DataChannel Server Gets More Personal

As critical mass for XML builds, many vendors can now offer portal solutions that enable access to data in their particular applications. DataChannel Corp. (www.datachannel.com), an influential player in the enterprise portal space, wants to stand out from the rest of the pack by offering a single comprehensive intranet/extranet portal.

DataChannel's version 4.0 XML server adds enhancements for greater portal personalization, and it has the ability to grab data from non-XML legacy environments. "There are many vertical portals, such as Cognos' business intelligence portal and Documentum's document management portal," says Norbert Mikula, chief technical officer at DataChannel. "What we want instead is to be a single point for accessing all of your corporate information."

"Time-to-the-Web is now the most critical e-business success factor," says Hadley Reynolds, director of research at The Delphi Group (www.delphigroup.com). "This means that in Web-savvy e-businesses, both dot-com and traditional, XML strategy and deployment expertise lies at the heart of the success equation."

The newly released DataChannel Server (DCS) 4.0 adds more personalization through Personal Start Pages. The customizable start pages are based on XSL templates, which permit complete decoupling between the underlying XML and how the content is displayed on the screen. A company might choose the colors and fonts to be used on an intranet, permitting employees to personalize navigation styles, Mikula explains.

"We also allow you to build a personalized taxonomy of information, using your own categories and subcategories," he asserts. DataChannel recently licensed a natural language engine from Excalibur Technologies Corp. (www.excaliburtechnologies.com) for fielded search, query by example, idiom recognition, keyword search, and concept search. DCS 4.0 users can build folders and subfolders of items based on results of their searches or queries.

Many customers are using DCS to achieve higher levels of personalization. Accounting Quest (www.accountingquest.com), a temporary staffing and search firm, recently deployed the XML server as the centerpiece of its new intranet designed to support what Brad Jackson, managing partner at Accounting Quest, calls the ultimate work model. Rapid growth in the company required the need for a corporate intranet that would provide them with information that could be shared across offices, states, and countries by company and project.

Accounting Quest's temp workers are now able to access companywide information through the DCS central repository, while also using the XML server's Save to the Web feature for publishing personally created information to the intranet without the cost of an intervening Webmaster. The intranet includes resource materials for associates on projects, and associates can access key technical publications or publish their project status and hours.

The system has enabled Accounting Quest to increase its production "by eliminating duplication of work, increasing the communication within the company, reducing e-mail and traffic on the network, and saving us resources," Jackson says.

DataChannel expanded its Save to the Web feature by adding support for Microsoft's Web Distributing Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) protocol.

Also new in DCS 4.0 are multiple folder types for separating public, group, and personal information. For administrators, DataChannel has simplified the process of assigning access rights to folders. A notification feature alerts users or administrators to changes in the enterprise portal.

Back-end systems integration is a challenge that DataChannel has been addressing. DCS 4.0 enhances features for integration with back-end legacy systems and other trading partner infrastructures, Mikula says. The XML server uses an open API, based on XML and Java, to interface to external data sources. These data sources can then inherit user access permissions. The API is accessible through common SDK tools.

The company recently forged an alliance with WRQ Corp. (www.wrq.com) to enable enterprises to use WRQ Apptrieve to pull legacy data from IBM mainframe, AS/400, Unix, and OpenVMS for use in new XML environments.

The company also partnered with Software Technologies Corp. (www.stc.com), maker of the e-Gate platform for XML-based supply chain management and business process connectivity.

DataChannel announced it is working with a number of outside partners to provide consultation and system integration services for its server product. "DCS isn't a product you can usually use straight out-of-the-box," Mikula admits. DataChannel is collaborating with Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, and IBM on LAN integration, for example.