New products enable integrated portals

Business users looking for a more integrated way to use search, collaboration, content management and other features within their corporate portals might want to take a look at new products from Plumtree Software Inc.

The portal software maker recently introduced – at its Odyssey user conference -products and product updates aimed at extending the portal’s features across corporations. Using Web services standards such as Simple Object Access Protocol, Plumtree says it is creating an open foundation that can combine applications and information from legacy systems, regardless of platform.

The foundation includes services that Plumtree says are needed to create Web applications: content management, collaboration, search, identity management and business process automation. The portal ends up being the delivery vehicle for those services, says Glenn Kelman, vice president of product management and marketing at Plumtree.

“Using Web services we can build on a customer’s existing infrastructure,” Kelman says. “If you’re building a Web application it doesn’t make sense for every business unit to buy its own content management system, its own search engine, its own security engine. Those are the new sets of services we want to provide regardless of whether an application is running on BEA or IBM or Microsoft, and we want to plug it into a common user environment.”

Plumtree customer Pratt & Whitney Co. is interested in using Plumtree’s collaboration server to reduce the problems it faces managing homegrown collaboration systems.

“We like the autonomy that Plumtree offers. By that I mean they’re not tied to any one computing system or platform. They are autonomous and standards-driven,” says Colin Karsten, manager of information services at the aircraft engine manufacturer in East Hartford, Conn.

Karsten says it’s important for a portal to provide content management, collaboration, search and security so that it becomes a “window into your entire world,” not just a gateway to some portion of the company.

David Yockelson, senior vice president and director at Meta Group Inc., says customers are looking for search, collaboration and content management to be integrated with portals and are no longer satisfied with buying those pieces separately.

“Plumtree has gone deep into integrating these capabilities into the framework, which really means making them deployable, manageable and scalable. In that I think they still lead a lot of the market,” he says.

Plumtree competes with portal vendors such as Epicentric Inc. and CoreChange Inc., and bigger companies such as BEA Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc. and IBM Corp., which also are focused on integrating additional capabilities into the portal framework.

Yockelson says Plumtree is on the right track with its expanded focus, but says it will be up to users to decide whether what Plumtree offers meets their needs.

“Plumtree is not going to compete with Interwoven,” he says. “But for the organization that can’t afford or doesn’t want to buy a massive [stand-alone] system, this is absolutely the right direction to go.”

Plumtree says that its portal framework still integrates with third-party systems.