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This is the first in a series of weblogs on External Facing Portal, a new feature in SAP NetWeaver Portal SP14.


Now that SP14 is officially released (Oct. 4), we can officially talk about this version’s major new addition: External Facing Portal. I want to thank Sven Kannengiesser for his Coming Soon: the External Facing Portal (EP6 SPS14) introducing this very important feature. What I want to do in this and several upcoming weblogs is to take a closer look at the External Facing Portal features, both from an administrator’s and developer’s point of view. I will review each one, and provide detailed information about related administration interfaces and developer APIs. Here, again, is an example created by Sven of what an External Facing Portal might look like: image

What is External Facing Portal?

External Facing Portal is a set of features that enable organizations to implement a public web portal that performs well in low-bandwidth networks and operates in a manner similar to a standard, customizable Web site. Although not always appropriate for certain resource-rich applications, the External Facing Portal can boost ROI by using the same platform for the company’s Internet and Intranet implementation.

  • Web-Like Behavior: The light framework page enables standard Web behavior, such as the use of the standard browser buttons, such as Back, Forward and Refresh, for navigation. If the portal is to be used by the public at large, people have to be able to browse the site like any other Web site. External Facing Portal also enables you to implement a portal whose pages can be indexed by search engines and added to users’ favorites via the browser’s Add to Favorites button. Generally, user’s start with the default portal page, and then navigate via EPCM and frames, so that the same URL is exposed no matter where you are in the portal. Now, you can have the portal expose a different URL for each navigation target.
  • Easy Customization: You can easily modify the look and feel of the portal with the use of tag libraries for creating navigation iViews and page layouts with custom iView trays.
  • Improved Performance for Internet Use: The External Facing Portal reduces the amount of resources required for each request by avoiding the use of resource-heavy HTMLB and client-side eventing (EPCM). This enables the portal’s use even when the user is connected via dial-up or other slow internet connection. Tests of the External Facing Portal show that it can reduce network traffic significantly. One test showed that network traffic for a portal page was reduced from 1 megabyte to 80 kilobytes!!! The rendering time for the page went from 2 seconds to 0.7 seconds!!!

IMPORTANT!! External Facing Portal is not a different version of the portal. It is a collection of features that are included in the portal (starting in SP14) and that you can take advantage of, or not.

Features

Here is a list of the External Facing Portal features. For most of them, I will write a separate weblog explaining how it works.

  • Navigation Cache: The portal caches navigation hierarchies and nodes. For a user with the same navigation hierarchy (and same navigation nodes) as a previous user, the portal can retrieve the hierarchy from the cache instead of creating it again. This feature improves portal performance.
  • Short URLs: By default, URLs in the portal are shortened, with the navigation target converted (hashed) into a short GUID. This feature reduces network traffic by shortening the URL, hides the internal content structure and enables users to share URLs that are shorter and easier to handle.
  • Quick Links: Administrators can assign short strings — that is, quick links — to navigation nodes so that users can quickly navigate to specific nodes. This feature provides more Web-like behavior.
  • Light Framework Page: The portal provides a light framework page with the following characteristics:
    • Includes light navigation iViews that do not use HTMLB or client-side eventing (EPCM) JavaScript, reducing the resources required for rendering the page.
    • Renders the portal in a single frame, which enables Web-like behavior, such as, the use of the browser navigation buttons. The single frame also eliminates the need for JavaScript to enable communication between frames.

    This feature provides more Web-like behavior and reduces network traffic.

  • Resource-Sensitive Page Builder: The page builder can prevent the downloading of client-side eventing JavaScript if an iView indicates it does not need eventing. The need for eventing is specified by a portal component’s EPCFLevel profile property in its applications portalapp.xml. This property affects the following JavaScript libraries:
    • EPCM
    • History
    • Navigation
    • Page Support

    This feature improves portal performance.

  • JSP Tag Libraries: The portal provides tag libraries for easily developing navigation iViews and page layouts from JSP pages. The following tag libraries are provided:
    • Navigation Tag Library (New): Enables you to develop iViews that access the current user’s navigation hierarchy, without needing to access the Navigation service directly. The tag library is generally used for top-level and detailed navigation iViews.
    • Layout Tag Library (Enhanced): Enables you to develop page layouts, and to develop custom iView trays. You can make cool iView trays (see Sven’s weblog for a quick example), and you can make iView trays that do not use HTMLB.
    • Framework Tag Library (New): Enables the creation of links for various portal functions, such as logging off or personalizing the portal. The tag library is generally used for masthead and page title bar iViews.

    This feature improves portal performance and enables easy customization of the portal’s look and feel.

Limitations

Not all content is supported to run in the light framework page. Features that depend on EPCM — such as the session termination and WorkProtect features — do not work in the light framework page. Therefore, content that depends on these features may not work, such as Knowledge Management (KM), Web Dynpro and SAP business packages.

Accessibility

In an External Facing Portal, you need to redirect users who need accessibility to the default framework page — essentially, the light framework page does not support accessibility. To provide the standard framework page for users who need accessibility, you need to create a special desktop rule for these users, and provide the default desktop. You can create a rule so that users who access the portal with a special alias — for example, http://myServer:50000/irj/portal/accessible — are given the default desktop.

