IBM unwraps new WebSphere Portal series

Trying to sustain the momentum it started building in the portal market last year, IBM Corp. on April 9 was expected to unwrap a new series of portal products that includes new collaboration capabilities and built-in Web services.

Version 4.1 of the IBM WebSphere Portal allows corporate users to create Collaborative Places where individuals working as part of a team can do things such as edit documents on virtual white boards, put together information libraries, maintain group calendars, and conduct instant messaging-type discussion areas.

A new function, called Collaborative Components, makes it possible for functions like “people awareness” to be transparently integrated into any given portlet, helping make collaboration more ubiquitous throughout a portal, IBM officials claimed.

“We have had collaboration in the product over the past year through various integration elements, but with this release we think we have added two very distinct technologies capabilities,” said Larry Bowden, a vice-president in IBM’s Portal Solutions Software group.

Also stitched into the product is an enhancement that offers soup-to-nuts Web services publishing and integration facilities, according to Bowden. This will enable users to publish a portlet within WebSphere Portal as a Web service.

“Users can select something simple like a mail portlet, then select and publish it as a Web service out to a UDDI [Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration] registry. It is converting a portlet to a Web services so it can be used by others,” Bowen said.

Conversely, users can go to a UDDI registry, find a particular Web service, bring it back to the portal, bind it as a portlet, and consequently make it available to users within the portal, Bowden explained.

IBM has also provided integrated tools with Version 4.1 which will allow users to more quickly and efficiently create portlets, Bowden said.

Further backing up its commitment to this market, IBM said it will deliver five Portal Industry Editions aimed at distinct market segments over the course of the second half of this year. Those will include versions for the small to midsize companies along with versions that exploit the individual capabilities of the company’s expansions of platform coverage to include IBM eServer iSeries, non-Linux-based zSeries, and the Linux-based zSeries of mainframes.

The company also plans to announce a series of industry-specific solutions for the product including those aimed at finance, distribution, public sector, and wireless communications markets. These will contain features that help tune the portal more to particular vertical requirements, including unique business processes and content, company officials said.

Addressing corporate users’ demands surrounding security, IBM has added a new encrypted vault borrowed from the IBM Tivoli Access Manager. This makes it possible to store and apply detailed digital credentials of users across multiple portal applications as well as to better enforce encryption policies across the breadth of an e-business.

Also integrated with Version 4.1 is the recently announced WebSphere Commerce server, Version 5.4, intended to enable businesses to offer products, information, and services in a more personalized or customized way for consumers and other companies, IBM officials said.

Backing up their contentions that Web portals continue to be hot, IBM officials on April 8 pointed to a report from Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., Stating that about 60 per cent of companies will have a portal project under way in 2002.

IBM officials also cited another report, this one from Giga Information Systems, also based in Cambridge, that predicted the market for enterprise portals will grow from US$850 million this year to US$2 billion by 2005.

Version 4.1 of the portal is expected to be available for download on May 31 and to be more widely available by June 26. For more information on IBM’s WebSphere series of products, users can go to