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Intranet >to< Extranet Integration on SharePoint

Increasingly customers are looking to extend their use of SharePoint to Extranets and Internet web-facing sites.  Over the last few months their have been a flurry of products, applications, video demonstrations, and white papers released covering the use of CorasWorks to address this scenario.  This article will list a number of these resources and summarize how they relate to the scenario.


First, we have a new White Paper that goes through a number of scenarios for  Intranet>to<Extranet Integration.  What your are building, why, and what your integration needs are vary greatly.  The point of this white paper is that there are standard “big” designs and that the CorasWorks stack supports these designs and a broad range of specific scenarios using standardized components and methods.  It covers scenarios where you have SharePoint running on both sides.  It covers Extended Scenarios where you are using databases and/or SP in the Extranet or the Intranet or other enterprise apps or services in the cloud and how it is all brought together using CorasWorks.

We have also released a number of video demonstrations of the integration at work in a SharePoint-to-SharePoint scenario.  They are demonstrations of scenarios covered in the White Paper:

  • Intranet>Extranet Push Scenario – this video shows how users working in their departments within the Intranet can push announcements through a process which automatically end up in the Extranet outside the firewall (click here, runtime 6:48)


  •  Integration Scenario: Omega Product Community – this is a series of three videos that cover an integrated scenario where users work in the Extranet with data from the Intranet and work in the Intranet with data from the Extranet.  The videos are:
    • Overview of the X Design – this is an overview describing how the 2 zones are integrated through this X Design (click here, runtime 4:58)
    • Extranet – this shows an Extranet built using the Spirit Community Services Suite for the Omega Product Community and how it is dynamically showing news from the Intranet (click here, runtime 5:00)
    • Intranet & Back Again – this shows the Intranet side and how a Product Team can see the community articles and comments from the Extranet within the Intranet and how they can make comments and even contribute new articles from within the Intranet (click here, runtime 4:44)

For a live, hands-on, sense of an Extranet using a database (also referenced in the White Paper) we recommend that you take a look at the CorasWorks App Store.  The App Store uses back-end SQL Server database and SharePoint information.  Effectively, it is a mash-up of information that is transformed using CSS/XLST.  The Community is a pure Extranet with integration with our Intranet.  The key part of this solution is that the entire Community was built using standard CorasWorks products with no custom code development, but, a good deal of CSS/XSLT customization (with the exception of the Registration system which was hand coded).

Now, let’s take a look at the core off-the-shelf solution sets that you can use to get you going with the two separate zones of work (pre-integration). 

  • For the Extranet, we show and recommend the Spirit Community Services Suite as a core building block  This 4-module product uses the CorasWorks Toolset and is used to build Extranets or to add community services such as Group Blogs to any environment.
  • For the Intranet side, in late January we released the new CorasWorks Department Solution Set.  This 5-module system provides a comprehensive framework to build out a departmental work environment for your Intranet.  The whole system is centrally managed and administered as part of our One Touch system design.

The power behind the integration scenarios is the CorasWorks Toolset.  In February we released v1.6.1.  This release runs on both SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010. Thus, you can build and deploy on SP2007 and do an in-place upgrade of your solution to SP2010.  Or, you can deploy directly on SP2010.  This robust product provides the core capabilities to build out your extranet, whether it uses SharePoint data, databases, enterprise apps, or cloud services.  A key part of the Toolset is that it spans sites, site collections, and web applications across a SharePoint farm.  And, it goes cross-server farm.  And, it spans to just about any external data source located anywhere.

Some of the core capabilities of the Toolset typically used for integrated Intranet><Extranet scenarios are:

  • External Data Providers – to connect to external data sources and manage multiple connections and output information in simple XML
  • SharePoint Data Providers – to connect to SharePoint data and manage multiple connections and output information in simple XML
  • Mashup Adapter – used to mashup different data sources as XML
  • Database Writer – to do Add, Edit, Delete functions between data sources and thus maintain synchronization
  • Business Data Form Adapter – to create read/write forms that connect to the other components, including the uploading of binary files to an ADO database, and manage the business logic

A key design aspect of the Toolset is that you are UI independent.  Typically, in the Intranet zone people will use the CorasWorks Workplace Suite UI with its rich, Ajax-based web dialogs and custom actions to automate work.  This UI integrates with the Toolset XML stream.  For web facing environments they will use lighter, CSS/XSLT displays that consume and work with the XML data.  The Spirit solution takes this approach.  The key to the whole approach is that all data streams are converted into simple XML that may be consumed and worked with in a read/write way across firewalls, server farms and the cloud.