More Information

I will be providing more detailed information on each of the features in upcoming weblogs this week and next. You can also find more information at External Facing Portal in the Portal Developer Guide on the Help Portal. Take a look at the External Facing Portal page on SAP Service Marketplace. And check out SAP Note 877188 — the central note for External Facing Portal — for additional information.


The following are the weblogs in the series on External Facing Portal:


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14 Comments

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  1. Hi Daniel,
    EFP with SPs 14 is a great milestone in the right direction.
    But please keep in mind that external portals only make sense if additionally WCM functionalities are available. The restrictions you’ve mentioned (according KM) are very serious and lead to constraints using (only) our portal for building attractive and complete business processes. That is necessary for private companies as well as governmental institutions. You will always need to change content of the external portal via simple usable tools, like it is possible with a WCM System.

    Simple and very attractive solutions like WebEditing from SAP Consulting or external solutions like BTEXX easyWCM relay on KM as the necessary content container. So it is very important to have KM at the frontend. And integration of an additional WCM system like OpenText LiveLink or Dokumentum may not always be the first choice for companies or institutions that have to think on ROI.

    So in my opinion the next step should be to assure full KM funktionality in an EFP.
    I’m sure the discussion in this direction will become very interesting and will become one of the keys to our possibility to compete with IBM or BEA.
    EFP opens the last step needed to open our business systems to their customers. Selling goods fastly or offering services of all kinds directly via one technology, via one platform (the NetWeaver) will become the challenge of the future.
    And maybe it will depend on how easy a secretary of a marketing department can change the textinformation besides the service iView embedded in the homepage of the company.

    lets see how EP becomes a real EFP

    regards

    Ludwig Hofmann

    market development public services
    SAP Deutschland

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    1. Daniel Robinson
      Hi Daniel/Ludwig ,
      Many existing SAP EP6 customers will be curious to see how you can integrate an existing intranet portal used for ESS/MSS with EFP functionality .

      Could someone comment on how (without re-writing from the ground up ) you could EFP enable MSS/ESS ???

      Regards
      Daniel

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  2. Harini Vijayakhanna
    Hi
       I am new to Portal and External facing portal.I know to work with htmlb in portal.Can you suggest me how I can create controls like button,dropdownlistbox etc if I use external facing portal in order to avoid htmlb tags? Also suggest me how eventing can be done?
    Thanks in advance
    Regards
    Harini S
    (0) 
    1. Daniel Wroblewski Post author
      Hi Harini,

      Instead of HTMLB, you need to create and output the HTML yourself.

      As for eventing, if you really need, you can use EPCM. It adds weight to the page but not nearly as much as the HTMLB.

      For that matter, you can use HTMLB in the external facing portal, it just increases significantly the amount of resources that are downloaded.

      Daniel

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  3. Harini Vijayakhanna
    Hi Daniel
        Thank you for your answer.I will create HTML output. One more question. Where do I find “/SERVICE/com.sap.portal.navigationtaglibrary/taglib/TagLibrary.tld” if I want to use the tags in navigation tag library? Thanking you in advance

    Regards
    Harini S

    (0) 
  4. Harini Vijayakhanna
    Hi Daniel
        Thank you for your answer.I will create HTML output. One more question. Where do I find “/SERVICE/com.sap.portal.navigationtaglibrary/taglib/TagLibrary.tld” if I want to use the tags in navigation tag library? Thanking you in advance

    Regards
    Harini S

    (0) 
  5. Subathra Murugesan
    Hi..
      Is it possible to change the shape of the frame containing d masthead? In some cases, v may not want d masthead to be in a rectangular frame. How do v achieve this in EFP?
    Thanks,
    Subathra.
    (0) 
  6. Alagammai Arunachalam
    Hi Daniel,

    I would like to know how good is this External Facing Portal when compared to hosting a java based web application on the Web AS, for serving the same purpose of hosting simple static pages.

    Can you please explain me?

    best regds,
    Alagammai.

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  7. jasmine jose
    Hi
    I like this feature and try to use. I used Light framework page to EFP. But I ma getting the detailed navigation of default framework instead of Light detailed navigation and the scroll bar for window disappearing and getting the collapse option (that I have to avoid. Can you tell me what to do.
    Thanks
    Jasmine Jose
    (0) 
    1. Daniel Wroblewski Post author
      I am told that this is not possible.

      “TREX is (not) able to index HTML docs stored within KM and provide LFP short URLs in the search result list. … Currently, the standard KM iViews can be indexed but lose the portal page context.”

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  8. Fallon Nyce
    Hello!

    Is there a comprehensive document detailing the limitations in 2004s (EP7.. specifically SPS10+) when implementing the Light Framework?  I found several of these documents for 2004, but not so much for EP7.  Perhaps it’s because the list of limitations has decreased greatly?  All I found was SAP Note 853509.

    Great blog.  We still use it.  🙂

    Fallon Will

    (0) 

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