Developing WebCenter Content Cross Platform iDoc Enabled Components for Mobile, ADF, Sharepoint, Liferay

frankensteinSo over the last couple of months I’ve been thinking and tinkering with code, wondering, “What’s the best approach for creating WebCenter Content (WCC) components that I can consume and reuse across multiple platforms and environments?”
Is it pagelet producer or maybe an iFrame? These solutions just weren’t good enough or didn’t allow the flexibility I really wanted.

I needed a WCC Solution that could easily be consumed into mobile, either Cordova (Hybrid APP) or ADF Mobile (AMX views), and that worked on different devices/platforms as well as on any enterprise app, i.e. Sharepoint (.Net), Lifreray,  WebCenter Portal (ADF) or even consumed into the new WebCenter Content ADF WebUI. It also needed to provide the added advantage that there would not need to be multiple branches of code or redevelopment of the component for each platform and environment.

And in the famous words of Victor Frankenstein.. “It’s Alive!!”

After tinkering around and trying different approaches, this is the solution I created to support the above model.
I’m not saying this is the right approach or supported by the enterprise vendors, but an approach that is reusable and can work on all enterprise apps.

 

[VIDEO CONVERTING]…

Here’s a quick video of a drag/drop MultiUploader component I created for WebCenter Content Classic that I can reuse on .Net and ADF WebCenter Portal/Content as well as mobile.

Read on to find out more on how this was achieved.

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SharePoint and Oracle WebCenter: Use Cases for an Integrated Content Management System

I had the privilege to present with John Klinke of Oracle WebCenter Product Management during a recent webinar. John and I discussed the integrations that Fishbowl and Oracle provide for SharePoint, and instead of focusing on the feature/function of the integrations (connectors), we chose to detail the use cases that each of the integrations satisfy. It was important to each of us – not to mention our respective companies – that we took this approach as customers were asking what the differences were between the connectors. Before I summarize the use cases for the integrations, let me start with the underlying technical differences.

SharePoint Storage Options

With the release of SharePoint 2013, Microsoft still provides the ability to store content outside the SQL Server database. This is facilitated through remote blob storage or RBS, which effectively enables BLOBS (binary large objects) to be stored within 3rd-party storage systems. Storing BLOBS outside of SQL Server was useful in SharePoint 2007 and 2010, as the BLOBS ( Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) were causing overall SQL performance issues because queries to the database had to go through many BLOBs to return data requests. However, SharePoint 2013 features shredded storage, which basically saves versions of documents in small chunks that get reassembled when users access them. For example, a simple text edit to a Word document, say a change to the document’s footer, would result in only the incremental change being saved to the database and not the entire document. You don’t need to be a database expert to understand the positive performance impacts this would have.

Anyway, using RBS still has its advantages, and the obvious one is for those customers that are looking to integrate SharePoint with Oracle WebCenter Content. RBS provides a proven integration method to move SharePoint content and associated metadata to WebCenter Content for access, consumption and delivery to other Oracle-based systems. However, RBS is is basically an all or nothing approach. That is, wherever a RBS provider has been enabled, at the site collection, site or library level, ALL document versions in that location will be stored remotely. The only way to limit what gets stored is by file size or type. So, for organizations that do wish to store the majority of SharePoint content remotely, or in this case within Oracle WebCenter Content, RBS is the way to go and this is the integration method that Oracle provides as of the WebCenter Content 11.1.1.8 release.

Customers looking for a more selective approach to store SharePoint content items will want to consider Fishbowl’s SharePoint connector integration for WebCenter. Fishbowl’s integration does not utilize RBS, and instead SharePoint event receivers are leveraged to determine document storage. This integration approach provides more granular control over content storage, while also giving SharePoint users specific control over the content items they want to store in WebCenter. The tradeoff with this more granular, user-controlled option is that duplicate items get stored between the systems.

With the technical details of each integration out of the way, let’s now talk use cases.

Use Cases for Fishbowl’s SharePoint Integration

  • Content Publishing
    The business scenario I discussed during the webinar was that of a SharePoint user on a marketing team working on a new product launch. During the lead up to the actual launch date, the user and their colleagues have created many assets to support the launch, including a brochure, new copy for the website, a launch plan, graphics and other images, and a press release. Most of these assets have multiple versions, and the user only wants to store or publish final versions of each so that they get surfaced to the company’s website.

Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector for Oracle WebCenter Content features the ability to only store major versions of content in WebCenter. This allows users with specific knowledge of the content to publish the ability to do so, while also ensuring that only the final version of content gets stored before it can be seen internally or externally.

  • Project Lifecycle Governance
    This use case satisfies the requirement that many organizations have with their SharePoint system – deleting SharePoint libraries or whole sites at the conclusion of a project. The example I shared for this use case was that of members of a legal team working on a company acquisition. They have created and collected many documents to help with the acquisition, but once the acquisition is complete, the SharePoint library or site must be deleted to ensure the documents remain privy to the legal team and cannot be seen by anyone not authorized to do so.

For this use case, Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector could be configured to allow content storage in WebCenter to occur via a check box. The description for the check box is configurable, but for example, it could simply say “Store in WebCenter”. Such a check box allows a site arbiter on the legal team to determine the content that needs to be retained and stored in WebCenter. This could be content that needs to be retained per compliance or legal reasons, as well as content that needs to be shared with users outside the legal team such as members of the executive team.