Lastly, we have recently had two announcements of strategic partnerships that extend the CorasWorks solution set for Intranet><Extranet scenarios.  Our joint venture with means that you can bring up an Extranet as a managed service, with the full CorasWorks stack and integrate it with your Intranet or any other source of data across the cloud or the enterprise.  Leveraging H3 Solutions Mobile Entre product we will soon be releasing a server-side mobile solution that enables you to mobile enable these environments, with task oriented apps, with no custom coding, and that work with just about every client side mobile device in the market.

As you can see, we have gone a long way towards being able to provide a comprehensive, pre-integrated solution set for building Intranets and Extranets and integrating them.  Because of this pre-integration the major challenges of making these scenarios work are reduced to the practical work of implementation.  We believe that the Extranet and Web Facing sites offer a great opportunity to provide workforce leverage for your business that quickly translates into increased productivity.  Through these tools we hope to put this potential value within your reach.


3 Ready to Go Scenarios for CorasWorks in the Cloud

In my previous post, I did an overview of the new service offerings for the Cloud.  In this article, I’ll take a look at three core scenarios for the Cloud offering that are ready to go.

Community Extranet in the Cloud (Extension of Intranet)

This is an obvious scenario.  Most existing SharePoint customers use it in an Intranet scenario.  The challenge is how and where to put an Extranet.  Let’s imagine that you want an Extranet Community for your customers and partners around your products.  You want a nice community with news, access to resources, and community interaction for articles and comments.  And, you want it outside the firewall.

To get there, you would go with the AppServer for MOSS offering.  You would drop in the Spirit Community Services Suite and set it up – this is basically a customizable, web-ready community in the box.  You then customize the Community and enhance it as you need. The next step would be to integrate your Extranet with you Intranet on premise.  This is supported by CorasWorks in a bi-directional way. (See my blog on the X design about the webcast we did with Microsoft


Project-Oriented Environments in the Cloud

On premise, increasingly we are finding individual business units that want to bring up a project management environment.  Some typical uses are Global Product Teams, Proposal Management, IT Project Portfolio management, Idea Management.  They are typically adopting our Project Portfolio Management app for the solution.  But, they have to blend it into their on-premise SharePoint environment.  

The Cloud makes it much easier, technically and politically, to bring up a pure project-oriented environment.  Since, it lives in the cloud it is available anywhere, and thus, makes it natural to extend the environment to external parties that they want involved in the work.  To get there, you would go with AppServer for MOSS and implement the CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management v1.2 solution.  its flexibility allows you to have portfolios of projects sites some of which are for internal folks and some for external folks or both. 


Intranets/Departmental Workplace in the Cloud

This is where the larger shift comes.  Organizations are starting to look at moving their whole internal SharePoint environment to the Cloud, or, to start with SharePoint in the Cloud.   Two key reasons why organizations hesitate to do this are a) cloud offerings typically limit SharePoint server access (you loose control and you can’t install custom code), and b) they want to do integration with on-premise systems and/or other Cloud services.  

The CorasWorks offerings address both of these.  For this scenario, the AppFoundation for WSS offering is a comprehensive place to start.  You start with the CorasWorks Department Solution Set that gives you your centrally managed, integrated, departmental work environment (Intranet/Workplace) out of the box.  You add your departments, then, you drop in the business apps you want. leveraging the apps from the App Store.  Then, you start to connect the work between the departments and across the environment.  If you want the enterprise app and cloud services integration, then, you go with AppServer on MOSS and extend the environment to integrate with these systems/services. 


Bringing It All Together

While these are three distinct scenarios, the key is that you can blend them all together to create an integrated work environment in the Cloud.  You can have the full environment in the Cloud or integration between your Cloud environment and your on-premise environment.  For most of our existing customers, we believe that the first step will be to look at the Cloud for extensions of their internal environment.  For new customers, this offering starts to make the Cloud an appealing alternative to on premise implementations.  No matter which way you go, at the center is the CorasWorks Community and the App Store.  With our consistent app platform, we are supporting both options with the same products, services, support, and applications. 



Department Solution Set v1.0: Bringing It All Together

Our Department Dashboard app using our One Touch design with Central Configuration has been extensively adopted in our customer base on SharePoint 2007.  In this article, we’ll talk about the new Department Solution Set v1.0 which is the next generation of this solution and takes the level of collaboration, integration, and management to a whole new level.

