IBM rolls out WebSphere Portal Server

Hoping it can serve as a single point of interaction for developers creating business-to-business and business-to-consumer portals, IBM Corp. on Oct. 9 rolled out its WebSphere Portal Server, which combines capabilities from some of its existing portal products.

Combining capabilities of the company’s WebSphere User Experience and Lotus K-station portal offering, the new WebSphere Portal line is intended to give corporate developers more flexibility in creating a range of portal products, from entry level to high end, company officials said.

Serving as the product’s foundation is the WebSphere Application Server, one of the software building blocks on which IBM is hoping to build a range of infrastructure products and strategies designed for e-business.

“With this offering we think our portal strategy leverages users’ prior investments. It also helps them establish a more robust portal framework for multiple kinds of portals and [gives] the ability to modify them quickly when they need to respond to market needs,” said Larry Bowden, IBM’s vice-president in charge of e-portal solutions.

IBM will make available three versions of the server. They include the WebSphere Portal Enable Solution, intended as a horizontal portal that developers can personalize; the WebSphere Portal Extend Solution, which has all the core features of the Enable Solution but adds integrated team rooms and instant messaging; and the WebSphere Portal Experience Solution, which contains advanced e-meeting, application sharing and enterprise-level content management.

The three offerings share a common framework and set of services, Bowden said. This framework is what supplies developers with connectivity, integration, personalization, and presentation features that are needed across multiple portal environments.

As one example, the product’s connectivity services allow users to access enterprise data, external news feeds, as well as applications from their business partners, company officials said.

The Portal Enable product includes several applications, or portlets, for e-mail, calendaring, collaboration, and applications integration. These portlets allow users to access core applications such as customer relationship management, supply chain management, and enterprise resource planning.

The Portal Extend version allows users to set up discussion areas, communities, document libraries, and a group calendar, and includes Lotus Development Corp. QuickPlace for establishing online team rooms and real-time collaboration.

The top-of-the-line WebSphere Portal Experience Solution package contains the more advanced collaboration capabilities of Lotus QuickPlace and Sametime software including support for electronic meetings, electronic white boards, and disconnected team-room support.

“We are building portals for external and internal users, with each having different requirements. We are now using K-station for the employee portal and we will also evaluate the full IBM portal offering for our total portal requirements,” said Ole Jorgensen, CIO for Statoil, which has operations in 22 countries and 16,000 portal users.

All three versions will be available in November with pricing starting at US$55,000 per processor for the Enable Solution, US$95,000 per processor for the Extend Solution, and US$580,000 per processor for the Experience Solution.