Fishbowl Solutions officially released its SharePoint Connector on Friday, August 31st, and we followed that up with a webinar discussing the release on Thursday, September 6th. If you weren’t able to attend the webinar, you can view the recording from the link below. For those that did attend, I have also included below the answers to the questions that were asked during the webinar. Many thanks to the attendees for asking such great questions.
Before you move on to view the recording and skim the questions, here is a brief recap of what was covered in the webinar and why as a SharePoint and WebCenter customer you should care. Happy reading!
- Fishbowl’s provides the only Oracle “Validated Integration” solution between Microsoft SharePoint and Oracle WebCenter Content
- Validation from Oracle that the connector works as designed has helped to greatly increase customer confidence
- The connector was developed using Microsoft’s own API (application program interface) for building third-party storage connectors
- Microsoft’s publicly available API was used to build the connector, which is the same API used by other ECM vendors to integrate SharePoint – OpenText is probably the best example
- Fishbowl’s SharePoint connector provides a seamless, transparent integration
- Connector maintains the SharePoint user experience but content ultimately resides in Oracle WebCenter Content
- Past client engagements have vetted out 3 distinct use cases:
- Large Volume Sites – increase governance and reduce costs by centralizing SharePoint content within Oracle WebCenter
- Content Distribution Across Enterprise – surface up content created in SharePoint but stored in WebCenter to other Oracle business systems and applications and even mobile devices
- Records Retention & Discovery – meet compliance, reduce risk, and ensure the accuracy of information by utilizing WebCenter’s best-in-class content management capabilities
- SharePoint and WebCenter – like peanut butter and chocolate
- Leverage the benefits of both systems without having to choose one over the other
- Evaluations Available!
- Verify and validate your organization’s use case through a product evaluation – simply email firstname.lastname@example.org
Q & A
Q: Does your solution use a Remote Blob Storage (RBS) provider for SharePoint?
A: No. Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector utilizes External Blob Storage (EBS) to store content created in SharePoint within Oracle WebCenter. EBS Providers offload the BLOB (Binary Large Object) and pass an ID to SharePoint to keep track of it, whereas a RBS provider offloads all BLOB content being pushed to SQL Server and directs it to third-party storage. This means that EBS providers have the context information of the BLOB and changes/deletes to it can be tracked through SharePoint. RBS providers have less BLOB context because the metadata has to be stored outside of SQL Server.
Using the EBS API the Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector acts at the Foundation Services level to intercept BLOB file stream requests (which occur during any save or open request) and redirects these calls to Oracle WebCenter Content. The SharePoint client and client-side API are unaffected by this redirection and content will appear to the user as residing ‘inside’ SharePoint.
Q: Does the Fishbowl SharePoint Connector require the installation of the Oracle SharePoint Connector?
A: No. The Connector has no relationship, nor is Oracle supporting their former connector.
Q: How does the licensing work?
A: The Connector is licensed per SharePoint server.
Q: Is it possible to use SharePoint search to search WebCenter Content – both content stored through the connector and other content stored in WebCenter Content?
A: No, only SharePoint content can be searched through SharePoint by average users. The only search for WebCenter Content is through the “Add from WebCenter” administrator feature.
Q: Is there a risk that Microsoft could deprecate the APIs (Application Programming Interface) you leverage and threaten the viability of the connector going forward? How heavily are the APIs used by other software vendors/MS partners?
A: API deprecation is always an issue. However, this is not likely to happen with our connector in the foreseeable future. Here are several reasons why:
- We use the same APIs from Microsoft as used by OpenText, EMC, and others for their connectors. These APIs are new or enhanced with SharePoint Services 3.0 and were specifically designed to enable vendors such as us to build connectors. As Microsoft is very sensitive about appearing as a monopoly, it is very unlikely they open themselves to yet another lawsuit by removing this functionality.
- We are working on achieving Microsoft certification and hope to have it by end of this year or early spring of next. We are already a development partner of Microsoft but our goal is to ensure the product will be supported across all Microsoft and Oracle platforms.
Q: Can storage of a document or change to a document kickoff BPM (Business Process Management) processes in the Oracle environment?
A: The ‘out-of-the-box’ Connector does not support this at this time. However, we do offer consulting services in support of this and have one customer that is doing something similar. We hope to support this out-of-the-box in the near future and would be grateful to discuss your needs to ensure we do this right.
Q: OpenText was mentioned earlier, from a high-level, how does the v2.0 connector “stack up” to OpenText’s Application Governance & Archiving solution for SharePoint 2010?
A: The connectors are quite similar. Here is a short list of some similarities:
- Both use Microsoft’s own API for the creation of third-party storage providers
- Both do not interrupt/change the front-end SharePoint user experience. The storage of content to WebCenter or OpenText is completely transparent to the user
- Content can be stored automatically – based on size, extension, folder location – or interactively – SharePoint user decides if content should be stored externally.
- The ability to synchronize active and archived SharePoint content versions with versions in WebCenter or OpenText
Furthermore, the goal of OpenText’s and Fishbowl’s SharePoint connector was to provide organizations using both SharePoint and OpenText or WebCenter Content with the ability to continue to leverage the capabilities of each system, but also provide an integrated, end-to-end information management strategy to consolidate content within one system of record.
Q: I saw that it can search WebCenter and add to SharePoint, but can you also just search? In other words click on a button in SharePoint to pass some values from a SharePoint list to search for content in WebCenter or if not mapped to a list, pop up a search dialog to key in search values manually.
