Sunday, March 26, 2017

SharePoint integration endpoints for a SAPUI5 based PeopleFinder

SAPUI5 is a suitable framework to build responsive-design UIs that renders to the available screen estate of diverse device types: smartphone, tablet, and desktop. It is therefore a fit to deliver an alternative UI to SharePoint's PeopleFinder functionality, in case the out-of-the-box SharePoint UI (that is, with potentially the rendering still made company specific via customized Search Display Templates) for whatever reason does not qualify as sufficient fit. The basic requirement of a SAPUI5 mobile application is that it can consume data and functionality via OData REST services. The SharePoint platform supports such an architecture via the standard SharePoint REST services:
The integration surface for a peoplefinder functionality comprises 3 main elements:
  1. To interactive present people suggestions to user while typing in characters of the people name ==> Get names list of matched users on search input
  2. Get detailed list of matched users on search input
  3. Get details for selected user
1. Get names list of matched users on search input

Best:
SharePoint end-point 
https://<SharePoint root-url>/_api/search/query?querytext='preferredname:Jones*'''&selectproperties='PreferredName'&sourceid='B09A7990-05EA-4AF9-81EF-EDFAB16C4E31'&rowlimit=10

Alternative is to search in User Information List:
SharePoint end-point 
https://<SharePoint root-url>/_vti_bin/listdata.svc/UserInformationList?$filter=((ContentType eq 'Person') and (substringof('Jones',LastName)))&$orderby=Name

but this has some disadvantages:
  • Incomplete qua users: user is only added to UserInformationList on first visit to SharePoint site; users not visited yet, are not included
  • Overcomplete: UserInformationList is never cleaned up, former colleagues remain in the list
  • Incomplete qua search: UserInformation does not contain a full name field
2. Get detailed list of matched users on search input

Search in full content / all crawled people data fields:
SharePoint end-point https://
<SharePoint root-url>/_api/search/query?querytext='Mobile*'&selectproperties='FirstName,LastName'&sourceid='B09A7990-05EA-4AF9-81EF-EDFAB16C4E31'&rowlimit=10

Search in identified property-field(s) only:
SharePoint end-point https://
<SharePoint root-url>/_api/search/query?querytext='department:Mobile*'&selectproperties='FirstName,LastName'&sourceid='B09A7990-05EA-4AF9-81EF-EDFAB16C4E31'&rowlimit=10
3. Get details for selected user

Get all public properties:
SharePoint end-point https://
<SharePoint root-url>/_api/SP.UserProfiles.PeopleManager/GetPropertiesFor(accountName=@v)?@v='<uname of user>'

Get one single identified user profile property only:
SharePoint end-point 
https://<SharePoint root-url>/_api/SP.UserProfiles.PeopleManager/GetUserProfilePropertyFor(accountName=@v,propertyName='AboutMe')?@v='<uname of user>'

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Reverse Proxy must not decode Fiori URLs

‘Double Encoding’ issue with Fiori Urls in case of Apache-based Reverse Proxy

The typical infra architecture of an on premisse Fiori deployment includes a reverse proxy that enables access to the Fiori Apps from the internet. A responsibility of the reverse proxy is to forward the received external uri address to the protected internal Fiori resource. The generic pattern here is that the domain part of the external url is mapped to the internal url, and the remainder of the external url is concattenated to the internal url. Some / most reverse proxy products handle encoded special characters in the remainder part, well special, by decoding them before forwarding. However, (a.o.) for Fiori URLs this behaviour is undesired. The encoded characters must be forwarded as is, so that the web dispatcher on Gateway FES can decode them and process the correct decoded uri.
Clarification of the effect due 'double encoding' of Fiori URL:
  1. Browser requests "https://<external-DNS>/sap/opu/odata/UI2/PAGE_BUILDER_PERS/PageSets('%2FUI2%2FFiori2LaunchpadHome')?$expand=Pages/PageChipInstances/Chip/ChipBags/ChipProperties,Pages/PageChipInstances/RemoteCatalog,Pages/PageChipInstances/ChipInstanceBags/ChipInstanceProperties,AssignedPages,DefaultPage&sap-cache-id=...";
  2. SAP Gateway FES returns http error 404;
  3. Error logged on the SAP NetWeaver node is that "http://<SAP web dispatcher / Gateway FES>:8000/sap/opu/odata/UI2/PAGE_BUILDER_PERS/PageSets('%252FUI2%252FFiori2LaunchpadHome')?$expand=Pages/PageChipInstances/Chip/ChipBags/ChipProperties,Pages/PageChipInstances/RemoteCatalog,Pages/PageChipInstances/ChipInstanceBags/ChipInstanceProperties,AssignedPages,DefaultPage&sap-cache-id=..." is an invalid URI

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Qualities of SAP Fior Apps

Few months ago, SAP published document "Qualities of SAP Fiori Apps (July 2016)". This document is aimed at customers and partners and defines the qualities to be met by a SAP Fiori app. It covers design, implementation and technical criteria to be met beyond the SAP product standards. Thus a handy resource to utilize for reference and guidance. However, as result of SAP's recent changes on SCN, the link became a deadlink and can current not be successful viewed via SAP locations. As I downloaded the document before, I make it available here in awaiting for SAP to structural recover their document link on SCN and/or HANA EA Explorer.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Why is Fiori adoption lagging behind?

