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 Fpweb.net 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.