The Department Dashboard – One Touch Edition has allowed customers to create a departmental work environment of multiple Departments, each with their department collaboration site.  With the One Touch design, all of the department sites are centrally managed.  This hub and spoke design thus allows you to make one change centrally, which then updates all instances of Department sites.image

The Department Solution Set v1.0 takes this core hub and spoke model to the next level.  This diagram shows how a typical DSS environment would lay out.

DSS is a 5-module solution that addresses the same core area – which is how to deploy and manage a multi-department work environment on SharePoint.  DSS goes further to create an integrated, flexible environment, that is centrally managed, with shared resources, services and processes that cut across the various departments and integrate them.

DSS has three aspects to it:

  • Central Services (typically its own Site Collection) – this area is used for central environment configuration (such as Global Navigation and Global Links), central application management, shared resources, services, and processes.  There are three modules for this, including, Central Configuration, Central Resources, and the Department Application Configuration Site.
  • Department Dashboard and Gateway – these two modules are in the production environment.  The Department Dashboard is used to bring up all of your Department sites where the core departmental collaboration takes place.  The Gateway is used for the environments’ top-level site or for special purpose consoles, such as an Employee Services Console or a Salespersons’ Console.  It is populated with Snaplets and Services that reside elsewhere (usually in other Apps or in Central Services).
  • Ready for Apps – the third part is not in the product but part of the design.  With this framework you can now drop in apps within your departments.  You can get apps from the CorasWorks App Store, you can create sites with native SharePoint site templates, or, you can build your own apps.  They will auto-magically appear in the Department dashboard features.  They can be added to Global and Departmental navigation in one place that makes them available environment wide.  They can be integrated to the Central Services or each other.  Each app enhances the overall environment.

Because of the One Touch hub and spoke design, you now have a framework for an integrated environment – information and functionality can flow across departments and between apps.  DSS comes with a number of pre-built, cross-environment services including: Global Navigation, Departmental News service, Company Calendar service, System Change Request service and Workplace Sites that allow you to submit and socialize sites across the environment that are then made available to users in the other departments.

DSS gives you a great framework.  But, at its core you also are getting a very robust collaborative environment for Departments.  A key change enhancement of DSS’s department site is the inclusion of features that allow users to have single displays for work across the different types of lists and libraries. Thus, in one display they can see What’s New across all types of lists or libraries, and, even sites.  You can act on multiple items, of multiple types, in one step.  You have My Work that shows users work assigned to them or created by them across ALL types.  You have Pinpoint Search to search across all types with the department.  In sum it is just the next gen of a true collaborative environment that is no longer data typed but based upon the users context.

DSS requires v10.3.1 of the Workplace Suite.  It runs on the AppEngine v10.3.1 and on both of our cloud offerings – AppFoundation and AppServer.  In addition, with the Bridge ability of the v10.3.1 release, your entire DSS environment can be upgraded to SharePoint 2010 through an in-place upgrade. So, now matter how broad you go with departments and deep you go with apps on SP2007, you know you can move it all to SP2010 when the time comes.

See you in the community,


Free Collab Apps – Conference Room Scheduling & Idea Hub

Our App Publisher partners have shown some Holiday spirit by publishing some very useful and FREE collaborative apps for SharePoint to the CorasWorks App Store.  Last week, they published Conference Room Scheduler (by Crucial Systems) and Idea Hub (by Future Structure).  Here is the skinny on these apps.

Both apps are in the collaborative apps genre.  They are generally addressing the need for people across a SharePoint environment to collaborate.  Thus, they have a broad user population and would probably be implemented with permissions for a lot of people. 

Crucial’s Conference Room Scheduler solves that common problem of people scheduling conference rooms.  It is a clean, simple app where people can centrally schedule the conference rooms.  It can also be used to collaboratively schedule other resources like equipment, trade show booths, company vehicles, etc.  The key is that it is a centralized resource that gives everyone the visibility they need.  It is an easy win for a SharePoint environment.

The Idea Hub is an innovative collaborative app by Future Structure.  They’ve coined the term “Hub” for this style of app where you collaborate around something such as Ideas.  The key is that all of the lists and libraries in a site are available as related content.  Thus, for each Idea you can add 10 different kinds of content and work with all of the content related to the Idea instead of jumping from content type to content type.  It basically inverts the idea of content in a SharePoint site to be related to a single thing like an idea. It also lets you fire off emails with links back to Ideas or related items – this drives the idea of a collaborative Hub and Spoke model.  Definitely, one to try out.  I have started using it for all kinds of things, even beyond ideas, because it is so easy to use and to get and keep people engaged. 

