New Wiki entry on Federated Portal Network

October 16, 2008

With Federated Portal Network, SAP offers organizations a technology to create content on one portal that can then be accessed (that is consumed) from another portal.

This gives you quite some possibilities, because you can provide a central access to content provided by different organizational. If for example your Human Resources (HR) department runs an HR-Portal with Employee Self Services and your Finance Department has a BI 7 system with a BI-Portal that provides some analytical reports on it, you can integrate these two completely unrelated content types into your corporate portal giving your users a central access point so that they do not need to logon to different systems. And this is, after all, the major driver for a portal in the first place.

Of course the decision what content a user can access, is still completely at your fingertips because FPN puts no restrictions on user rights management at all.

 

In a Federated Portal Network we always speak about two partners, the content provider (where you actually create the content), called the producer, and the consumer of the content (the one people access the provided content on) consequently called the consumer.

Take a look at this picture, to see the general concept of FPN:

As you can see there are three systems here. One central (maybe corporate) portal and two producer systems each with it’s own portal. The central portal consumes content from both producer systems and also provides it’s own content.

An example for this is a Collaboration Portal (with Knowledge Management) that could consume an ESS scenario from an HR-Portal and Analytical applications from a BI-Portal.

Also the BI-System (on the lower left) consumes some Collaboration content from the central portal.

Content vs Portal Federation

You can also see in this picture, that a user is not forced to only use the central portal to access the content. After all, the two producers are portals and therefor provide user access. Wether or not you want to allow your users to access only the consumer or the consumer and the producer portal is totally up to you.

You can also see a second concept in FPN: Portal vs. Content Federation. The difference here is that in Portal Federation there are (at least) two completely different portals that each provide parts of their content to the other portal and the users can logon to each of the portals. In Content Federation there is one central portal that consumes content from one or more producer portals providing a central access. 

Content Sharing Modes

At the moment there are four different variants on how content can be provided and consumed in a portal.

  1. Remote Role Assignment
  2. Remote Delta Links
  3. Remote Application Integration (for BI Content)
  4. WSRP – Web Services for Remote Portlets

Remote Role Assignment

With RRA – the earliest available content sharing mode, you create the complete content on the so called producer portal and then just assign users on the consumer to the roles (which of course in turn contain the pages, worksets, iViews and so on). 

Remote Delta Links

With RDL you create the pages, iViews or worksets on the producer and then in the consumer create the roles and using a delta link to include the remote content from the producer in this role on the consumer. Thats the reason why it’s called Remote Delta Link.

Remote Application Integration

This is the newest content sharing method and it’s currently only available for BI applications. The idea behind RAI is to move the content administration from the producer to the consumer. This means you create the iView on the consumer but integrate applications (that is BI apps) from the producer BI system.

Web Services for Remote Portlets
WSRP is a compatibility content sharing mode – if you accept such a strange word crafting by me.

What I mean with this is, that WSRP is the only standards based content sharing mode provide by nearly all software vendors. In theory it should give you the possibility to integrate non-SAP applications in an SAP iView on the NetWeaver portal or vice versa making use of an SAP application on a non-SAP portal.

But, before you excitedly jump on this idea to e.g. integrate your SAP ESS scenario in an iFrame on MS Sharepoint Portal server, be warned, it is far from being complete!

You would definitely have to testrun ANY application to see if this can really work for you.

HTTP-Connection and packet flow

There is one last thing I’d like to mention, because I was asked it so many times by clients, and that is the way a client accesses the portals involved in an FPN.

A lot of customers came up to me with this question: Can I use an FPN to “hide” my producer portal(e.g. my HR-Portal) from the client by providing access to it’s content only through a central consumer portal???

The short answer is NO. The client always, at some point in the communication, also accesses the producer portal! The long answer is this. In content sharing mode WSRP, the consumer portal acts actually like some kind of a proxy by completely consuming the provided application and providing it on it’s own to the client. But keep in mind what I said earlier about this content sharing mode.

If you want to hide the existence of a producer portal, say as a some security measure, then the only valid option, at the moment at least, is to place a reverse proxy in front of your whole portal installation landscape and make all clients only connect to the reverse proxy. This will be the topic in a different blog.

The Wiki-Entry
In this just released wiki entry on SDN you find a step by step guide on what to do to setup an FPN between two SAP NetWeaver Portal 7 systems and then use Remote Role Assignment to consume content on the consumer from the producer.

