Oracle offers up portlet tools supporting new standards

Showing support for two relatively new industry standards, Oracle Corp. announced on Wednesday that it has placed two new tools for portal applications, or portlet development, on its Web site.

Not only do these tools adhere to Java Specification Request (JSR) 168 – which was developed by the Java Community Process (JCP) – but they also support Web Services for Remote Portals (WSRP).

JSR 168 promotes Java integration with Web services by defining standard application program interfaces (APIs) for aggregating several applications into a single portal.

The WSRP standard – recently approved by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) – enables developers to write portal applications without having to write code for each proprietary portal and enables portals to consume portlets from remote locations, Oracle said.

“Instead of having to target multiple portal environments for every component that integrates applications into a portal…developers only have to develop them once and know that many vendors will support it,” said Marco Tilli, vice-president for portal development at Oracle’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif.

The standards won’t be very useful unless there is a set of tools available to implement these portlets, Tilli explained.

Oracle’s new tools include the “portlet container,” which is also known as the Java-based infrastructure that supports JSR 168 APIs and enables developers to build interoperable portlets.

The other offering, a Java development tool, is a plug-in for Oracle’s JDeveloper, Tilli said. Called the Portlet Wizard for Java, the JDeveloper extension provides a wizard-based user interface that defines various characteristics of a portlet such as security, initializing and caching.

“The wizard-based plug-in allows developers to define their portlets in a more declarative way than having to write a lot of code,” Tilli added.

Robert Lerner, a senior analyst with Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis Inc., said Oracle’s tools are a good service and the company, which has been integral in the development of both JSR-168 and WSRP, was intelligent in how it decided to support the standards.

“Oracle played it a little conservative, but I think it was the smart way to do it,” Lerner explained. “It decided to wait until the standards were actually finalized and then it would bring out tools and products to support the standards.”

Companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc. have provided JSR-168 compatibility for several months.

Oracle’s Tilli said that Oracle has also been providing early development support for developers that were going to adopt the standards.

Since June Oracle has had an online verification service that was WSRP-compliant. It offered a version of Oracle’s portal product that could be used by developers to test their portlets against, Tilli said.

“Obviously the only implementation that counts in the end is the one that supports the ratified standard,” he added.

Before the standards were designed and ratified, developers created portlets using proprietary APIs for a single portal platform, Oracle said, which typically required a lot of time and didn’t permit the sharing of portlets across platforms.

“Historically, building a portlet was a challenging exercise because clearly, there’s a fair amount of integration and portlets are by nature remote objects,” Tilli said. “Now, all the wiring [and] all the mechanics that will then allow this code to live inside this portal are generated for you.”

Lerner said Oracle’s tools are great for developers and the portal community.

“Standards are important in terms of the Java portal world and I think that Oracle is putting itself in the midst of things and it’s a smart move for the company,” he said.

He only expects more companies to jump on the standards bandwagon, but he doesn’t anticipate the disappearance of proprietary portlets any time soon.

“You’re not going to get rid of proprietary portlets – they serve a very specific need for specific customers,” he said.

Portal development resources are available in the portal developer kit, which includes documentation and more than 15 code samples of JSR-168 compliant portlets running WSRP containers.

Oracle said the tools could be downloaded on the company’s Web site at