We’re proud to announce the release of InFlight v5.6.  As of this writing, InFlight has well over 250,000 licensed users worldwide and that number is growing.

The central value proposition of this product remains unchanged: it’s faster, easier, and cheaper to tackle the complex integration of SharePoint and PeopleSoft through software procurement than through one-off in-house efforts.  Soon, we’ll be adding BlackBoard LMS and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne to our portfolio of supported content systems and increasing our cloud and mobile presence through Office365 and Windows Azure platforms, but our commitment to serving PeopleSoft and SharePoint integration needs is as strong as ever.

Our aim is to consistently push the technology envelope to deliver quality and functionality far exceeding what any individual organization would be able to develop alone internally.  We are now what I (humbly) consider to be an ideally-sized software organization; big enough that we’re stable, secure, and responsive but small enough that we truly care about, and invest in, each customer’s success.  To that end, I invite your feedback.  If you have an integration requirement that InFlight isn’t delivering on, let us know.  If you’re not delighted with the product’s performance in your environment, let us know.  If there are aspects of software delivery where you feel we excel, please let us know about that, too.  We’d like to maintain our focus on what matters most to you.

Formal release notes are posted to our blog, but here are the key elements (with some practical usage scenarios) that have been added or changed since v5.5 was released in August, 2011:

  • Improved Server-Side “MultiHops”
    • Have you ever found yourself repeating the same series of clicks when entering a PeopleSoft component?
    • Whether it’s clicking “View All”, clicking the top Paycheck, or driving to the correct Learning and Development profile, there are times when we have to take extra steps to get at the page we want to see.
    • MultiHops are rules that tell InFlight to take those steps automatically behind-the-scenes.  The user is presented with the final page after the first click.
    • The rules can be chained together to effect any number of behind-the-scenes clicks.
    • Another example:
      • PeopleSoft delivers Dental and Life Benefits elections trough the same component, but why not serve them on separate SharePoint pages?
      • Different SharePoint pages would let you customize the guidance that is presented alongside the Benefits elections (think: help text that’s short and to the point).
      • SharePoint pages triggering different MultiHops drive to the appropriate PeopleSoft pages behind-the-scenes; users never know that the content is served from a single component.

 

  • Improved InFlight Cache
    • Faster is better.
    • Any public assets from the content system (like images, JavaScript, CSS) are cached in memory on the SharePoint web servers (WFEs), pre-transformed and pre-gzipped for maximum speed.

 

  • Introduced List-based Configuration + Rule Overrides
    • Any InFlight configuration settings or rules can be augmented or overridden through SharePoint lists.
    • Any configuration changes can be made system-wide through a single point, with no need to access the file systems of the SharePoint servers.
    • These lists may be “permissioned” like any other SharePoint list, meaning that changes don’t necessarily need to be made by a Farm Administrator.
    • There’s a good paragraph on this in the Release Notes for those who want to know more.

 

  • Introduced “Configuration Packs”
    • We’ve split up InFlight’s ~150 rules into 13 groups, separated by function.  For example, there’s a Configuration Pack dedicated to PeopleTools 8.52 support, and another dedicated to removing tabs and footers from Campus Solutions content.
    • These Configuration Packs may be added or removed at will to any InFlight installation without affecting the rest of the installation.
    • The use case tells the story best; imagine you’re upgrading from PeopleTools 8.49 to 8.52…
      • Before Configuration Packs, we’d need to add rules to (and re-encrypt) your customer-specific Protected.config file.  Now, you simply download and install the 8.52 Configuration Pack and you’re up and running against PT 8.52 across your entire SharePoint farm in five minutes.  Really.
      • Side benefit:  want to know what configurations your InFlight installation currently supports?  Simply look at Central Administration > Solution Management.  All of the deployed Config Pack WSPs are listed for easy reference.

 

  • Introduced “Data Capture” Rules
    • Imagine being able to take data from a content system (like PeopleSoft) and present it however you’d like.   What are the key pieces of PeopleSoft information you’d like to deliver in a dashboard format to end-users?
    • DataCapture makes it simple to retrieve accurate, consistent information in a way that’s easy to display in an appealing format or plug into other systems.
    • <technicalCrowd>Think of a “reverse XSLT” where you get to map elements of a PeopleSoft page and have those return as JSON, clean XML, or XSLT-formatted HTML.  Did we mention that this scrape is executed from the current user’s session (not a generic or system account), so that the data that comes back is exactly what the user would see natively?  Yay!</technicalCrowd>
    • Pagelets are great and all, but PeopleSoft pages often transform data in ways that make data extraction through Pagelets or web services cost-prohibitive.

 

  • Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
    • Awesome caching is only part of the story.  We’ve reorganized and optimized the InFlight rules, to deliver astounding performance.
    • Have you ever wanted to run multiple InFlight Web Parts on a single page?   You’ve been able to do that without PeopleSoft session crosstalk since April of 2010, but a limitation in ASP.NET Session management meant that Web Parts would load in series, not in parallel.  We’ve written our own session management that is thread-safe in the same session and loads content in parallel (think dashboards — really responsive ones).
    • Time-sensitive SSO signatures; friendly, customizable end-user error messages when things go wrong; a single place to set “maintenance mode” messages; the list abounds.

 

  • Introduced “SSO Bounce” Support for PeopleSoft and Blackboard
    • Sometimes, you don’t want to serve content through a Web Part.  Instead, you want to leverage single sign-on, but have the users “bounce” into the native application.
    • SSOBounce gives you the same power as regular InFlight SSO — the ability to handle different authentication types (see below), override target system IDs for some users, etc. — but sends users directly into the target application in a new window.

 

  • Improved Support for all manner of SharePoint authentication systems (NTLM, Kerberos, Forms, Claims, ADFS, and third-party authenticators)
    • No matter how users access your SharePoint system, you can resolve that identity to an ID in the content system (PeopleSoft, Blackboard, JDE, etc.).
    • Designed with the real world in mind.  Windows logon IDs don’t match PeopleSoft Operator IDs all the time, do they?

 

  • Whitelisting and Blacklisting content
    • Imagine you have an Employee Self-Service portal.  Now imagine that you’d like to change the content that was available depending on whether the end user was visiting from her workstation or from home.
    • How about changing the content that was available depending on the type of device that was being used?
    • In truth, this functionality has been possible for over two years, but we’ve made it easier than ever.
    • Include, restrict, or customize content — all based on where the users are coming from and/or what type of device they’re using.

 

It’s been a busy year, but we’re very excited about what we’ve produced.  The next few months are going to bring even more change but we remain steadfastly committed to delivering the best possible value to all of our customers through innovation and careful design.

 

Please start making plans to upgrade to version 5.6.1 today — there’s something to be gained for everyone.

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