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Dutch SAP User Group (VNSG) on the topic ‘Customer Fiori Experiences’. As usual, the audience was mostly consultants/developers of SAP consultancies, and only a few actual end-customer attending. After interesting sessions on the state of Fiori (a.o. on SAP Fiori Cloud Edition), the meeting ended with a roundtable to share experiences. And in particular to discuss and answer on the topic how-to increase Fiori adoption in the market. According to latest numbers, (only) 10% of SAP customers world-wide are active with Fiori, and significant subset of them merely with 1 or 2 first Fiori Apps. Note, in The Netherlands the number is higher, as we’re very technology-savvy and typically run ahead of the rest of the world on adoption of new technologies.
There was large consensus in the group that the minimal actual Fiori implementations is for a major part still due unfamiliarity. Not so much by business and end-users, but by majority of SAP developers for which the step to Fiori / UI5 is [too] big, and they prefer to just stick within their comfort zone. Although there might be truth in this, I personally think the more important causes are others.
The most important is that for SAP customers there must be a tangible business case to switch to Fiori. It is not sufficient, even irrelevant for SAP organizations to switch to new technology and products just because SAP is now delivering it (and promoting it as the next great thing). Even though standard Fiori Apps do not have a license cost (anymore), there is still investment costs involved to transition from current application formats (e.g. GUI transactions, Portal application, WebDynpro) to Fiori as new UI and interaction concept. The investment costs are within preparing the IT landscape infra (introduce NetWeaver Gateway, and Fiori Front-End Server), deploying Fiori Apps plus the required underlying Gateway OData services in the SAP landscape, align with and convince Enterprise Architecture plus (IT) security that Fiori is a future-proof and secure/safe approach, educating end-users. And typically the standard Fiori Apps are not addressing the core of the specific organization, and custom Fiori Apps + Gateway OData services must be developed. And there is again the business case: if there is an existing application that still does the job, even with outdated, stone-aged layout and user-experience, there is little business motivation to invest in improving that for the internal employees. So what is needed then? In my experience and opinion, the precondition to introduce + land Fiori usage within any organization is that there is a concrete trigger – business or IT (savings). This can be that an existing SAP application (standard or custom) no longer suffices and requires to be redesigned and rebuild – and thereby introduces the opportunity to take new UI and mobility requirements into account. Or because there is a new business demand, and again in the current days with ‘mobility-first’ this must be included from beginning of. A third trigger is Application Lifecycle Management, which forces organizations to upgrade their landscape to recent NetWeaver version. Also this can be good moment to reconsider for (some) applications to migrate them into a modern UI experience.
Note, what does not help the market growth of Fiori is the SAP image: stable and robust functional platform, that you do not have to (should even) touch much. SAP could therefore also take a rewarding approach: make it tangible benificial for SAP customers to introduce Fiori => introduce new functional capabilities only via/as Fiori. Actual SAP is following this approach, with 'Fiori-tizing' S/4 HANA.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Resources for considering Fiori Launchpad deployment options

With the introduction in March this year of SAP Fiori Cloud Edition, SAP now supports upto 5 different deployment options for Fiori Launchpad:
  1. ABAP Front-end Server
  2. SAP Enterprise Portal, as of NW 7.31 SP12 and NW 7.4 SP7
  3. HANA Cloud Platform (HCP)
  4. SAP Fiori Cloud Edition
  5. SAP HANA Server
Which of these options is a/the best fit for an organization is largely influenced by the situation and roadmap of that specific organization. Some useful resources to aid in this deployment decision-making:
Use them at your own convenience...

Friday, June 3, 2016

SAP Web IDE cloud connectivity issues

This blog is earlier published on SAP Community Network Blogs

SAP Web IDE cloud connectivity requires project folder direct below the root node “Workspace”

In the HANA Cloud Platform cockpit I’ve setup a connection to the demo Gateway system. Next, in SAP Web IDE I’ve created a new App folder. As I prefer a manageable overview of all Apps (to be) developed in Web IDE, I created that App Folder in a subfolder beneath the Workplace folder:
This decision however gives problems within Web IDE wrt setting up the cloud connectivity.

