IBM Launches New Portal Applications

IBM Corp. launched portal applications to improve access to corporate data and end-user customization. IBM said it has made good on its commitment to combine the features of its various portal products into a single software line. "We have completed our convergence efforts," said Larry Bowden, vice president of e-portal solutions at IBM. According to Bowden, IBM's portal offerings were tied to specific applications, such as DB2 or business intelligence applications.

Bowden says the new Websphere Portal products are "horizontal" applications, that is, they're not designed with a particular business need in mind. Instead, the new line combines the functionality of previous portal servers to allow an enterprise to use a single product for aggregating data from a variety of sources. Not surprisingly, Websphere Portal requires the Websphere application server.

IBM launched three new products in the Websphere Portal line: Websphere Portal Enable, Websphere Portal Extend and Websphere Portal Experience. Websphere Portal Enable is the entry-level product, providing an engine for creating a home page with data from across the enterprise and end-user customization to ensure users can immediately find the data essential to their jobs. Websphere Portal Extend adds collaboration features, such as instant messaging, an online team room and community creation, as well as added search and Web analytics. Finally, Websphere Portal Experience adds security, application sharing and enterprise-grade content management capabilities.

Tim Thatcher, program director for e-portals at IBM, says Websphere Portal Enable is pure Java—it uses no Websphere code to operate. The Extend and Experience products draw on the extended functionality of the Websphere application server for their added features, so some native code is used. Thatcher said that IBM wants to make its portal server compatible with as many products as possible, so a clean use of Java was a priority.

IBM also announced partnerships with some ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) to create what it terms "portlets." Portlets are pre-fab bits of code to hook into a third-party application and define how the portal serves up data from the application. Partners announced include Documentum Inc., for content management; Brain Technologies Corp., for enterprise knowledge management; and Citirx Systems Inc., for server-based applications.