A: Yes, however, this feature is only exposed to SharePoint Administrators and is intended to search and add content from Oracle WebCenter into SharePoint. Nonetheless, administrators can use either Webcenter Basic Search or Profile Search to search and add items from WebCenter.
Q: Can Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector work with Oracle Imaging and Process Management (I/PM) 11g or just Universal Content Management (UCM)?
A: Yes. The connector is designed specifically for the WebCenter underlying repository: Content Server. Since I/PM 11g supports the same repository, the Connector should support most operations.
Q: Can the storage of a document in WebCenter be driven by a metadata value?
A: No. Storage of a document is driven by file extension, size, library, location and whether it is a major or minor version.
The Fishbowl SharePoint Connector allows required and custom metadata values that may be required for searching or retention management to be mapped from SharePoint to WebCenter Content. This enables Document Property values from SharePoint to be populated in Oracle WebCenter Content metadata fields. Certain values are automatically synchronized between the two systems such as the file name and the user id of the person checking in the content. When someone adds or updates an item in SharePoint, the Connector will automatically put their user id in the Oracle WebCenter Content dDocAuthor field.
Additional values such as the Title field or other custom fields defined in SharePoint can be mapped through the Connector configuration. For example, a ‘Department’ field in SharePoint could be mapped to a ‘Department’ field in Oracle WebCenter Content. Whenever a document is checked into SharePoint and stored in WebCenter Content by the Connector, the value supplied by the user through the SharePoint interface would automatically be assigned and displayed within Oracle WebCenter Content.
Q: How long does a typical implementation of Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector take?
A: This will vary based on a number of factors, but an implementation involving one SharePoint Server should take around 40 hours. This includes installation, configuration and testing.
Q: How does the connector resolve the discrepancy if the Oracle WebCenter Content repository requires a metadata value that the SharePoint library does not have (and, therefore, the SharePoint user didn’t provide it)?
A: Any field that is required to submit content to WebCenter Content must also have a corresponding SharePoint column mapping configured otherwise the content will not be saved into Oracle WebCenter Content. To ensure that field values are provided by the user when checking in content, you should also designate the corresponding field as required and provide a default value within Microsoft SharePoint. Simply mapping a field from SharePoint to a required field in Oracle WebCenter Content using this page will not make the field required in SharePoint and will result in the file not being stored in Oracle WebCenter Content.
Anytime a field value cannot be updated correctly within Oracle WebCenter Content (i.e. required field missing, mismatched data types), the Connector will store the file in the native SharePoint file store (i.e. SQL Server). These errors are recorded in the Content Server log which should be monitored regularly to ensure the Connector is working properly.
Q: Can Fishbowl’s connector be configured to affect the move of content from SharePoint to Oracle WebCenter Content, in effect making the document no longer available in SharePoint and only in WebCenter. For example, a document is available for a while in SharePoint, then a metadata value of “complete” moves the document to oracle.
A: Yes and No. Fishbowl’s SharePoint connector can be configured to store all versions of SharePoint documents within Oracle WebCenter Content or only Major versions. To store Major versions, SharePoint users select the appropriate content items and then select the “Publish” command from the document menu – so this is driven by user interaction and not metadata.
However, content created in SharePoint and stored in WebCenter is considered “managed” SharePoint content. This means that the content can be viewed from either system but only updated/edited in SharePoint.
To completely remove content items from SharePoint and have them only available in WebCenter, Fishbowl’s connector can also be configured to retain content versions in Oracle WebCenter that have been deleted from SharePoint. In this case however, the content will appear to the user normally in the recycle bin and can be restored.
Q: What is planned for the next version?
A: Fishbowl Solutions does not typically share feature/functionality plans for future versions. However, we are keenly focused on improving the product in such areas as workflow and records management.
Q: Does Fishbowl’s SharePoint connector work with other RBS Providers like StoragePoint?
A: At the present time, no.
Q: What needs to be configured in SharePoint to have a document loaded into Oracle WebCenter vs. into SharePoint?
A: Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector for WebCenter Content begins with the assumption that all content is to be stored in the default SharePoint repository (i.e. Microsoft SQL Server) unless otherwise specified by one of many configuration options. These configuration options are available and displayed at the farm, site collection, Site, and “UCM Folder” level.
It doesn’t matter which configuration option is in effect, as long as a single configuration rule is met the file will be stored in Oracle WebCenter Content.
Q: Can you set an automatic default storage location as well as allow the user to overwrite the location as long as if follows certain exception rules?
Q: Have seen anyone use the connector to create an easy to use content contribution interface via SharePoint for non-technical users, i.e., to update images & PDFs on a website, etc.?
A: Yes. Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector for WebCenter Content enables organizations to easily utilize SharePoint as a collaboration and authoring tool in these scenarios yet leverage the additional features provided by WebCenter Content for distribution and publishing of information.
If you are using SharePoint as a space to Collaborate on work-in-process documents and wish to use WebCenter content as the location to publish final versions, you will likely want to configure SharePoint to use major and minor version control and only publish major versions to WebCenter. This will cause the Connector to only store versions that a user has explicitly used the “Publish” command on within SharePoint. Once in WebCenter, these versions can serve as the final record or “single source of truth” and can be linked to various applications using Oracle-provided connectors, custom integrations, or web publishing.
We look forward to your comments and thoughts regarding the integration we have provided to connect SharePoint with Oracle WebCenter Content. If you have any questions regarding this integration, please feel free to ask them here on our blog and we will answer them. Your comments and feedback are always appreciated.