You can find it here: Implementing a Federated Portal Network on SAP NetWeaver…

Have fun,

   Christian Guenther

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Implementing SAP HCM with ESS – a true story

October 14, 2008

In this series of posts I’d like to share my findings on the way from HR 4.7 to HCM (ERP 6) with an emphasis on the technical part of implementing Employee Self Services (ESS).

As you may know when you upgrade your system from 4.7 ERP to ERP 6, quite a lot of things change. First of all the whole architecture of the Web Application Server 7.0 (the basis for ERP 6), as compared to the web Application Server 6.20 (the one from 4.7 ERP), has changed dramatically. This involves areas like the stack of components, the patch management and also of course interfaces provided by the AS.

Take a look at these two pictures. I know they are very rough, but they might give you a glimpse on what has changed from a patch management point of view, that is in the way one applies patches or adds new functionality – I’m referring to the Enhancement Packages about which I’d like to talk in a different Blog (link is going to be added soon).

SAP 4.7 ERP architecture

SAP ERP 6 architecture

But it’s not only in the architecture of the Web Application Server, the whole user interface area also has undergone major changes – as an example take the introduction of Web Dynpro (first for Java and then for ABAP) as a mid-range replacement for BSP.

Moreover, complete new ideas such as how to create UI’s or design processes were brought into the NetWeaver application server. I guess I will have to write a lot of Blogs just to tackle all this new things, but right now, I just want you to get this point: A lot of things have changed and that means, you can’t go on like you used to but have to do something. What that is? I will try to answer this in this blog-series.

Challenges you face

The bottom line of this introductional part of my blog series is this: Implementing HCM with ESS is not only a technical upgrade of your HR system. It’s actually a major change in the architecture, landscape and technology used by your company where you need to adapt to.

Common questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have any Java knowhow in your company?
  • Does your SAP Basis group know how to implement, run and operate an SAP NetWeaver system landscape consisting of ABAP and Java colmponents?
  • Is your backup/restore strategy fit for the challenges/changes that come with WebAS Java?
  • Do your application developers know how to extend, create, or at least customize Java based solutions provided by SAP?
  • Is your organization setup to govern user rights and roles management in a heterogenous environment consisting of ABAP and Java components?

If you happen to answer no to any of these questions, read the next articles of this Blog.

So far,

Christian Guenther


Call for Proposals on SDN

May 21, 2007

A couple of weeks ago there was a Call for Proposals on SDN for SAP’s annual developer conference TechEd. All SDN members were invited to submit session abstracts for Munich, Bangalore and Las Vegas, which got preselected and are now up for voting by the community until 28th of May.

Linda Bortolus already asked you to vote last week, just like Nigel James did, who is also with two PHP related proposals in the finals. There is still one week left and this is your chance to raise your voice and vote for what and who do you want to see at TechEd this year. And even if you don’t plan to go there, take the time and vote your favorites. Maybe you will benefit from material of sessions released after TechEd.

I submitted three papers and two of them made it into the finals.

1. Unit Test for Enterprise Portal Applications

I became a member of an XP user group a couple of month ago. It’s located in Düsseldorf and we meet up once a month. The first sessions were exciting. The topic we started with was TDD and it was really eye opening to see this done live by a bunch of experienced developers. This is one of the things for me I just don’t get only by reading about it but I had to see and feel how it’s done to get my head around it.

As most of my current development is happening in Enterprise/NetWeaver Portal, it was an obvious next step to figure out how to do it in that environment. So this session is all about TDD and the tools and APIs to do Unit Test in EP and my experiences and lessons learned from the last couple of month.

2. Maximize your Productivity in NWDS

Maybe you have followed my “Pimp Up My NWDS” blog series on SDN. OK, there were only two and they were written already last year but only because there were no follow ups doesn’t mean I’m not constantly trying to optimize my virtual developer workplace where I have to spend most of my working time day by day. Actually I have another PUMN blog in the work and a bunch of other add-ons I’m using in NWDS and plan to write about.

But this session won’t be only about NWDS/Eclipse add-ons but also about how to build up your overall development environment. Development on the NetWeaver Java stack is very different that good old ABAP and I don’t talk about the language perspective here. To keep productive and stay independent you have to have your own server running and once you have to jump between projects with different Java WAS versions it can get nasty.

I wasn’t sure in the beginning if this would fit into the sessions topics that are normally covered but it got excepted for the finals so here we are.

Another sessions I want to point you to is the one by Christian Günther where he talks about Portal Security. Chris is a good friend of mine and I can say he knows what he’s talking about and I expect this to become a really interesting session.

And not to forget Gregor Wolf. He is also taking his chance and is in the finals with a session on Type3 integration.