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SAP is currently running a series of SAP NetWeaver Portal – Partner Enablement Session Series covering the upcoming features of the Enterprise Portal in Netweaver 7.3. I have been attending these sessions and would like to share my thoughts on what I’ve seen so far. I guess I should also add a little disclaimer here insomuch as these are my personal views only based on what I have understood from the sessions.

So far I have attended 5 sessions; Portal Updates for the next 12 months (General Overview Session), Enterprise Workspaces, Portal Strategy, Web Page Composer and AJAX Framework I would like to address each in turn. I won’t address the General Portal Updates session directly since the content is covered in the follow on sessions. I will try to tackle two sessions per blog so that you don’t fall asleep 1/2 way through and so that I can actually get sometime posted in a reasonable timeframe! 🙂

Enterprise Workspaces (EWS)

EWS is a new concept in the EP that will be delivered as an add-on (I think it was said to be Adobe Flex based and is in fact the realization of the nearly forgotten Collaboration Portal beta from 2 years ago). Up until now we have had Collaboration Rooms and WPC and of course Portal page personalization by the end user, but EWS has a slightly different use case, at least the way I understand it.

The emphasis here is on enabling the end user to create custom workspaces in the portal that they can then choose to share with others or keep private. It is focused on mashing up structured content like applications and reports rather than unstructured content like web content or documents. Interestingly for partners there will be the opportunity to develop custom modules that can enable integration with 3rd party systems.

So my feeling on EWS is generally positive I like the open modular approach that SAP is taking, the biggest hurdle I think will be explaining the use case to the end users and portal owners/managers. Obviously it needs to work really well but it also has to be communicated correctly, otherwise I’m afraid it will just be too confusing. I think there may also be some resistance in organizations to give users that much control – so perhaps a subset of power users would be given this functionality and share their EWS with others in their particular area.

Portal Strategy

This is one session I was really looking forward to. After what seemed like ages I was excited to hear about what was in store for the portal (for some time I actually had started to think that the portal had been abandoned by SAP). So the main points I took away from this session were:

 

  • The portal is all about multi-system access (unlike NWBC which connects only to one system at a time)
  • There is a big focus on end user productivity and the concept of “SAP Portal for Me” was key. This was supported by EWS and next generation WPC and the ability for users to tailor and mash up content for their purposes. 
  • Community building – with the introduction of Wikis and Forums as integrated solutions.
  • Improvements to KM UI – but KM will remain only for basic content management. There will be greater 3rd party integration options.
  • For the IT team there will be simpler content creation and change management (CTS+), customized error pages and improved scalability and performance. Finally the portal will run on Java 6 and leave the old 1.4 version behind! 🙂
  • Better alignment with standards like JSR 168/286 (I have heard this before… but I’m optimistic), support for SAML2 and better browser support including Safari (iPad-tastic!)
  • Last but not least Portal IS KEY to the SAP UI Strategy… and won’t be going away any time soon.

So all this sounds great! When can we get our grubby little hands on it? Well the Beta shipment starts in May, so customers and partners should sign up now. There will be about a 2 month evaluation period with final feedback in July. General Availability of 7.3 is planned for the end of the year…

In the next installment of this blog I will cover the next generation Web Page Composer session and the session on AJAX Framework.

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14 Comments

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  1. Thomas Wuercher
    Hi!

    I don’ t share your point of view regarding the portal and its place in UI strategy.

    If you consider the amazing amount of time, work and money that SAP spends into development of ABAP Objects and Web Dynpro ABAP, the enhancements with regards to portal in the same time frame seem quite poor.

    Also, what I realize is that SAP portal as development and intranet platform gets more and more replaced by Sharepoint – which had better user acceptance from the beginning on.

    So, in my opinion the competition of other vendors products together with the power of SAP internal rivals (that btw. enjoy the backup of most SAP customers because of their ABAP base) will give sap portal the final deathblow.

    Regards,
    Thomas

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    1. Simon Kemp Post author
      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for your comments, I appreciate your point of view and honestly it was one I shared with you up until a few months ago 🙂 but then I saw all that is happening in the SAP Portal space and have since changed my opinion somewhat.

      I don’t see ABAP Objects or Web Dynpro as rivals to the portal. If anything these technologies are complimentary to the portal and the portal gives applications built with these technologies a framework to work in and be delievered to the end users.

      For sure SharePoint is an interesting area, but for now tight integration with SAP is still easier to achieve using SAP Portal.

      Thanks,
      Simon

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    2. Daniel Da Vinci
      Great blog on the topic Simon.

      Coming out of Tech Ed 09 I certainly felt that NW Portal (Java in general) was on the way out. The key note focused on the robustness, maturity & ‘timeless’ elements of the ABAP platform. But since then I have heard more about improvement and development of the NW Portal and much less (nothing?!)about the ‘ABAP Portal’ that was announced at the event.
      I don’t believe NW Portal will receive a ‘death blow’ as such. Certainly the web enabling of SAP will mature and morph as it opens up its integration and establishes it’s standards with other web platforms, but for now NW Portal is still a heavily deployed solution in many customer landscapes. I concede often NW Portal deployments not in the form of a ‘complete’ portal solution but something deployed to support enabling of other SAP components such as BI or xSS solutions. Not to mention the custom solutions that have been developed and deployed to the platform.
      One area that does seem clear to me (and as you reflect in this blog also) is the products lacking capability to be taken as a series document management platform. I don’t think this area of the product was ever truly ‘alive’ in the first place to have received it’s ‘death blow’.

      – Daniel

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      1. Kristian Kalsing
        I don’t think we’ll ever see NetWeaver Portal, or SharePoint for that matter, become a fully compliant document management system. Enterprise-level document and records management require a specialised system which can then be surfaced through a web portal. Most portal vendors, including SAP and Microsoft, are now incorporating support for the CMIS standard which aims to facilitate this.
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  2. Paul Tomlinson
    Thanks for that Simon, I attended the call explaining what is coming up.

    One query – I assume it is enhancement pack 3?  If so I assume it will be version 7.03 rather than 7.3?

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  3. Kristian Kalsing
    Thanks for the update, Simon. There’s not a whole lot out there about the roadmap for NetWeaver Portal, so it’s great to see someone sharing their observations.

    There is no doubt that 7.3 will have more features that overlap with what’s offered by SharePoint and this is going to fuel the one versus the other debate.

    It’s hard to tell exactly what will happen in the future but I believe that with the release of SharePoint 2010 we will start to see more core business process functionality delivered through SharePoint, especially if Duet Enterprise takes off. The new Web Dynpro interfaces will also be easier to integrate into a SharePoint environment.

    However, regardless of the success of SharePoint, there will still be organisations with substantial investements in NetWeaver Portal. And these companies would also want new collaborative functionality which is why SAP will continue to develop new features for Portal.

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  4. Twan van den Broek
    Hi Simon

    “Well the Beta shipment starts in May, so customers and partners should sign up now.”

    We would like to participate, any idea how we can apply?

    Kind regards
    Twan

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  5. Ondrej Hugan
    I’m happy to see that the NW Portal is still improving and getting better. I’m looking forward to see all those changes in the real.

    Regards
    Ondrej

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