Plumtree offers Web services tools to developers

Plumtree Software Inc. has unveiled upgrades to its software family – the Enterprise Web suite – which provide a new tool for the development of Web services applications, and offer enhanced security, management and search features, according to the company.

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 – it also features a new product called the Plumtree Enterprise Web Development Kit (EDK).

This is the engine designed for building applications from Web services running on different platforms. It 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. It provides core user experiences (and) 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 enable users to connect to different applications. Plumtree sells them for numerous applications including PeopleSoft Inc., Microsoft Corp.’s Excel, Microsoft Exchange, SAP AG’s HR and R/3, and Siebel Systems Inc.

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 its own audience and a 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 the 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.”

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 allows Web communities to build separate sites with their own or 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.

While the Enterprise Web suite is currently only in its beta version, Soffer said it would be on the market later this quarter.

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