Plumtree enhances Web services offerings

Plumtree Software Inc. last week unveiled upgrades to its software family – the Enterprise Web suite – which now provides a new tool for the development of Web services applications, and offers enhanced security, management and search features.

Managed within a single environment, the Enterprise Web suite combines the newest versions of all of Plumtree’s products – the Plumtree Corporate Portal 5.0, Plumtree Collaboration Server 3.0 and Plumtree Content Server 5.0 – and also features a new product called the Plumtree Enterprise Web Development Kit (EDK).

This new kid on the block is the engine that that is designed for building applications from Web services running on different platforms. This allows software developers to write Web services applications in Java or .Net and the EDK automatically translates them into simple object access protocol (SOAP). Also, as Web services standards are established by the industry, users can update EDK so it reflects these changes but still runs previously established programs.

The Corporate Portal 5.0 is the foundation for the suite, and some enhancements have been made from version 4.0, released in October 2000, to enhance integration of applications and increase security.

“The portal is a piece of software that you install at your site and it provides core user experiences that first of all aggregates information from a whole bunch of different storage silos in a kind of logical directory of content,” said Phil Soffer, director of product management at Plumtree in San Francisco.

Users and user communities within an enterprise can create customized pages composed of portlets, which provide users the ability to connect to different applications. Plumtree sells them for numerous applications including PeopleSoft, Microsoft Corp.’s Excel, Microsoft Exchange, SAP HR and R/3, and Siebel Systems.

New functionalities of the Corporate Portal 5.0 include enhanced administration and security capabilities where applications can be managed or secured as separate entities. This means they can be managed in separate domains, each with a separate audience and set of administrations. As well, the components of the application can either be secured separately or as a whole.

“Basically the securing in the portal is very much like an operating system where you can have administrative domains, you can delegate authority over those domains, you can provision all kinds of rights people have in those domains,” Soffer explained. “And 4.0 wasn’t really like that. There was one big security model that could attach security to different objects within that model, but [it] didn’t really have a notion of administrative domains or flexible roles.”

Also, like an operating system, security can be assembled hierarchically.

The portal also incorporates a search engine that connects it to external search engines and indexes everything within it so it becomes searchable – this is called universal search. Soffer said most search engines that come with similar products only index documents that are uploaded.

New community services features allow Web communities to build separate sites with their own look and feel and layout, and create communities within communities.

The new personalization engine is a scheme that controls which applications a user sees. It also controls their navigation between applications, the branding of the user’s start page and highlights topics relevant to that user in the Enterprise Web’s knowledge directory.

In addition, users can create application components without coding thanks to the application templates provided for communities, portal pages and portlets. Each of these applications can feature a different user interface or inherit the branding of the enterprise or business unit. These templates incorporate services from the Content Server and Collaboration Server.

The Collaboration Server is a virtual workspace that allows users to share documents and check in and check out those same documents. The content management server allows users to create forms so anyone can post information to the portal, and establishes workflows so the information can be approved before it is posted.

The Plumtree Corporate Portal 5.0 supports Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000, and Unix will follow, Soffer said. It is available in both Java and .Net versions and users also need either an Oracle database of Microsoft’s SQL Server.

When users purchase the Corporate Portal 5.0, they get a copy of EDK, but the Collaboration and Content Management servers are sold separately. Cost depends upon number of seats. While the Enterprise Web suite is currently only in its beta version, Soffer said it would be on the market later this quarter.

Plumtree also expects to announce a new version of its Plumtree Studio Server, an application for building database-drive forms and services in the Enterprise Web without coding, later this summer.

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