Both of these apps run on the Workplace Suite.  The Idea Hub also uses the Workplace ID Generator field to generate unique ID’s that are key to the relational design.  The Workplace ID tool is currently in the CorasWorks Toolset and the AppEngine, but, not the Suite.  Come 1/1/2010 it is being released to the entire SharePoint community for free. 


Distributing Application Functionality with Snaplets

This week R3 Business Solutions released v2 of its Time Off Management app and its Budget Change Request Management app.  Both include a set of Snaplets to enable organizations to distribute key pieces of each application across the SharePoint environment, in order to make work convenient for users.  Snaplets are web parts, based upon a special central configuration enabled by CorasWorks, that make them distributable with full fidelity.  This enables you to distribute application functionality to say 20 places across an environment, but, to be able to make one change in a central place and all 20 instances of the Snaplet Web Part are updated.  In this article, we provide an overview of Snaplets and three videos that cover the business benefit, how to distribute Snaplets, and how to centrally customize them once they are deployed.

A Typical Scenario for Snaplets

People are adding business apps to their SharePoint environments.  They drop the app into the environment somewhere such as in a department site collection.  In order to use the app, users then navigate to the app and do their work.  This is how we historically have thought of apps – you go somewhere to use them.  However, in the broad, distributed work environment that is SharePoint, in many instances there is a better way.

Let’s look at a Help Desk app.  You could drop the Help Desk app into the IT Department Site Collection.  In general, Help Desk engineers use the app.  Historically, our engineers spend a lot of time doing data entry of new requests and fielding calls and emails about status.  So, now we tell users that they can go to the app and enter their requests.  What we find is that the users don’t do this, because it is inconvenient, thus, the engineers continue to do data entry and respond to status inquiries.

Enter the Snaplet.  The CW Help Desk apps use Snaplets.  You simple snap off the end-user, self-service UI, and distribute it to all of the locations where users could possibly work.  From there they can see their Requests: new ones, old ones, and the status.  From there they can enter new requests and pop off emails to assigned engineers and make comments etc.  Their work, from wherever they work, is connected to the app.  What you find is that users start to enter requests because it is convenient.  They reduce separate emails and calls to the Help Desk because they can see the status in real time, wherever they work.  This is a typical example of the productivity benefit of distributing application functionality across the SharePoint environment.

Below is a schematic of how this actually lays out.  In this example, we have two apps, the Help Desk in the IT Dept and a Time Off Management app in the HR department.  Both are good examples of apps where distributing the functionality to where users work makes sense.  The Green and Red dots show where the apps’ Snaplets are distributed to. So, you have Snaplets for both apps distributed to 4 department dashboards in their own Site Collections, to the Portal, to an Employee Services Console (where they self-serve), and to Personal Consoles such as their My Sites (people can self-service and drop the Snaplets into their My Site).  You distribute the end-user self-service Snaplet.  But, you may also distribute Snaplets for Management Reports and Snaplets for Review and Approval.  Any functionality in the app can be converted into a distributable Snaplet with full fidelity.


Technically, how do Snaplets Work

All apps built with CorasWorks have displays, views, forms, and actions in some combination.  So, when you go into an app, the user has a typical app UI.  Any UI in CorasWorks can be converted into a Snaplet for distribution. This is done by creating a Snaplet web part.  The Snaplet “encapsulates” all of the functionality of a particular UI display of an app. It is a connected, extension of the app.   It is created by using centrally configured capabilities driven by point-and-click builder wizards: Central Views, Central Actions, Central Forms and Global Links.  To the user, there is no difference between the UI within the site of the app and the UI that is available via the Snaplet – this is what we mean by “full fidelity”.  In addition, once you create the Snaplet it can be used within the app as well as being distributed.  The key is that the Snaplet is centrally configurable.  Imagine you have a Snaplet for end-users to manage their Time Off requests.  You want to add an action so that end-users can fill out a custom form for Time Off requests for personal days.  You just add it centrally in the app and any instance of the Snaplet now has that capability.

Video 1: Business Productivity through Snaplets – Self-service Help Desk (6:52 minutes)

In this brief video we will show you how Snaplets are used to distribute the end-user self-serve functionality of the CorasWorks Help Desk and show you how they add business value by putting functionality at the fingertips of users where they normally work.

Video 2: How to Distribute Snaplets – Time Off Management app (7 minutes)

In this video, we’ll show you how easy it is to distribute Snaplets using hte pre-built Snaplets that are part of R3 Business Solutions v2 of the Time Off Management app.

