eService - New vs Old

Nov 10, 2010 at 4:40 PM

The current advice is to use the new xrm orientated eService portal rather than the old accelerator.  I'd have to say that I find the new portal very heavyweight and requires far more knowledge of ASP.NET implementation and config than the older one.  That was simply dropping some controls and custom aspx into a web site and editing the connection parameters.

Am I being unfair?  The eService portal has come up as a requirement at a customer and I'm struggling to advise the new one as I had a right headache getting it up and running in my dev environment.  We simply need to be give contacts the ability to manage their own tickets.  Not have an xrm CMS enabled website.

Nov 13, 2010 at 6:56 PM

You are correct that there is a lot more in this current version of the portal, but I don't find the installation experience that difficult.  The only complex part is the Live ID authentication and invitation mechanism, but the complexity is due to the design of Live ID and not the portals.  The new portals were reviewed for security and had to address many threat models, and the use of Live ID was determined as the best practice to go forward with.  Most customers that are using this don't have much experience with ASP.NET, so I don't know why you are thinking that it requires a lot of ASP.NET knowledge.  Setting up the portal is as simple as creating an ASP.NET website on IIS and pointing it at the portal code.  There is an extra step for those that are using an older version of Windows (from 7 years ago), but the experience for the last two versions of the server operating system is very straight forward.

You also mentioned that you want to take a small set of functionality, but what is stopping you from simply copying and pasting the functionality you like into your own project?  For example, there are only a few pages related to case management and the code would be easy to put into your own site without the full CMS of the portal accelerator.  So in that regard, I do think you are being a little unfair.  We were trying to ship a high value product to a wide range of people, knowing that not everyone will want the same functionality.  As such, we designed this in an extensible manner, and included a light-weight CMS as well, but did it in a manner that you could either use the portal as it is, or take what you want from it and integrate it into your own project.

Can you point out areas that are overly complicated that you think we can simplify for the next version?


Nov 15, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Hi Shan

Thanks for the response.  I did manage to get the whole portal up and running in my dev environment but it wasn't smooth or easy.  I'm not a hardcore developer.  I can knock up plugins and aspx extensions but my knowledge of the deeper / inner workings is a bit vague which makes troubleshooting difficult.  These forums helped me out there.

Perhaps I need to re-approach it with a view of just taking the eService side out.  That was one of the first areas I looked at previously but I was unable to successfully add other case attributes to the forms.  I could get the field on there but it simply wouldn't update the backend (but that's for a different thread).

I think maybe if the documentation was more modular.  ie, if you want CMS, do this...  If you want eService, do this... etc., it would assist people like me.  I don't doubt the quality of the what you are trying to ship.  I just find it difficult to see the woods for the trees.  This consultant who can develop (as opposed to a developer who consults), needs it dumbing down a bit.


Nov 16, 2010 at 3:44 PM

I think the only complex part of getting this running is the Live ID authentication - the rest of it is very simple, assuming you are using a modern OS (Windows 2008 or 2008 R2).  The process is very simple - extend CRM customizations, move content into CRM using websitecopy utility, add connection string to your web.config and create an IIS site.  Reuben has published a number of videos that demonstrate how to set them up, and I think those videos are a great way to get started.  I don't know what has tripped you up in your development environment.  If there are other things you think we can simplify in the setup process, please let me know.

The portal framework is documented in the CRM SDK documentation (look under the microsoft.xrm folder).  Based on that documentation, and the customer portal site as a 'sample' of the portal, you should be able to integrate the code pieces in any project you want.  That said, I would never build a portal today without a CMS - so if you are using another CMS, then great, but if you aren't using a CMS, please take a careful look at the framework as it adds significant value to your customers.  The portal framework we shipped with the SDK is the 'free edition' - if you want a more enterprise-ready version, check out the full commercial version from Adxstudio.

Another thing you should consider is watching the two presentations we had on xrmvirtual for the new portal accelerators.  This may help explain it better for you.