  • Business Specific Storage Requirements
    For this use case the example I shared is an organization that has many, different requirements for the SharePoint content they wish to store in WebCenter. These requirements are driven by the various business units. For example, members of an organization’s financial team will have different retention requirements of content and will have to store the majority of the content they create per financial document retention rules. Contrast this with the Legal team example described above who do not want to store the majority of their content and want to be more selective.

The feature to leverage for this use case is the ability to override storage settings that are initially made at the SharePoint central admin level. This feature enables organizations to get their SharePoint to WebCenter integration up and running quickly, but puts the control of content storage in the hands of the business units that understand exactly the content they need to store in WebCenter for retention, distribution, and re-purposing.

Use Cases for Oracle’s SharePoint Integration

I will not try to fully detail the use cases that John did such a great job discussing during the webinar, so I will provide a summary instead. For a more detailed description, please watch the on-demand recording. John begins discussing Oracle’s use cases at about minute 43.

  • Improve Performance
    John spoke to the advantages of storing BLOBs outside of SQL server, which would help improve overall system performance. With Oracle’s connector leveraging RBS, it is very easy for organizations to centralize all SharePoint content to WebCenter and leverage the Oracle database to scale to trillions of items.
  • Improve Governance
    For this use case, John spoke to how a lot of companies using SharePoint have struggled with governance of the system. Sites and overall use quickly spirals out of control leaving IT to clean up the mess of orphaned sites and content. By centrally managing this content in WebCenter, organizations can leverage the records and retention management policies they have in place to better manage content.
  • Re-Use Content
    The point John made with this use case is that by centralizing SharePoint content in WebCenter, that content can then be re-used or surfaced to other Oracle-based systems and applications – WebCenter Portal, WebCenter Sites, E-Business Suite, etc. Companies can leverage Oracle WebCenter’s out-of-the-box integrations for this purpose. The big benefit here is getting rid of SharePoint silos, and providing users access to high-value content outside of SharePoint.

Use Case Summaries

Well, there you have it. Integrating SharePoint and Oracle WebCenter Content can be achieved via the integrations that Fishbowl and Oracle provide. As you consider such an integration, please first consider your integration use case and ultimately what your organization is trying to achieve. Here is a table that summarizes and compares use cases for each integration:

You can access and watch the webinar recording from Fishbowl’s YouTube Channel. Enjoy, and please pass along any feedback.

Thanks for reading!

Jason Lamon is a product strategist and technology evangelist who writes about a range of topics regarding content management and enterprise portals. He writes to keep the communication going about such topics, uncover new opinions, and to get responses from people who are smarter than him. If you are one of those people, feel free to respond to his tweets and posts.

Oracle WebCenter Content Automation Webinar Series – Recap

I recently concluded a series of webinars that detailed some of the Fishbowl components available to streamline and automate administrative tasks in Oracle WebCenter Content, as well as provide additional value and extend upon some its inherent features. This included topics on content notifications, loading content into the system, administering and leveraging content-based workflows, and providing users access to secure content.

I have provided links to the webinar recordings, as well as a video recap to the entire webinar series below.

Subscription Notifier: Rule-based content notifications

 

 

 

Enterprise Batch Loader: Streamline the loading of content into Oracle WebCenter, including content from third-party systems

 

 

 

Workflow Solution Set: Bring all workflow information into view, including workflow history, approval comments, workflow status, and more

 

 

 

Advanced User Security Mapping: Interpret additional directory information including user attributes, organizational units, and group membership to define access to content

 

 

 

Administration Suite: All the components mentioned above come together to form Fishbowl’s Admin Suite – the most comprehensive suite of Oracle WebCenter Content Administration tools to streamline common, administrative tasks

 

If you would like any additional information on any of these topics, or further details on how Fishbowl’s components can help, please email info@fishbowlsolutions.com.

Jason Lamon is a product strategist and technology evangelist who writes about a range of topics regarding content management and enterprise portals. He writes to keep the communication going about such topics, uncover new opinions, and to get responses from people who are smarter than him. If you are one of those people, feel free to respond to his tweets and posts.

WebCenter Suite Real Time Chat – Mobile (Android, RIM, iOS, Windows)

As our continued drive to improve the WebCenter Suite I’m happy to announce that Fishbowl Solutions WebCenter Mobile Real Time Chat integration is soon to be released supporting Android, RIM, iOS and Windows Mobile Devices.

No true tablet application support yet but this is on the roadmap (you can use the mobile app on the tablets today or if your site has been optimised for tablets access chat via the integrated browser solution).

If you’re not familiar with our WebCenter Messaging and Presence integration here is a quick rundown of it’s features.

Supports browser messaging integration with the WebCenter Suite – Portal, Sites & Content. There are no requirements to have a messaging XMPP server ie MS Lync setup; however if you do our solution can integrate with a number of messaging solutions ie – MS Lync, gTalk, etc.

For a preview of our browser integration check out these earlier posts

Addon:: WebCenter Portal Spaces Real Time Chat Instant Messaging and Presence Integration Video.

WebCenter Portal Spaces – Real Time Messaging & Presence Solution.

Fishbowl's SharePoint Connector Version 2.0 for Oracle WebCenter Content – Webinar Recap, Recording, Q & A

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 WebCenterlike peanut butter and chocolate
    • Leverage the benefits of both systems without having to choose one over the other
  • Evaluations Available!

Webinar Recording

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

A: Yes.

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.