The SAP Developer Network was born out of a bold desire to serve the needs and address the pain points of our invaluable community of developers, technical experts, and integrators. To do this, we did quite a bit of research on what the community members wanted. Their basic requirements were:
- A platform for a collaborative community, not just another Web site with SAP-related content
- Technical information, not marketing hype, about the newest SAP technologies, SAP NetWeaver, and SAP xApps
- Tools and motivation for SAP experts (internal and external) to exchange knowledge and collaborate
- Easy access to tools and sample code from both SAP and community sources
- Online learning and training including video recordings, Webinars, and other multimedia assets
As we distilled this input into SDN’s offering, we found ourselves with a wonderful opportunity to “eat our own dog food” – what means, for those who aren’t developers: use our own product – and build the SDN Web site using SAP NetWeaver platform technologies. Where else could we find a software platform that would give us the flexibility we needed and offer the right depth of features and functionality to our users? Plus, we figured this would be the best “demo” of the SAP NetWeaver platform’s capabilities we would ever have!
By using SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP) and other SAP NetWeaver products, we could provide all of the basic functionality for publishing, maintenance, search, discussion forums, and viewing of rich media. This was combined with easy-to-administer mechanisms for security, single sign-on, and integration with other SAP NetWeaver technologies. The existing portal functionality was supplemented by the SAP Viewpoint system for semantic navigation and personalization, and an externally hosted system for Web log publishing.
Not just a Web site, it’s a portal
In thinking of SDN as a community, we had to develop a site with role-based authorizations, cross-browser support, content management capabilities, and simple online publishing capabilities. We also had to provide collaboration features, powerful search capabilities, simple and friendly user interface, and fast response times.
For us, SAP Enterprise Portal was the only way to go. The choice was easy — not only are we pretty familiar with our own products, but we were hard-pressed to find all of our functionality requirements in any of the other community platforms out there.
On top of SAP Enterprise Portal, we implemented SAP Knowledge Management to provide services for classifying and searching content, as well as SAP Content Management to provide a repository. Together, we now had robust content management capabilities for versioning, discussion groups, user feedback and review/rating of content, query-based taxonomies, assigning properties such as audience type and related subjects to content, and submission and approval of content.
Users will also find a simple yet powerful text and properties search, powered by the SAP Enterprise Portal Search Engine (TREX).
The SAP Developer Network does not look like the “out of the box” SAP EP. When many users look at SDN, they can’t believe that it is implemented in SAP EP 5.0 — the site looks nothing like the traditional pages that come with the product! This is because we use a new concept, introduced in SAP EP 6.0, called the “generic layout approach,” which enables customers to customize a different page layout for different roles. In the “About” section of SDN, users can download the code used to build these features for free.
Concerning the technical requirements the SAP J2EE Engine of the SAP Web Application Server was used for the Java and JSP components. The high-level hardware configuration is shown in the figure beside. Two Web servers (Portal and Portal2) run the HTTP servers, the portal, content management, and the application server. Two database servers (Persistence1 and Persistence2) operate a high availability cluster for the Microsoft SQL Server database that runs the site. The LDAP1 server handles the directory and search services.
Designed for a range of users
For the SDN community, the real value comes not from the platform itself but from how we use it to create features and services that help our users. SDN, like many other large-scale sites, has the challenge of presenting a vast collection of content and services in a form that not only offers new users an easy introduction to all the resources available, but also allows experienced users to quickly get to the information they need.
Using the SAP EP platform and related products, we were able to meet this challenge with features such as:
- Home pages for each major area covered by SDN, allowing us to summarize our offering for new users and provide a quick path for experienced users
- Various levels of search capabilities — from text search for basic keyword and date searches, to advanced search along taxonomies assigned to the content, to federated search across multiple sources (such as SDN Content, discussion forums, SAP Notes, and Weblogs), which shows all available content in one result list
- Query-based taxonomies
- Content submission with automatic classification using dimensions
- Role-based access to protected content and features
- Discussion forums for questions, answers, and free-form collaboration
- Newsletters to notify users about what is available on the site
- Weblogs to provide basic self-publishing capability for experts, with external integration to the O’Reilly Weblogs site
- Single sign-on to Web resources, directly from the user’s SDN account, making SDN their access hub for the latest information from sources including iView-Studio, SAP Service Marketplace, O’Reilly Safari Bookshelf, Yahoo Discussions, and SAP Community Discussions
- eLearning content based on streaming media, including the latest sessions from SAP TechEd and ASUG
- A download area based on FTP services, to allow access to sample code and developer tools
- DevToday, a semantic navigation and personalization area using SAP’s new SAP ViewPoint technology
From planning to “go live” took around six months — and the actual technical piece only took a couple of months. Users can see the results for themselves, as well as download code used in many of our features. If you have any suggestions or comments about our architecture, email us at email@example.com or post a question to the relevant discussion forum at sdn.sap.com.
Source: SAP Insider