SAP HANA Cloud Portal is a cloud-based solution for building sophisticated HTML5 portal applications quickly and easily. The portal is based on HANA Platform as a Service (PaaS), where developers can develop and run applications. Sweetlets was one of 27 SAP partners to test HANA Cloud Portal in last week. In the following, you can read our analyses of the portal based on the hands-on experience we gained during the three-day partner test.
SAP HANA Cloud Portal supports Internet Explorer 8 to 10, as well as the latest versions of Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Applications developed for HANA Cloud Portal can also be viewed on tablet devices, although there are some limitations to zooming and content adaptation. In addition, HANA Cloud Portal gives you a simulation of tablet view before you publish the page. Currently, portal content cannot be adapted for mobile devices such as smartphones, making it difficult to consume the same portal content on these devices. However, during the partner test, Cloud Portal developers notified us about new smartphone improvements in the upcoming months. Most of the improvements on the Cloud Portal will be visible to developers without portal down time. This continuous development cycle maintained by SAP is one of the biggest advantages of the Cloud Portal compared to on-premise portals.
The new HANA Cloud Portal focuses on separation of roles, which means that while an application developer creates a cloud portal application as a widget, a content author can provide content or author different widgets on the front end. This minimizes the dependency between content provider and application developer, although content authors will still depend on developers when they need to retrieve data from an SAP backend system. Cloud Portal developers have noted that SAP AppDesigner* will be enabled on the HANA Cloud platform to give the less technical content authors a wider range of functions.
* SAP AppDesigner was originally announced at SAP TechEd Las Vegas 2012 as a graphical WYSIWYG editor for modeling HTML5-based mobile UIs. Read an SCN blog post about AppDesigner here.
HANA Cloud Portal provides an intuitive user interface for easily authoring content. Users can drag and drop content, align content on the page and create new content using existing widgets, for instance, the WYSIWYG editor widget. However, layout functions could be improved. At the moment, there are no tools that enable you to lay out the page more precisely. A template concept is also lacking, so that content authors need to duplicate the same content manually to all existing pages, for example, page header and footer, which is mainly static content on all pages. In addition, since you need to manually move widgets around the page to get the layout you want, it would be useful to have a history function to view or revert to a previous layout – this is another feature that is missing in HANA Cloud Portal. Theme options are also included in the Cloud Portal. Users can download a default theme from the portal, which is a CSS file, then modify it in an editor, and upload the modifies theme. However, there is no preview option when you make changes, because you make the changes locally. We believe the new theme designer introduced with NetWeaver Portal 7.4 will be a great candidate for Cloud Portal as well. User management options are also available with Cloud Portal. You can easily make pages visible to specific users or groups, and assign portal authoring roles of the portal.
With HANA Cloud Portal, we can also see how SAP is adapting to the available open source technologies such as OpenSocial. Developers can build on or leverage existing OpenSocial applications, which is a component model and set of APIs for creating enterprise web applications to enable interoperability on Cloud Portal. Authentication can be performed via SAML2 and SAP ID (OpenID in the future), and connectivity to a SAP back-end system (such as on-premise SAP NetWeaver Portal) requires setting up a gateway service and SAP Cloud Connector. Currently, there are less than 10 APIs available, and these provide basic functionality for widget management. Applications can be developed and deployed with Eclipse and its HANA Cloud Portal plugin, which is a convenient IDE for many of the developers. However, since there is no local preview environment for deployment (you need to preview everything on the Cloud Portal), this adds to development time.
The goal of SAP is not to replace the existing SAP on-premise NetWeaver Portal, but rather to meet the demands of the lean portal market. If your company or organization has a scenario that requires connecting to an SAP back-end system, then HANA Cloud Portal can be a quick and cost-efficient solution. On the other hand, if you want to create web pages with static content or web applications that need to retrieve data from a non-SAP back-end system, there are other alternatives, including open source solutions, that can compete with HANA Cloud Portal in terms of price and capability. We on the Sweetlets development team are ready to include HANA Cloud Portal in our development activities in any case.