries, custom PHP scripts and of course a good backup before migration. For example all attribute sets retrieve the prefix “Migration_” after migration.
- If you want to do Frontend Development with Magento 2, you have to learn a lot, the process is far from intuitive and overly complex. My co-worker Sandro summed this up nicely in his review of the Magento Developers Paradise 2016 in Croatia, inspired by a talk of Hrvoje Jurišić:
The more people & colleagues I speak to, the more I am sure about the fact that there is something wrong in the way Magento is approaching its new frontend workflow. And I am more and more confident that the community of frontend developers will strike its own paths if no significant changes will be made.
- Parts of the frontend interface cannot be translated into other languages than English.
- As can be expected by an early version of a new product, a lot of smaller flaws can be found. Fabian, another co-worker of mine and a developer well-known among Magento developers, wrote about that in his review of the Developers Paradise:
…the interfaces are not yet matured enough and on many places the core bypasses these interfaces. Magento Lead Architect Anton Kril assured that they are aware of this and will work on it, but we should not expect anything before version 2.4.
As you can see, a lot of work has to be done until Magento 2 gains the stability of Magento 1. I hope to see several of the above points addressed in the upcoming release(s).
Don’t get me wrong: I still think that Magento 2 is a good product with a lot of potential and a lot of advantages, for example the testability and test coverage. I am getting accustomed to Backend development after having worked with Magento 2 for only a few days during different Hackathons, and I am impressed of how fast I can get things to work. The above mentioned points are exceptions of that – but a bit too many of them.
Since mid-2015, Magento is on its own again and not owned by ebay any more. The impact of that is immense: I got the impression that there is a lot of motivation and movement again. Many things are happening, and everyone (including me) is optimistic again.
One of the highlights has been that I got to talk to quite a few Magento employees. Somehow, Magento has managed to assemble a group of great people (yes, I am getting accustomed to American overstatement, but in this case it’s simply true). I already knew a few of them before (especially Ben Marks, Sherrie Rohde and Alan Kent), but got to meet many more as they had been around nearly everywhere at the conference. To name a few: Tana Berry, Tanya Soroka, Paul Boisvert, Elena Leonova, Chuck Choukalos, Anton Kril and Piotr Kaminski. And, last but not least, Mark Lavelle, CEO of Magento, who suddenly stood next to me at the Community Run to the Hoover Dam. It was great to talk to every single one of them. Especially since everyone was really interested in what I was thinking about (the product) Magento 2, its current pain points and what to improve. Other attendees told me the same which makes me believe that they are really listening and trying to improve, also being open to criticism. The whole company has become much more transparent which I like a lot.
Also positive: outstanding community members have been honored in the Magento Masters program on the main stage during the first Keynote. After 8 years, this was the first time the role of the ecosystem around Magento was really acknowledged. All this makes me believe that Magento Inc. is on the right track.
Special thanks goes to Sherrie Rohde who invited me to the Magento office in Los Angeles which I visited a few days before the conference.
Some personal advice
- Visiting the conference is not about getting direct (technical) knowledge. It is not about hearing many talks. It is about meeting people, personal exchange and building (business and personal) relationships.
- The whole Magento community consists of friendly and interesting people. It’s a good feeling to be among them. In parts, it’s a different group of people than what you have at most other Magento events: more “enterprisey”, more decision makers, from bigger companies in many cases. I also like to see leading employees of German gold solution partners, who I (almost) only meet at Imagine. And, besides, everyone is open to talk, also thanks to the American culture.
- Don’t just visit the main conference days – be at the surrounding events as well. For example, that’s the Hackathon, the Community Run, the PreImagine Party or the Developers Barcamp. For me the most interesting and rewarding days have been Saturday and Sunday, while the main conference day, Tuesday, wasn’t that interesting for me (on a very high level though).
- The keynotes are a big show, really impressive. Don’t miss them even if the previous night was long.
- Choose the hotel where you are staying wisely. While the conference hotel, the Wynn, was quite expensive, the hotel where I was staying with a few fellow community members, the Stratosphere, was a bit far away. The Encore, the Royal Resort or the CircusCircus might have been better alternatives.
- If you can, take a day off, better two or three, before or after the conference in order to see a bit of the great landscape around Las Vegas.
- Don’t worry if the Community Edition of Magento isn’t mentioned on stage a single time – that’s usual at Imagine. They still care.
Author: Andreas von Studnitz
Andreas von Studnitz is a Magento developer and one of the Managing Directors at integer_net. His main areas of interest are backend development, Magento consulting and giving developer trainings. He is a Magento 2 Certified Professional Developer Plus and holds several other Magento certifications for both Magento 1 and Magento 2. Andreas was selected as a Magento Master in 2019 and 2020.