In this section, we describe how to add robust, dynamic, personalized social components via Connections alongside your existing Exceptional Web Experience. We then suggest a method for styling so that users do not have a disconnected experience when working in the combined environment. We explore how to unify the navigation structures and ensure a consistent login / logout experience through the use of branding techniques and sharing Portal’s theme with Connections through the use of WebSphere Application Integrator (WAI). Taking the example even one small step farther, the two products will be merged into one URL structure to elevate the contiguous experience to making the otherwise independent products functionally one Exceptional Social Web Experience.
Why use side by side
When faced with deploying a social platform to the enterprise there are many considerations. Much like any software package, these choices include ease of maintenance, manageability, interoperability with other systems already in the enterprise, and scalability to name a few. IBM Connections provides these capabilities through its mature underlying architecture of WebSphere Application Server and flexible customization model.
An organization is likely to deploy IBM Connections alongside other systems when they are looking to maximize their manageability through the ability to quickly adopt updates and new features without disruption or significant development costs after the purchase. Leveraging the product mostly out of the box means time and efforts are able to be spent on infrastructure, adoption, governance, and steady state support as opposed to software development tasks. Your organization may find this to be a desirable state based on available in-house skills or resource availability considerations.
How IBM Connections helps
While IBM's Portal products have taken care of technical complexities to have an exceptional web experience, IBM Connections implements a flexible interface through the use of a centralized customization model and a CSS based interface framework, called OneUI, which enables system integrators and developers to make changes to the color scheme and replace the IBM branding elements with their own more easily. This approach protects the customer’s customizations during updates and allows the organization to rapidly adopt fixes or features as they are released without the need to duplicate tailoring or branding efforts in many cases. The IBM Connections documentation includes some best practices when customizing the user interface that can be found here
In the scenario we will discuss here, we decided to leverage this type of deployment to address the needs of a government agency that wants to provide social capabilities for improved collaboration among employees, increase the level of transparency and efficiency in the organization, and to foster an environment of information sharing as opposed to information hoarding. This may not be too dissimilar from why you are choosing, or have chosen to, deploy social tools to your enterprise.
As discussed previously, it will be assumed that the following prerequisites will be met:
All products will leverage the same LDAP for authentication.
Both the website and IBM Connections will be configured with the same DNS suffix. (Ex: www.mydomain.com and cnx.mydomain.com)
The products will be installed, as described in their respective documentation, and on dedicated systems.
As per the documentation configure web single sign on between Connections and Portal. This step is required for most of the scenarios discussed throughout this wiki.
Be sure to test LTPA SSO by logging into Portal and changing the URL to a Connections URL which is protected, like /homepage/. If you are not challenged for credentials then your SSO configuration is successfully configured. It is also recommended that you take a moment to test inter application interaction within Connections before proceeding. Do this by browsing to an existing community or create a new one. Add a new feature that is not already there, such as an Ideation Blog. If the operation completes as expected, your testing was a success.
To execute our side-by-side deployment, we performed the following steps: