Four enterprise software vendors on Monday announced they have launched an open source Web site, which enables users to create and share Web portlets that are designed using the open standards JSR 168 and Web Services for Remote Portals (WSRP).
JSR 168 and WSRP are standards developed by the Java Community Process and OASIS respectively in order to address interoperability needs. JSR 168 is a specification based on Java, while with WSRP developers can write programs in several languages including Java, C# and .Net.
The site – created by Plumtree Software Inc., Documentum Inc., BEA Systems Inc., and Sun Microsystems Inc. – is hosted by SourceForge, an independent organization that hosts a variety of Java and Linux initiatives.
“A lot of portal vendors had the notion of portlets, but they did them all very differently, so a vendor such as Documentum would have to write their portlets in six different ways to service six different vendors’ portals,” explained David Meyer, director of integration products at Plumtree in San Francisco. “Very few portal vendors – Documentum being an exception – could afford to do that.”
A portlet is a small piece of an application that is plugged into a Web page and is assembled in a portal to create kinds of enterprise applications made up of pieces from different systems, he said.
By using open standards to develop portlets, customers would no longer be locked into one vendor’s offering.
“[Customers] want to be able to protect their investment by being able to create portlets for their company, but if for some reason, they decided that a portal vendor didn’t work out, they can swap portal vendors and still protect their investment, ” Meyer said.
The Web site includes samples of portlets created using JSR 168 and WSRP and provides a place for users to learn and tinker with the technology before making an investment. Right now there are two samples – a Web search, and an RSS News feed, both based on JSR 168 – but more will follow, according to Meyer. Users will be able to see lists of newly available portlets, post requests to the community for development of new portlets, search for portlets, upload new portlets, download available portlets and submit modified or enhanced versions of downloaded portlets.
The vendors will also maintain a presence on the site and discuss with users portlet development best practices, issues and solutions.
Greg Dierickse, senior product marketing manager at Documentum in Pleasanton, Calif. said most of the major portal vendors will be releasing Web portals based on JSR 168 in Q4 of 2003 or Q1 of 2004. WSRP Portals will follow.
“The goal [of the Web site] is to get customers educated in the short term and get them some resources where they can start experimenting,” he said.
But what is the difference between the functionality JSR 168 and WSRP can provide?
Plumtree’s Meyer said JSR 168 portlets run on the same server as the Web Portal, while WSRP portlets would run on a different server than the Web Portal.
Meyer said that some users prefer to follow the latter model because they are worried that a fragile portlet could damage an entire portal server and because they claim to get better scalability with WSRP. However, Meyer said Java aficionados believe the opposite and claim that JSR 168 allows for greater scalability.