IBM adds portal partners, developer resources

Coinciding with the shipment this week of the 4.1 version of its WebSphere Portal, IBM Corp. announced a series of new partnerships and a resource Web site for portal developers.

Thirteen new vendors joined the IBM PartnerWorld Portlet Providers Offering. The partners include BackWeb Technologies Ltd., for offline portal access; EXE Technologies Inc., for supply-chain execution software; iMarkup Solutions Inc., for content and document collaboration; ITWorks, for portal accelerators; Relavis Corp., for collaborative CRM; Show Business Software, for business intelligence; and Wimba, for asynchronous Internet voice capabilities.

In addition, last week i2 Technologies Inc. said it plans to package and resell IBM’s WebSphere Portal and Application Server for inclusion with i2’s applications.

A key component of IBM’s portal strategy is to offer a diverse set of functions in the portal through pre-integrated portlets to third-party applications, according to Larry Bowden, vice president of IBM’s portal solutions software group, in Somers, N.Y. Portlet partnerships are progressing at a rate of about one per day, Bowden added.

First announced earlier this year and available earlier this month electronically, WebSphere Portal 4.1 features the ability to publish portlets as Web services, bolstered collaboration tools, enhanced security, a new search engine, and pre-integration with commerce technology.

The resource site for developers, dubbed the WebSphere Portal Zone, is designed to consolidate important support information for portal development into one, easy-to-access place. The Portal Zone provides technical articles, product documentation, portlet development information, and tutorials.

“The Portal Zone is a place to bring in all the capabilities to one central access point. [It has] everything a developer would need to get educated on WebSphere Portal,” Bowden said. “Ease of use is the key message.”

The portal market continues to sizzle despite the floundering economy. A recent report issued by Boston-based Delphi Group Inc. projects that business portal software revenues will reach US$957 million by the end of 2003.

Looking forward, IBM is currently preparing a portal offering for small and midsize business, due by the end of the year, that will aim to make the current WebSphere Portal easier to install and administer, Bowden said. The new version will be targeted at organization with between 500 employees and 2000 employees.

The company also is looking to release a series of vertically aligned portal offerings targeted at specific lines of business or groups within an organization, Bowden said. Examples include a merchant portal or a portal tailored to a gasoline station, he said.

Another initiative IBM is exploring is development of an embedded version of the portal. No further details were available.