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.
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).
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.