Video 3: Central Customization of Snaplets – Business Links as a Shared Central Resource (7 minutes)

In this video we’ll show you how to customize a Snaplet that has already been distributed.  We use a business links “central resource”. 


Most of us are familiar with business apps.  And, we are familiar with the distributed, collaborative environment of SharePoint. CorasWorks Snaplets and the capabilities that drive them, make it possible to have the best of both worlds – the structure of business applications with the ability for people to work wherever is most convenient.   The result is increased business productivity with a minimum of maintenance.  The best part is that it is very easy to do by leveraging CorasWorks Builder Wizards.



Follow-Through on Microsoft-CorasWorks Webcast: Extranets in the Cloud Integrated with Intranets Using CorasWorks on SharePoint

Last Thursday Microsoft and CorasWorks did a joint webcast entitled “X Design Pattern: Where Contributors and Consumers Cross Boundaries”.  It was part of the TechNet series on SharePoint for Internet Business.  This article provides an overview of the webcast and access to the recorded webcast, the presentation deck, and separate videos of the live demonstration.

Organizations in the SharePoint community have historically used SP for primarily Intranets.  Increasingly, they are looking to extend SharePoint to more robust web facing scenarios.  This webcast was about using CorasWorks on SharePoint for “business interaction” scenarios that are web facing and outside the firewall.  These are often the core business drivers for organizations to go to the web.  They go beyond one-way (“passive”) public facing web sites.  They cover scenarios that integrate your “external workforce” with your internal users.  Examples are extended business processes, application portals, extranets, and communities of purpose.  


This webcast was a kick off of our go to market to start driving packaged applications and standardized frameworks from CW and partners for Web facing scenarios.  These efforts are targeted at reducing the time, risk, and cost and increasing the flexibility and robustness of solutions that leverage SharePoint on the web.

The webcast provided the following:

A top down overview of Business Interaction scenarios and how they fit into a “web” strategy   

  • Presenting the core business value of these types of scenarios which is to leverage your external workforce in solutions where external and internal workers work together seamlessly
  • We introduced the X Design Pattern which is at the  core of these scenarios and how it supports Cloud-to- On-Premise deployments and the dual roles of contributors and consumers for each
  • We presented 3 case studies where organizations have used the X Design Pattern for an Application Portal, an Extranet (business network), and a CommunityX Design
  • We provided an overview of the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset and how it supports the X Design and business interaction scenarios (today on SP2007 and into SP2010)
  • We did a live demonstration of a Community Extranet in the Cloud integrated with an on-premise Intranet – the Omega Product Community
  • We introduced a pre-packaged solution (to be released to the CorasWorks App Store and to CorasWorks in the Cloud in December), the Community Services Suite, by Spirit EDV-Beratung that we used in the live demonstration for the Community Extranet

Click here to view the recorded 58 minute webcast.  In addition, click here to download the presentation deck in PDF format.

Further, we have separately prepared a set of 3 videos that cover just the live demonstration where we show the Omega Community on the Extranet in the Cloud. They are:



Microsoft Sponsored Webcast To Show How CorasWorks is Empowering Organizations to Leverage SharePoint on the Web

On November 18th, we’ll be doing a TechNet webcast sponsored by Microsoft that is part of their SharePoint for Internet Business Series.  It is called X Design Pattern for Web Sites: Where Contributors and Consumers Cross Boundaries.   In it we’ll be demonstrating how organizations have created valuable business leverage, by leveraging SharePoint and CorasWorks in web facing solutions.

The abstract is as follows:

Historically, Internet sites were built for external users to consume passive content. Now, there is an added ability for internal contributors to provide managed content. In this webcast, we present customer cases studies of Internet sites, extranets, and communities, and we demonstrate  how the X design pattern provides the ability for internal users and external Web users to act as both contributors and consumers. The key to this functionality is the layer in the middle where information and the process flow can be managed in both directions, mashed-up, manipulated, and analyzed. We introduce you to the CorasWorks Solution for Internet Sites, which is a packaged solution that extends Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2010 to enable organizations to accomplish this without requiring custom code development.

The webcast will review a number of case studies from some of the largest organizations in the world and smaller companies where CorasWorks has been used to build web-facing internet sites for Communities, Extranets, and Application Portals.  You’ll find that they all follow a similar design, that we call the X design, that empowers organizations to bring external users and internal users into work processes and business networks that create valuable business leverage for organizations. 

