Technology Positioning Statement Report

3.3.1 Portals

Description: Software for presenting to the end user a customized set of interfaces to special applications via a web browser-based presentation layer, including the components for implementing this functionality.

Category: 3 - Communication Technologies   Subcategory: 2 - Enterprise Communication Tools




Industry UsageSC Usage

Performance Metrics

Ease of development; interoperability of portal components; broad range of components available; code reusability; speed

Usage and Dependencies

Industry Usage: Web-based portals, which pull together a variety of web sites and applications onto one page, have been in vogue for more than two years. Although the concept is simple, tools to implement modular, interoperable web portals are somewhat complicated. One of the issues has been how to provide the communication interface between portal components and their servers. A new approach to this recently was introduced by Plumtree, which uses the HTTP header as a repository for its "gadget" identifiers.

In 1999 Microsoft introduced the "Digital Dashboard" Software Development Kit (SDK) for developers, which in 2000 Microsoft used to create an XML-based portal, originally code-named "Tahoe". This product was released in March 2001 as the SharePoint Portal Server. It delivers easy-to-use document-management features that are integrated with the tools and applications that are used to create and manage documents, with Microsoft Windows Explorer and Office 2000 applications. SharePoint Portal Server is designed around industry and Internet standards, such as OLE DB, ActiveX Data Objects (ADO), Extensible Markup Language (XML), and Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV), making it easy for developers familiar with these standards. Due to this support of standards, the use of tools like Visual Studio allows you to integrate Active Server Pages (ASP) functionality to the portal.

The Digital Dashboard SDK is still provided free for developers, and will incorporate the latest SharePoint features in a version 3.0 release by mid-2001. This SDK can be used to create new Web Parts.

In Feb. 2001 Plumtree announced the availability of the Plumtree Web Parts Adapter, a component framework technology that allows the use of Microsoft Web Parts and Plumtree Portal Gadgets within the Plumtree Corporate Portal. Plumtree Portal Gadgets integrate services from Internet sites and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications from vendors such as SAP AG, Siebel Systems Inc., PeopleSoft Inc., Cognos Inc., FileNET Corp. USA, IBM Corp., Lotus Development Corp. and many others. Web Parts are reusable components that deliver Web-based content within the Microsoft SharePoint server. The Plumtree Web Parts Adapter makes available to customers and business partners the combined library of application-integration and content-delivery components from Plumtree and Microsoft.

In March 2001, Microsoft Corp. and Plumtree Software announced a strategic alliance to jointly market a portal solution that combines the Plumtree Corporate Portal with the Microsoft family of .NET Enterprise Servers. Under the alliance, Plumtree and Microsoft also will cooperate in technology development to evolve their integrated portal solutions into .NET Services. The solution includes the Plumtree Corporate Portal 4.0, a license for Microsoft SQL Server 2000, select Plumtree Portal Gadgets™ for integration with Internet-based information and a wide range of enterprise applications, and new Plumtree Portal Gadgets for integration with Microsoft Exchange Server 2000. Customers can purchase the package, including SQL Server 2000, from Plumtree under a single part number, and the solution can be easily installed.

the integration of the Plumtree Corporate Portal and Microsoft's newly branded SharePoint™ Portal Server will provide complementary value to customers by seamlessly incorporating information from their business units with SharePoint Portal Server's content aggregation and document management capabilities. SharePoint Portal Server allows companies to easily find, share and publish information. This information can be integrated directly into the Plumtree platform as Plumtree Portal Gadgets or Microsoft Web Parts.

A charter member of the .NET ISV Early Adopter Program, Plumtree also has embarked on a development plan with Microsoft to deliver .NET Services as part of the Plumtree product offering. The integration of .NET Services with Plumtree's technology will create a comprehensive, language-independent platform for developing portal services.

Portals are in widespread use on large Internet sites, particularly news and stock information sites.

SC Usage: Plumtree, the supplier of the SC Intranet Portal (SCIP), has adopted a schema that allows web-based component sharing among "gadgets" from many other vendors, including Microsoft. This is good news for SC; it means that the selection of Plumtree was valid and will continue to be viable at least in the near term.

SC Application Impacts: The IMSC strategy aims at unifying the presentation and the underlying architecture of all SC business applications within the SC Intranet Portal (SCIP). The Plumtree product is current. The Microsoft SharePoint product requires Windows 2000 Server to be installed first. It is also desirable to deploy Office XP to clients to allow SharePoint to be available directly through Office products.

Portals and web content management systems are suitable for intranets, but they are not recommended for use on the Internet if they contain dynamic URLs that may change frequently.

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