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Countdown to Cloud for SAP Enterprise Portal

Countdown to Cloud for SAP Enterprise Portal
April 07, 2020

The clock is ticking. The SAP Enterprise Portal support is ending and companies should take action on their current portal systems now. In this blog, I will look at the impending end of Enterprise Portal support and some of the options, challenges, and opportunities that lie ahead of a new portal future. The challenge is not as daunting as it might first appear.

I have been working with SAP Enterprise Portal ever since SAP acquired it from Top Tier in 2001, and  I’ve helped many customers produce portals for employees, customers, and suppliers.  A few years back, SAP announced their intention to move into the cloud and in due course Enterprise Portal would be replaced by a new cloud version. In the intervening time their intent has been to add features to both versions to bring these two environments closer together in terms of capability. Now SAP have announced the final dates for support of the current SAP Netweaver Enterprise Portal versions, which according to SAP currently are:

  • SAP NetWeaver 7.0, end of maintenance Java stack: Already ended in 2017
  • SAP NetWeaver 7.1, 7.3 and 7.4, end of maintenance Java stack: Dec 31st, 2020
  • SAP NetWeaver 7.5, end of maintenance Java stack: Dec 31st, 2024

Enterprise Portal will not be maintained and extended further.  So, for customers willing to give access to their portal to users, what are the content management options?

I am assuming  that the customer wants to remain with SAP portals, though there are potentially non-SAP ways to link content from SAP into a non-SAP portal/website system.  Let’s take a look at the two main options we have, and I’ll show the same content in each option.

Enterprise Portal Replacement options

Option 1 - Fiori Launchpad – On-Premise

Enterprise Portal Replacement

The Fiori Launchpad can be deployed as a front end to most backend SAP products and customers are probably familiar with its tile based front end for launching applications. It may be that the current Enterprise Portal already contains a Launchpad page. The Launchpad is an excellent way to deliver a single-entry point into multiple systems, with role-based groupings of content tailored to each user. If the current portal is principally used to launch applications, as is the case for many employee self-service portals, it can effectively replace the Enterprise Portal in this role. It should be borne in mind that it can be used for more than just Fiori applications. So if a customer is yet to embrace Fiori this could be the incentive to do so.

It is important to note that while the Launchpad can be customized to a degree to take up company branding and color schemes, it lacks the capacity on its own to provide the richer user experience that is possible in Enterprise Portal.

To fully replace what is available in the current Enterprise Portal, we need to go to the Cloud.

Option 2 - SAP Cloud Portal

Enterprise Portal Replacement

As mentioned earlier, SAP has already developed the SAP Cloud Portal as an effective replacement for Enterprise Portal. It has the ability to provide the same kind of web-based UI bringing together role based content from multiple systems with end-to-end single sign on. We can now create fully customizable web portals with a greater flexibility of layout and look and feel than what was possible with Enterprise Portal. This can include most of the content that currently runs in the Enterprise Portal, from both on-premise and other cloud systems. On SAP Cloud, the Fiori Launchpad is a variant of the Cloud Portal or can be a page within a more extensive portal system.

Cloud Portal is great for systems that need more than just an application launcher, especially for customers, suppliers, or other external users.

Transitioning to Cloud Portal

Be under no illusions that the move to SAP Cloud Portal will be a simple upgrade to a new version.   This is a new product. A move from Enterprise Portal is a migration. Having said that, it is not as big a problem as it might seem, when compared to transition of an on-premise finance or SRM system. Migrating to SAP Cloud Portal can be gradual and there are tools to help with the process.  In fact, with the help of migration tools Cloud Portal can be up and running relatively quickly. It can run concurrently with the existing portal until a new, hopefully improved, system is ready to take over.

Firstly, there is one key installation required and that is Cloud Connector. This provides a secure tunnel from your backend systems up to the cloud. It’s a quick and light installation, and in my experience can be put onto the existing Enterprise Portal server without noticeable impact on portal performance. You will want this to be in place before exposing your on-premise SAP portal to the cloud.

Once Cloud Connector is in place, some existing Enterprise Portal content can be migrated into the Cloud Portal to speed up the process. From Netweaver 7.3 onwards there are tools to migrate these elements:

  • iViews become tiles in SAP Cloud Platform Portal
  • Roles become catalogues in SAP Cloud Platform Portal
  • System Objects become destinations in SAP Cloud Platform Portal

This means that you can pull your content in, build up some pages, and apply a theme and have something up and running quite quickly. Inevitably you’ll want to make some changes to layout organization, but this will let you find out quickly what works and what needs adapting.

Now you are in a position to create your new portal, with perhaps a whole new look and feel, or incorporate other cloud content, such as Success Factors or C/4HANA.

Progressing further, the content management and collaboration features of Enterprise Portal need to be replaced with SAP Jam and SAP Document Center. Cloud Portal lacks the out of the box advanced document management features of Enterprise Portal. For this it will be necessary to implement a third-party solution. SAP recommends Egnyte, which has a transition tool to help with the move to cloud. In my experience many customers use other tools for their corporate content management, such as SharePoint, and it should be easy to link or integrate these into the Cloud Portal.

Benefits of migrating to SAP Cloud Portal

Making the initial move to Cloud Portal provides a company with opportunities beyond simple like for like replacement.

This is an actually an opportunity assess the content management structure and usage of the portal and how to modernize its look and feel. Customers will know the most valuable user content and this will be a good time to make those  prominent, and perhaps phase out old content. There might be new content that can be easily added from other cloud systems or other non-SAP systems into the current system.

A move to Cloud Portal can be a relatively low risk first step into the SAP Cloud Platform for a customer. In short term, the Enterprise Portal can act as a content provider for the Cloud Portal, removing the need to migrate the iviews and focusing on the new systems structure and look and feel, before moving the applications. Since portals don’t generally store business data, the security risk is low. The Cloud Connector provides a very secure tunnel from on-premise systems to the SAP Cloud Platform. Once the Cloud Portal is up and running, then the key elements of the Cloud Platform will also be in place, such as user authentication and single sign on, which will allow further use of the cloud. If a customer’s strategy is to transfer more systems to the cloud, the entry point into these can remain the same as on-premise content on portal pages is replaced with equivalent cloud content.

It is also an easy way to get content to a mobile platform, whether through a browser, SAP’s mobile client for Fiori, native IOS/Android applications or the Mobile Cards application

SAP Cloud Portal provides the customer with a platform for the future, which we can expect it to support and extend. It can bring other features of the Cloud Platform such as Internet of Things, chatbots, speech recognition, AI, and automation.

Summary

Customers should either be considering an immediate move of their portal to the cloud, or at least be upgrading to the last version of Enterprise Portal as a stop gap till 2024.

Cloud Portal provides a quick and easy first step into SAP Cloud Platform for customers who are not yet ready to move to a lot of SAP systems. It is the future of SAP products, and with the integration of novel cloud features and new technologies, promises to deliver many years of great user experience.

Now is the time to take those first steps.