It will introduce you to our Solution for the Web, which comprises the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset running on Microsoft SharePoint 2007 (and very shortly SP2010) with SharePoint for Internet Sites and productized, plug and play web app services from CorasWorks and our partners.  CorasWorks is extending our model that has been so effective for organizations in the Intranet app realm, to the web, to vastly reduce the cost and risks of designing, building, and maintaining robust and effective web facing solutions.

It should be a lively and useful event for those considering web facing solutions on SharePoint.  Click here to register with Microsoft Technet.

See you then,


CorasWorks Apps on SharePoint in the Cloud

Last week at the SharePoint Conference, CorasWorks and announced that we were teaming up to bring CorasWorks Apps on SharePoint to the cloud (CW release, release).  The offerings will be available in early December.  In this article, I’ll cover a few of the basics of this new joint offering and how it is designed to deliver an “app platform in the cloud” instead of just a classic SAAS offering.


 The Base Service

The base service offering is called QuickStart SharePoint Business Suites.  There are two “Suites”, one running on WSS and another on MOSS.  It will start as a SP2007 offering and move to SP2010 once Microsoft gives us the green light to launch (BTW, last week we also released our first wave of products on SP2010).  The WSS offering will include the CorasWorks Workplace Suite.  The MOSS offering has the Workplace Suite and the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset.


Apps on SharePoint in the Cloud

Our approach with the offering is to provide first and foremost a plug and play application environment that leverages the SharePoint platform.  The base service offerings will include our Department Starter Set solution.  This solution allows organizations to lay out departments as part of an integrated work environment – all plug and play and interconnected.   


From there customers have a number of options to add Apps. 

  • They can add additional business modules, published by CorasWorks and independent Application Publishers, such as Project Portfolio Management, that will be available as options to the basic service. 
  • Or, they can get apps a-la-carte from the CorasWorks App Store created by CorasWorks and our Application Publisher partners and add them in. 
  • Using CorasWorks on SharePoint they can easily customize and connect the apps or they can build their own using our Point & Click Wizards and native SharePoint tools.


Couple of Key Decisions We Made

First, as is apparent we decided to partner with vs. bringing up a service on our own.  They are the world leader in SharePoint hosting and have it down.  This way our customers get the best app environment on the best hosting platform without compromise.

Second, we’ll be focusing on our offering on Fpweb’s virtualized infrastructure.  This differs from Microsoft BPOS which offers Shared Multi-Tenant or Dedicated.  With the virtualized infrastructure customers are able to simple dial up new resources (memory, processors, power) to meet their needs.  In addition, with this infrastructure customers have direct RDP access to the SharePoint server.  They are in control of their environment.  With the MOSS offering they also have access to SQL Server, which plays a key part in our Line of Business database applications.  The net of this is that customers will be able to have much more powerful apps and manage their environment at a much deeper level than most vanilla offerings.

Third, the offering and the pricing of apps are for unlimited users.  Thus, you have an all you can eat approach.  Let’s say you are using Project Portfolio Management for your internal global engineering group of 100 users.  You want to add another 100 users from external vendors.  There is no cost at the app tier.  Just add the users and add value.  If you need to add horsepower – just dial up the infrastructure at an incremental cost.


App Platform as a Service

CorasWorks and our partners believe that an all you can eat app pricing approach works best for our customers, particularly on SharePoint.  This differs sharply from the approach of many SAAS vendors today such as  With them, you pay per user for the base app.  Then, if you add additional apps from third-parties they are per user also.  What you end up with is a lot of siloed apps, each on a per user basis.  It gets messy with a lot of constraints.


Contrast this with our offering.  It is an integrated, flexible environment.  You can lay out the environment as you wish.  You can connect the apps, the information, and the people across the environment.  You can even re-use functionality from one app in another app or distribute the functionality say to a role-based dashboard.  This is supported by CorasWorks’ modular app design that leverages the SharePoint platform.  Thus, our offering is designed to enable cross-department, cross-application, cross-cloud sharing and integration.  We believe that this offering defines the next generation cloud app platform offering.  They go beyond the siloed app model of most SAAS providers.  It is a platform approach, of integrated apps from multiple vendors and/or apps that you can easily build yourself.  This is where is going with – and it is where we are entering the market in the cloud.


SharePoint as Our Platform

Our offering is positioned to compete against other app offerings in the cloud.  However, unlike most other offerings our underlying platform is Microsoft SharePoint.  While we focus on the app tier, Microsoft is focusing on the platform.  They have been a reliable partner for us over the years and are committed to moving the platform forward.  Many competing cloud offerings such as Zoho, Jive, and SpringCM have announced their SharePoint connectors.  The difference is that we are on SharePoint and are already connected.  You don’t have to use a different platform and a different UI to get the value of business apps, because you are doing it on SharePoint.


