A commentary on the upcoming Portal features in NW 7.3 – Part III
SAP has been running a series of Partner sessions covering features of the upcoming Enterprise Portal 7.3. In this blog I would like to share some of my thoughts on the topics covered in the most recent session on Netweaver Portal 7.3 – Unified Access to Applications and Processes. I have also written some other blogs on this topic earlier in the year (The specified item was not found. & The specified item was not found.)
At the start of the session SAP shared some insights and updates which were:
- SAP are seeing a 26% year on year growth in productive portal usage (this seems like reasonable growth to me and is surely a good sign for all us portal consultants :-))
- Portal 7.3 is currently in Ramp-Up (visit http://service.sap.com/rampup for more info) and they expect it to enter general availability (GA) in Q2 2011 (I got the feeling like that would be later rather than earlier in Q2… but that was just my take on it)
- In the lab SAP have seen a 50% – 70% performance improvement from EP 7.0x (based on concurrent users running same hardware) – I wonder how much of this is due to the use of a much newer JAVA version? Combine this with a Portal running on Linux and this thing will hum along I bet! 🙂
Right… so down to the guts of the session, the topics covered were:
Implementation of SAP Business Packages
Tip: Business Packages are a great way to get started and SAP Delivers over 100 business packages for the Portal – you can link to the current list here: Predefined Portal Content Integration
In 7.3 this process has been what I would call “Wizard-ized“, by which I mean the content administrator is now able to use a wizard based approach to get the business package content up and working in the portal. There are some nice features like connectivity checks and you no longer have to manually work out which system aliases to use etc… This new process also enforces what I would call “Best Practice” for business packages by creating copies of the SAP delivered content for customer use, which will protect the customer from any unwanted overwrites when SAP delivers updates or fixes. I think this new approach greatly simplifies the process which can be tricky and somewhat complicated currently – in particular for new comers to the Portal.
Simplified Content Creation
Continuing on with the Wizard driven theme here, there a a few new ways to create content in the portal. One of the biggest changes from my perspective is the way you can think now about building roles. Currently in the portal if you are building a new role you tend to have to take a “bottom up” approach… make sure you have all your iViews created first then go a build your worksets, then your roles and so forth. This is a bit counter intuitive unless your used to it. The new approach in 7.3 is to allow you to start at the top with the role (“Top Down Approach”) and then build the content down as you go. This will make a whole lot more sense to people, esp. those new to the portal – but rest assured the old way still works too!
iView creation has changed a bit too… and this is really nice and much more intuitive… you can just create iViews straight out of the backend systems that they point to. Basically the portal has a wizard for iView creation (New iView from Remote Source) that will let you choose a system, it will then connect to that system and let you search or browse for content (e.g. Transactions, Web Dynpro Apps, BI Reports) and then when you have chosen what you want it will automatically create the necessary iView for you. This means you don’t have to fiddle around working out all those pesky connection parameters and other property settings.
To simplify transports, 7.3 will introduce “Synch Folders” these folders will be used for building transport packages and rather than as currently happens having the object in the folder the synch folder will only hold a pointer or reference to the object – this means that the actual object won’t be copied across until the transport is preformed.
New Role Types
Portal 7.3 introduces 4 types of portal role:
- Freestyle Roles – basically these are what we have today and remain the same although the editor is a bit different. This is the most flexible way to build a role.
- Work Centre Role – these roles are based on what SAP delivers in business packages. The idea is that customers can use this role type to build their own roles with the same User Experience (UX). They include features like views and related services.
- Back-end Role – This type of role allows you to build roles by connecting to an ABAP system and basing your role on a traditional ABAP PFCG role. iViews will be automatically created and the best thing then is you can augment the role with content from other systems (e.g. BI)
- Business Package Role – this is what I talk about above, re-using the roles delivered in Business Packages.
Note: After you upgrade from Portal 7.0x to 7.3 your existing roles will become Freestyle roles.
3rd Party Portal Integration
Driven by demand from customers I think SAP recognizes that there is a genuine need for customers to be able to integrate the SAP Portal with other portal vendors (e.g. IBM WebSphere, MS SharePoint being the two most obvious to me). New features in 7.3 allow for tighter integration. SAP rightly in my view has focussed on the following integration features:
- Navigation Consumption (ability for other portals to incorporate the portal navigation into it’s own navigation)
- Branding Alignment (so that the two portals provide a consistent look to the end user)
- Session Management (very important so that sessions are properly handled and problems don’t occur on back-end systems running out of connections!)
Of course you first have to choose which portal is your lead portal and which takes a back seat.
I won’t cover this much here (see my The specified item was not found. for more info). The point that was stressed in this session was that as of 7.3 this is the default framework for the portal and will the focus of SAP in the future. You can continue to use the standard framework however SAP urges customers to plan to move to the AJAX Framework in the future so that they benefit from the advantages it brings (performance, UX etc…). In my view customers should look at how they can revamp their own theme in conjunction with the AJAX Framework to give their portal a make over! I have no doubt that the users will benefit from this.
One other thing I really really like is the Quick Launch feature, which enables a quick search across a users navigation so that they can easily find content that is part of the roles they are assigned. In my opinion this should be given more prominence on the page and could be a very useful tool for users.
Standards and Support
Finally just a few words around some of the web standards that 7.3 will support:
- SAML 1.1/2.0 – to support cross domain and cross platform Single Sign On
- JSR 168 & 286 – to support these standard portlet specifications (In my view the promise of these was never realised…)
- WSRP 1.0 – for sharing content using remote portlets
- JAVA EE 5 and JDK 1.6 – to bring the portal into the modern JAVA era 🙂
In summary I’d just like to say that this was probably the best session so far from my perspective on what will be included in the 7.3 release of Enterprise Portal. There has clearly been a lot of development effort gone into this and I look forward to getting to use it next year and helping our customers to realize the benefits it brings. I hope this brings new life into the SAP Portal and heralds renewed energy in this space. With this new release I am sure SAP would like to see the SAP Portal regain some ground against SharePoint and WebSphere and cement it’s position as being the best way to integrate the expanding suite of SAP products in the portfolio.