Issue 1: neo-app.json generation is not available

Pragmatic workaround for this was to generate it via a test-App folder directly beneath Workplace, and copy + paste that file in MyApp folder. Problem resolved.

Issue 2: The destination is runtime resolved to incorrect address

Testing the MyApp in Web IDE, data is not displayed in UI. Via F12 notify that the connection to connect to the demo system is not correct resolved, and returns a 503:
For a quick test I duplicated MyApp to be directly below Workplace folder, and without making any code or configuration change, ran it from here. And now the connection is resolved, and the App displays the data from Gateway demo system:
I compared the urls generated from Web IDE to the service destination in the 2 situation. The only difference is in the 'webidetesting' part. Apparently there is some "magic" in Web IDE that reserves a dispatching url in HCP for service destinations, and that 'magic' is dependent on the project folder located direct below 'workplace'.
I considered as workaround to modify the 2nd level project in manifest.json and have it use the absolute connecting url to service:
However, that setup runs into a cross-domain issue, and is thus neither working:
The only resolution for this is to comply to the 'implicit rule' of Web IDE, and place the project folder thus direct below root node "Workplace". With the drawback that you loose the option to structure and classify your projects / Apps folders, and all need to be administrated at the same level as sibling nodes. I would rather be able to make in Web IDE visual groups of project / Apps folders per customer and / or functionality, e.g. for HR, Finance, Marketing. Perhaps we will see this functionality in a next version of Web IDE?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

First thoughts on Native Enterprise Fiori iOS Apps

On May 5, SAP and Apple announced a partnership to deliver native iOS Apps that will connect into SAP business suites:
My personal first response on this news was astonishment and non-understanding. Since 3 years SAP is full promoting SAP Fiori build through SAPUI5 (or openUI5) web-technology as THE future-proof way to build user-friendly SAP Apps. SAP applies itself in all new and updated product developments, as SAP HANA Analytics Apps, NetWeaver Business Client, SAP Enterprise Portal. SAP made and evidently applies the decision to go full-stream for web-based UI in favor of the platform-specific native product developments (of which SAP tried several variants, most notable through the Sybase Unwired Platform). And now all of a sudden, SAP appears to return on this decision and [also] to put full steam on platform-native development. Starting now with first Apple/iOS, and already communicated plans to follow later with Android.
I expressed my surprise and concerns on a SAP post in which Steve Lucas communicated on the SAP-Apple partnership. His responses gave me more insights in the why of this renewed native-attention, and the positioning towards web-based. Not to say that I in all agree.
Steve in particular replied with statement ‘There’s a big different between “semi” native and native’. On this I disagree, regarding the qualification ‘big’. I do acknowledge that for interactive consumer Apps this may still (and likely remains to) hold, as those may need the local computer power and platform-local capabilities. Games are a good example that really benefit from direct access to the local resources and computing power. But I personally doubt that platform-native capabilities add considerable extra value for business / enterprise Apps.
As a true architect, I made a Pro/Contra enlistment for Fiori-native and Fiori Web-based:
Fiori-native

ProAbility to use device-local capabilities (e.g. geolocation, camera, local storage)
 Rich UI
 Consistent UI for the specific device-platform
 Optimal local performance (power)
 Fast graphics
 Push-notification supported
 Possible to run / continue in background
 Data-integration possible with other local Apps
 
ConNeed to build + support per device-platform
 Mobile-Only
 Version-upgrades must be explicit brought to each individual end-user device
 Requires SAP HCP
 
Fiori web-based (SAPUI5/openUI5)

ProOne version usable on all device-platforms
 Mobile-First / Mobile + non-Mobile
 Easy deployment: Version upgrades only on central webapplication level, transparent to end-user devices
 Via Fiori Client or Kapsel: possible to act as semi-native App, direct user-launchable from the device
 Via SAPUI5 and other frameworks (jQuery), possible to use device-local capabilities (GPS, Camera)
 
ConFunctionality limited to common denominator across the platforms
 UI is not on-par with the device-specific experience (e.g. Fiori UI differs considerable from iOS native UI)
 Push-notification is complex (and requires Fiori Client or Kapsel [Hybrid App]
 Local file storage not available (although from security perspective, this is not per se a disadvantage for business / enterprise Apps. Dependent on the business App, it may be prohibited to locally store sensitive / business-critical data)
 Not possible to run in background
 Less performant due browser javascript engine + interpreted rendering
Based on these (and more) pros/contras, individual companies/architects can decide whether to go for web-based SAP Fiori or platform-native Fiori. Noticable especially is the HCP dependency in case of Fiori-native. Implication is that companies that are no subscriber [yet] of SAP HCP, cannot go the Fiori-native path. But they can expose their on-premisse SAP Business Suite(s) via web-based/SAPUI5 Fiori Apps.