That’s all for now.  There will be a lot more information as we move towards launch.  See you in the cloud.



App “Lifecycle” – Easy to Get Started; Easy to Evolve

In my last article, I discussed our recently released trio of apps for the IT Department and how they work together.  This article drills down into the “life cycle” of the Work Order Approval app (one of the trio).  It presents a new video that shows how easy it is to get started, and, then discusses a white paper showing how this app can “evolve” over time.

Easy to Get Started

It starts with the individual Work Order Approval app and going from the App Store into an app in production.  The Putting Apps to Work video (13:29 minutes) walks you through each of the steps in the process in real time, including:

  1. - Finding the Work Order Approval app in the App Store
  2. - “Buying” and Downloading it
  3. - Reviewing the contents and documentation
  4. - Uploading it and Deploying it in the IT Department
  5. - Using It (working it out)
  6. - Customizing It
  7. - And, Connecting it up as part of our IT Department

With a typical app, you’ll probably spend an hour or two doing it yourself.  Most of your time will be invested reading the documentation and thinking through how you want to use, customize, and connect it up.  But, it is just as easy as in the video.  You can try it for yourself, right now, via the App Store (btw, the Work Order Approval app is free to CorasWorks customers on Premier Annual Support and Maintenance).

A key benefit of plug-and-play apps built to run on CorasWorks is that you can get the app up and running quickly, easily, and without issues such as having to install custom dll’s or learn how to deal with one-off custom designs.  With it in place, you can expose it to your end-users, let them try it out, and then, figure out how you should customize it and connect it up to best meet their current requirements and your environment.   

That is the way to start.  A single purpose app, easy to get going, and easy to be connected to your environment.


Easy to Evolve

In most organizations, app needs evolve. And, CorasWorks on SharePoint supports this.  In our Enabling Application Evolution white paper we talk about how the same Work Order Approval app evolves from the single purpose app into an integrated, multi-app, system focused on vendor management (also, see this blog about the white paper).

This is a non-technical white paper that tells a story.  It walks you through the 5 stages shown below.  It really is a story of continuous improvement – all starting with our simple Work Order app. 



The App “Lifecycle”

Having the availability of plug-and-play apps and making it easy to get started is an important first step.  It is far easier to start with an app than to design and build it from scratch.  From there, being able to customize the app, extend it, tie it into other related apps across your environment is the where the full value is realized.  As people start to really work together, they learn better ways of working.  Now, the software can adapt to the changing needs.

The rather wild thing with CorasWorks on SharePoint, is that this whole cycle can be done without custom compiled code.  It is accomplished with point and click wizards running on a standardized environment.  And, at any point, you can always crack code to add that special little feature you need.

It all starts with that first app.  We hope to see you in the App Store.



C2C Content Services for SharePoint (Part 4 of 4): Bringing It All Together

In Parts 2 and 3 of this series, we reviewed two apps that enable very different C2C Content Services.  Yet, as we saw in the videos, these services can be integrated.  In this last article, we’ll describe in more detail how the two apps integrate to create an end-to-end C2C Content Service solution and how this approach can be extended to apply to a broad range of scenarios.

 The End-to-End Scenario for the Sample Appsx-design

So, let’s review the end-to-end C2C scenario using the 2 apps in these articles. There is a Blog-Style Announcements app.  Users contribute their announcements working locally.  They flow through a process and are aggregated and transformed into a Blog-Style display.  In the Virtual Slide Show video, we showed how the announcement service was embedded into a slide show that was part of a set of Organizational Services that was delivered to users where they work.  Thus, you have contributors entering information locally and consumers using the information locally.  You might call it a “work@home” scenario.

 It takes a lot of words to explain what is going on in such a system.  Let’s simplify it a bit.  If you recall, in the previous articles we introduced a design pattern for each type of app.  The A design pattern for the Announcement service (think A for aggregation).  The V design pattern for the Virtual Slide show distribution.  When you put the two together as an end-to-end system it appears as a design pattern that we call “X” as shown here.

 The two separate application services work independently but are integrated in the middle.  The result is that consumers don’t have to navigate to the Announcements Blog UI.  Instead it is repackaged as part of an Organizational Services service that is delivered to users where they work. This end-to-end C2C solution provides a seamless experience to both contributors and consumers.  In addition, other services, such as the Video Library, were combined into the Organizational Services service. 

