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Support for a recent Firefox version in SAP Portal

The SAP Portal is a product that – by its nature – is accessed by a browser. The SAP Portal supports the use case of an external portal so it can be accessed by several browser types. And the market is full of browsers, to just name a few:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Chrome

And every browser is available in several versions and flavors (desktop / mobile). The most common browers used by companies are Internet Explorer and Firefox. As Firefix (FF) 3.6 is out since several months and soon will get replaced by Firefox 4 I wanted to update the portal’s SPS to get support for the latest version of Firefox. Why Firefox? Firefox is a widely used browser that is adopted by many  companies and that adheres to web standards (W3C) and (many) end-user  prefer it over the Internet Explorer. So I planned to do an upgrade to a newer SPS of the portal to at least EHP1 SP8 (https://service.sap.com/sp-stacks) to get support for FF 3.6.

Reading the Open Source at SAP in 2010 I thought this should not be a problem. Until I read the PAM: no FF 3.6 support. It looks like this isn’t even on the roadmap for NetWeaver 7.0X.

Release history of Firefox:

  • Firefox 3.5 was released on June 30, 2009
  • Firefox 3.6 was released on January 21, 2010. That’s almost one year from now.

Source: Wikipedia

SAP Portal added support of Firefox 3.5 in January 2010 (almost 6 month after the release of FF 3.5). More than one year after the release of Firefox 3.6 there is no support for this version available.

Without the support for Firefox 3.6 in the latest SPS I’ll have to wait for the next SPS that hopefully will include support for a recent Firefox version. The problem with the missing Firefox support is:

  • End-users will have to use FF 3.5 and when the (companys) browser gets updated to FF 3.6 you’ll loose support
  • When Mozilla releases Firefox 4.0 they will shortly after drop support for FF 3.5, and because SAP won’t support a product that the vendor is not supporting, the support for FF 3.5 by SAP will also stop.

It looks like Mozilla wants to maintain FF 3.5 at least to February 8, but End of Life for FF 3.5 was already announced and planned for August 2010. Short: luckily for Firefox users, Mozilla had to delay FF 4. If not, there wouldn’t be support for Firefox in the SAP Portal. As a company that wants to use Firefox with SAP Portal, you are forced to run an old and no longer recommended version of Firefox (“All users are strongly encouraged to upgrade to Firefox 3.6“)

This is leaving me with one question: Why is SAP not going to support FF 3.6?

There is hope: In 7.3, Firefox 3.6 will be supported. As 7.3 is in ramp-up it isn’t available to all customers. This typically needs around 6 months after the product entered ramp-up.

  • Where the developers focused on the NetWeaver 7.3 release with no time to make the current portal Firefox 3.6 compliant?
  • Is Firefox not considered as a browser that customers are using?
  • How does this fit into the Open Source@SAP announcements? 
  • How can you run an external facing portal with SAP Portal when the portal isn’t supporting the most used browsers like Firefox and Chrome?

The support of Firefox from SAP leaves you with more questions than answers. In the PAM for 7.3 there is only FF 3.6 mentioned. Will this be downported to older releases as well? What about FF 4? When 7.3 will leave ramp-up and FF 4 is already available, how long will it take to gain support for FF 4? Will this be included in the final version of 7.3? Or do customers need to apply shortly after a new SPS to have FF 4 support?

What is on my browser support whishlist:
– Google Chrome
– Firefox 4
– WebKit
– Opera
– Mobile Browsers

10 Comments
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  • Great blog!
    Companies are making a strong shift to open source. Organizations are adopting Firefox as their main browser, and are even encouraging people to make use of it at home in their everyday personal browsing. It seems to me that SAP has lost it’s way when it comes to browsers.

    Each time Mozilla releases a new version of it’s main browser we face a long wait until SAP comes up supporting it, delaying our company’s policy of upgrading all workstation’s browsers from time to time.

    To maintain PAM compliance we have to run old versions of Firefox with potential security threats and a number of other problems. We are a bit worried with the lack of information regarding the upcoming (or not) support for 4.0, as for 3.6 it took ages.  

    I also have to point out that even Firefox 3.5 (currently in the PAM) has it’s issues, as the Portal Content Studio doesn’t work properly. We have to use Internet Explorer for this, preventing us from using other operating systems.

    I hope to see one day a serious strategy regarding browsers releases/support.

    • Safari will be supported as of 7.02 SPS4 and 7.3 will also include support.
      As Safari is WebKit -> based on KHTML -> engine for Konqueror, will there also support for KDE & GNOME?
      As WebKit is the base for other browsers it should not be too complicated to have a broad browser support:
      – Android
      – iPhone
      – RIM
      – Nokia
      – Palm
      Problem can be the Javascript engine that may be a proprietary one (as Google does).

      br, Tobias

  • Hi Tobias
    Everybody knows that SAP loves IE and other browsers are more or less ignored… Hope this situation will change because FF and other browser become more and more popular …
    Ondrej
    • I believe the focus on IE is related to the fact that SAP and Microsoft are partners. Now Apple is buying for the Safari support, Mozilla doesn’t … I find it funny every time I see an SAP employee using Google Chrome or Webkit to access the SAP Portal.

      br, Tobias

  • Excellent blog. Customers have to challenge SAP on their decisions.
    “How can you run an external facing portal with SAP Portal when the portal isn’t supporting the most used browsers like Firefox and Chrome?

    This is, in my opinion, the main point. You can’t control which browser is used on the Internet…

    Olivier

    • “which browser is used on the Internet” or by your customers or suppliers: An SRM portal is open to several companies with different policies. Wonder how a supplier with Windows 7 or Linux logs on to and uses a portal with a SPS that only supports IE6 and FF 2.x.
      Doing the whole upgrade process just because of browser support is costly and hard to justify. The “best practice” then is to put a warning message: only works with Windows and IE6.
  • Interesting point you make. I was testing Firefox 4 earlier in the week and although it is still in Beta and all (most) of my daily extensions were disabled this is the time for SAP to be adding support for firefox4. In fact they need to be accellerating html5 adoption all over the place and this probably means project pheonix needs to be standard everywhere.

    Also at teched last year I saw a preview of an interesting flex technology similar to osgi but based on flex 3. Standard releases of flex are way beyond that so if sap realeases a technology based on a version everyone has moved on from will it get adoption?

    I know there needs to be a stable platform but it also needs to be up to date.

    regards,
    Nigel

    • “stable platform but it also needs to be up to date”
      True. For most managers stable translate to: don’t touch it. The result: old technology that has to support new ideas that can be easily achieved with a new release – simple example: Java 1.4 vs Java 6, or Apache projects like Axis. Many libraries need Java 5 or later. Because the older platform isn’t supporting the new features you need, “workarounds” get applied.

      IMO as long as SAP defines the technology (Java, Flex), makes the platform swapable (built in VC vs external Flex server) and ensures upgrade paths – by migration wizards or code inspectors that show you what won’t work anymore – you don’t need to stay behind or invest in “workaround”.

      br, Tobias