Nuts and Bolts of the External Facing Portal (EFP)
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:
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.
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:
This feature provides more Web-like behavior and reduces network traffic.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Nuts and Bolts of the External Facing Portal (EFP)
- EFP: Navigation and Framework Tag Libraries
- EFP: Layout Tag Library
- EFP: Navigation Caching
- EFP: Quick Links
- EFP: Short URLs