 The Power is in the Middle Tier

The real power of this design lies in the application services in the middle of the X design.  Let’s look at this in more detail.  We’ll examine how the integration happens and the utility of the centralized, one touch management approach.

 As shown in the VSS video, the integration of the two sample services was easily accomplished by the VSS content manager adding a link to the Announcements slide show.  No coding, no protocols, no configuration – just a link and the two separate apps are now part of a system.  Effectively, it is a loosely coupled integration.  Each app can stand on their own.  There is no technology required to integrate.  Thus, the VSS service serves as a middleman to “mix and mash” the various other applications, content, and services across SharePoint.

 Couldn’t we just put some links on end-user pages?  It may work, in certain scenarios, for a moment.  However, the user is still navigating, the information is not being aggregated or transformed, you are not able to “mix and mash” content and specific application functionality, you are manually maintaining lots of hard-wired links, you lack security trimming, and, the system is not centrally configurable.  Using a centralized service such as VSS in the middle tier adds these capabilities to the system.

 Let’s take a look at the specific ways that central configuration via the application services turns this into a dynamic, one touch system: 

- The Announcements service is configured to reach out and connect to distributed data sources.  To add a new data source, you just add an entry in a Directory list in the service.  To change gates for approval, you change it once centrally.  The Blog UI is centrally configured.  The local data sources control security and security trimming and the service respects these settings.

- The slide show listings available via the VSS service for Organizational Services is also centrally configured in the app.  Thus, you add a new service as a slide show and all distributed service listings are updated.  Change the content centrally and all content changes.  Drop a link into a slide show and any business functionality is accessible to users in a click.  They can even contribute and act on information from where they work.  It is easy to do and keep things consistent and accurate.

Thus, the application services in the middle tier of this X design provide the capabilities necessary for a flexible and manageable end-to-end C2C Content Service across the enterprise.


The Breadth of this Design

So, how extensible is this X design?  What content and functionality across SharePoint can be included, in as easy a manner as has been shown here?  The answer when using CorasWorks is just about everything.

By this I mean that effectively following this X design, just about all content and all functionality built across the entire SharePoint environment can be re-packaged and served up to users in a task-oriented business context.  And, all of this can be done without coding and very simply.

So, how does this work?  There are a couple of basic elements. 

- First, is that CorasWorks is designed to work with all information across data types, sites, site collections, web applications, external data bases, cloud services, enterprise applications, and, in many scenarios across server farms and organizational boundaries. 

- Second, is that SharePoint supports a basic modular framework based upon the web part framework.  CorasWorks leverages this framework and makes it centrally manageable.

- Third, is that because of this modularity and central control any functionality built with CorasWorks can connect to any information and can effectively be snapped off and re-mixed and put at the service of any user working anywhere.

 We’ll use a final video to emphasis the benefits for the end-user of this design.  We’ll return to a jazzed up set of Organizational Services for employees working in their departments.  We’ll show an embedded window versus a pop-up for the slide shows – a simple customization of the VSS service.  We’ll flip through 4 different services at the disposal of the end-user.  They cover the range from passive content slide shows, to interactive content, to business functionality where users see, contribute, and act on information.  The key thing to remember is that each of these end-user services actually contains specific pieces of functionality contained within different business applications in different departments across a SharePoint environment that are being “mixed and mashed” as part of a single Organizational Service being provided and centrally managed by VSS.  Click here to view the video (runtime 5 minutes).


Wrap Up

If you’ve made it through the full 4-part series and watched the videos you’ve spent about 2 hours or more with us.  Thank you.  The series was intended to provide you with a broad yet practical understanding of CorasWorks-based C2C Content Services.  Our gift in return, if you are a CorasWorks customer and running MOSS 2007, is that the two apps discussed in these articles are free, available in the CorasWorks Community App Store, and can be put to use right away.  We thank Spirit for their contribution of the Blog-Style Announcements app.  You will find them easy to install and use, well documented, and easy to customize. 

 The overall design and capabilities of CorasWorks-based C2C Content Services provides you with a unique combination of flexibility on one hand and control on the other to enable you to meet a broad and diverse set of needs across your enterprise SharePoint environment.  The fact that it happens without a lot of technical work, frees up time for you to invest to learn which services for which user groups offer the most value for your organization.  Given that it is mostly pre-packaged, centrally manageable, and non-invasive to an existing environment, you are also able to easily test and try things out.  We hope that these community offerings will help drive some very innovative solutions.  Please share your findings with the rest of the community.

 Again, thank you, and enjoy.