IBM takes wraps off new WebSphere Portal

IBM Corp. on Thursday announced several enhancements to its WebSphere Portal, adding new templates focused on the application developer community, a Java-based portlet framework, and integration with IBM’s Content Manager product.

The updates are designed to help customers eke out return on investment (ROI) quickly from enterprise portal investments, according to Tim Thatcher, program director of marketing for WebSphere Portal at IBM.

“We are focused on not just selling a product but a solution that sells value [by] shortening customer effort and time to deployment, and delivering value back in to the organization,” Thatcher said.

As part of its effort to target its portal framework at specific communities, IBM plans to offer portal templates and interfaces tailored to user groups such as developers, sales, finance, marketing, and manufacturing. The first template, the WebSphere Portal Development Community, is a software package that aims to offer a pre-implemented and tailored portal experience for developers.

“When a company builds a portal solution they need to recognize the different user communities or groups and tailor the portal to the community,” Thatcher said. “The WebSphere Portal Development Community lets customers roll out [a tailored portal] to the developer user community quicker than if they had to build it by hand.”

The software product consists of about 60 or 70 different portlets that integrate into various application development tools, content feeds related to the developer community, and lifecycle and project management tools, Thatcher said. The WebSphere Portal Development Community will be available for download on Sept. 17. In addition, the Armonk, N.Y.-based company plans in coming months to roll out more templates targeting other enterprise user groups as well as software and services targeting vertical industries including banking, retail, and government.

IBM also is integrating its Content Manager product into its portal offering in an effort to give enterprises control over a broader spectrum of content. Building on existing Web content management capabilities delivered in Version 4.0 of WebSphere Portal, the Content Manager integration will add management of rich media and image processing to the portal, and allow various types of content to use a common store, Thatcher said.

“An enterprise is going to have a lot of different content types they need to manage. This allows customers to deploy an enterprise content management offering that handles all the enterprise needs, and now they can do it based on a common content store,” Thatcher said.

Attempting to improve the integration between portlets, IBM also introduced a new Java-based portlet framework for viewing information from SAP, PeopleSoft, and Siebel applications in the WebSphere Portal. The new integration framework uses the industry standard JCA (J2EE Connector Architecture) specification to provide a common infrastructure between different applications.

“That interface insulates the programmer from the differences between SAP, PeopleSoft, and Siebel. And it allows us to provide a common architecture that integrates between those applications and pulls all those together,” Thatcher said.

IBM is basing its entire enterprise application portlet architecture around the Java framework, which will allow the company to develop portlets much faster than with a proprietary architecture, Thatcher said.

Other enhancements include a feature dubbed Click-to-Action, which allows portlets to communicate with one another. For example, a user can access data via portlets, and automatically see and interact with related information contained in other applications, according to IBM officials. Another feature, Dynamic Page Sequencing, is designed to improve the way data is accessed and presented to programmers and application developers. The reusable tool presents information to users as they need it, regardless of the sequence in which they navigate a program.

Furthermore, late next month IBM plans to expand its midmarket presence with a WebSphere Portal offering geared toward mid-sized businesses.