IBM focuses portal effort

IBM Corp. this week unveiled WebSphere Portal, which combines the capabilities of its previous portal products and uses open standards to create a single platform for deploying a wide range of portal initiatives.

The portal leverages the WebSphere Application Server, the cornerstone of IBM’s efforts to create a software foundation for integrating Web-based software and services, says Larry Bowden, vice-president of e-portal solutions for IBM.

While some portal vendors offer rigid products that are geared for either business-to-business or business-to-employee or business-to-customer initiatives, IBM’s focus is on providing a single framework that can support a variety of portal approaches, says Bowden.

“From one horizontal platform you can implement a B2E portal, you can leverage that investment in a B2B environment, and then also leverage that same investment in your business-to-consumer environment,” he says.

The WebSphere Portal incorporates technology from WebSphere User Experience for e-commerce portals and the collaboration functionality in Lotus K-Station. The portal is offered in three packages: WebSphere Portal Enable, WebSphere Portal Extend and WebSphere Portal Experience.

All three packages share a common framework that is written using open standards such as Java Platform 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and provides the connectivity, integration, administration, personalization and presentation that IBM says enterprises need to deploy portals.

The connectivity services, for example, allow users to access enterprise data, external news feeds and external applications, company officials say.

IBM also uses “portlets” to hook portal users into a variety of applications. Portlets are small pieces of code that embed content into the portal view, similar to so-called gadgets offered by portal vendor Plumtree. Bowden says IBM offers more than 100 portlets for various enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management applications.

Portal Enable includes portlets for a variety of functions, including e-mail, calendars, collaboration, syndicated news and application integration.

Portal Extend adds collaboration. Users can set up team workspaces, use instant messaging and manage team projects with tools that indicate when information in the portal is accessed and by whom. In addition, Portal Extend offers expanded search capabilities that enable users to use multiple search engines and search relational databases such as DB2 and Oracle, Lotus Notes Domino databases and text or HTML.

Portal Experience is the most comprehensive offering, encompassing all the functions of both Portal Enable and Portal Extend, as well as adding enhanced collaboration tools. It includes the collaboration capabilities of Lotus QuickPlace and SameTime technologies, such as support for e-meetings, electronic white boards and application sharing. Portal Experience also provides enterprise content management capabilities with IBM Content Manager and security with the Tivoli SecureWay Policy Director.

WebSphere Portal will be widely available in November. List price is US$55,000 per processor for Portal Enable and US$95,000 per processor for Portal Extend. Because many of the functions in Portal Experience require multiple processors, that package is available with a minimum four-processor bundle for US$580,000.