Corporate portals serve two very important purposes: They consolidate data from various sources behind a common, easy-to-use interface, and they provide an effective way to ensure that the knowledge acquired by individual employees becomes a corporate asset available to other employees and even business partners.
Because of its unique centre-stage position in the corporate orchestra, the ideal portal should be both technology-and vendor-agnostic, be able to connect to popular back-office and front-office solutions, and be open to new technologies.
Computer Associates International Inc.’s CleverPath Portal 4.0 comes close to this definition in several respects. You can install the product on just about any platform, including Unix, Linux, and Microsoft Windows, and even on Linux instances hosted by an IBM z/OS or OS/390 mainframe; and you can choose almost any major database system as a repository. Administrators enjoy similar freedom in that they can deploy their favourite Web and application servers among Apache, BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, and Macromedia JRun.
We found CleverPath easy to use and flexible enough to adapt to many requirements, earning our highest score of Deploy. It lacks built-in integration with important back-office applications offered by vendors such as SAP and Oracle, but a free SDK (software developer’s kit) can help in creating portlets to integrate existing packages.
For our review, we installed CleverPath 4.0 on a Windows 2000 machine, using Microsoft SQL Server 2000 for our database. Installing CleverPath automatically prepared our server to use Apache Tomcat as the Web application server and Intersolv SequeLink software as the database front end. We only had to create a database space for the portal in Microsoft SQL Server and run the installation script, and then our CleverPath Portal was ready for configuration.
Logged in as administrators, we were able to define groups, add new users, and quickly configure access privileges by assigning roles. In addition, the portal can import user accounts by linking to external directories such as an LDAP directory, a much-needed feature for corporate deployments.
The administrative features of CleverPath Portal are quite good. Administrators will love the ability to decentralize administration, which involves creating co-administration accounts to manage specific groups of users, allowing senior administrators to focus on more technical tasks.
On the downside, we would welcome an alarm mechanism to automatically notify administrators of errors and malfunctions.
Time to add some content to our portal. CleverPath follows a library model that allows users to publish just about any content, including personal files, URLs, and Web services, to a central repository and to specify whether access is granted to the public or to various groups within the company. Users can also select content from this central library, according to their profile, and organize it in personal work spaces. Both publishing content and adding it to your personal work space are as easy as clicking through a few menu options. Furthermore, taking similar steps, users can publish or subscribe to a Web service (we tried an intriguing Java-based currency converter) or add portlets (miniapplications) such as a calendar or a calculator to their workplaces.
Reviewing CleverPath was more fun than we usually have in our test lab. The portal installs easily, it runs on a variety of platforms, and it makes searching, managing, and sharing information easier and more efficient. If the information flow in your company crosses department boundaries, you should consider CA CleverPath Portal 4.0.
THE BOTTOM LINE: DEPLOY
CA CleverPath Portal 4.0
Business Case: This corporate portal can improve content management and collaboration within your company as well as with customers and suppliers.
Technology Case: CleverPath deploys on major OSes, Web servers, and databases, but integrating enterprise applications requires optional SDK.
+ Easy administration
+ Powerful GUI
+ Publishes MIME file formats and Web services
– No built-in integration with enterprise applications
– Admin tools could be refined
Cost: Starts at US$21,840; a monthly lease option is available
Platform(s): Unix, Windows, and Linux, including Linux instances on mainframes
Company: Computer Associates International; http://www.cai.com