WebSphere Portal is a framework--including a runtime server, services, tools, and many other features--that a business can use to integrate the enterprise into a single, customizable interface called a portal. It enables enterprises to combine applications and content into a unified presentation, which portal users can access from a wide variety of devices. Companies can customize the portal based on user or job roles, security needs, device settings, personal preferences, and administrative settings. The enterprise can also define a workflow to support its business processes.
The WebSphere Portal server runs as an application on WebSphere Application Server and is supported on a variety of platforms. IBM provides development tools for portal and portlet programmers.
For a more information about WebSphere Portal, see Resources.
The following features are new in Version 5.1.
Before WebSphere Portal V5.1, each portal required its own infrastructure including a copy of WebSphere Application Server, a copy of WebSphere Portal, copies of the portlet applications, and an LDAP server. Many customers have expressed the desire to provide several distinct portals, without having to implement all the additional infrastructure.
For example, an insurance company which has an employee portal wants to provide an agent portal. The second portal needs a different login page, and it should have a different look. However, some of the content is the same, and some is different. The company would prefer not to require an entire new installation of WebSphere Portal. To address this type of requirement, WebSphere Portal V5.1 provides a new feature called virtual portals.
Virtual portals enable you to quickly deploy additional portals on an existing infrastructure. With virtual portals, you can use a single installation of portal to deploy multiple portals with different URLs, anonymous pages, user groups, and themes and skins. Advantages of using virtual portals include reusing existing hardware, and simplified administration of multiple portals.
For an introduction to this new virtual portal capability, read Creating portal instances on demand: Implementing virtual portals with WebSphere Portal V5.1.
WebSphere Portal's new support for integrating business processes enables a business to run workflow tasks within the company portal. For example, a new My Tasks portlet enables users to view and work with their work items. When a user has an outstanding task, an alert appears in the top center of the theme. When the user clicks the alert, the user is taken to the MyTask page and portlet. The user then selects a task and a transient portal page launches, which contains portlets for completing the selected task. Therefore, the user does not need to leave the portal to complete his or her work.
To learn more about the business process support in WebSphere Portal V5.1, see the Integrating your business section of the WebSphere Portal V5.1 InfoCenter. For a complete usage scenario, see the Business process integration scenario: Travel request and approval section in the InfoCenter.
To see additional examples of the business process integration support, you can read related articles on the WebSphere Portal zone, such as Connecting to a business process engine using a portlet.
WebSphere Portal V5.1 provides an initial implementation of the JSR 170 specification, from the Java™ Community Process. This specification defines a standard API for accessing content repositories. Your content repository can be either the internal Cloudscape database (by default) or another database that conforms to the API. The DB2® Content Manager runtime is included as a supported JSR 170 content repository; the Document Manager and Personalization features make use of this repository.
To learn more about the specification see JSR 170: Content Repository for Java technology API.
Many of the major features in the base product have been continually enhanced since the product's first release. This release is no exception. Below are some of the major enhancements in this release.
Fundamental, significant installation design improvements help you install WebSphere Portal V5.1 more quickly. WebSphere Portal is installed and configured, and archived, when the product is "built" for product shipment. When you install it, the archive expands and is then it is modified to take on the characteristics of the target operating system and server environment. Database transfer is much faster because data is transferred directly from database to database, skipping the export/import step.
A new user interface helps you configure the portal after installation. Instead of hand-editing properties files, you can use this interface to collect and validate information. The wizard supports tasks which are common and complex, such as figuring security for LDAP or connecting to a remote database.
You can now install WebSphere Portal into a managed node, already participating in a cell. All configuration tasks are cell-aware and safe, which means that WebSphere Portal can be re-configured while under the control of Deployment Manager.
Managing content in your portal has changed dramatically in WebSphere Portal V5.1. The WebSphere portal content publishing feature has been replaced with the IBM Workplace Web Content Manager, which now fully integrates with WebSphere Portal user management, access control, and the portlet user interface. Many enhancements have been made to the user interface (such as multi-object actions support). Workflow can use groups, and there are also some National Language Version (NLV) enhancements.
The Document Manager user interface has been significantly improved. It provides the ability to edit documents using familiar desktop applications, lets you create document drafts with improved workflow, and supports better folder administration.
New integrated collaboration features--such as sending direct links to documents, People Awareness, and Directory Search-- helps your team work together productively to jointly develop information.
A new document library administration portlet extracts the tasks of creating and maintaining document libraries from the Document Manager portlet.
Remote Document Conversion Services functionality helps in delegating the Document Conversion Services to another machine for better performance and conversion fidelity.
For more information about the WebSphere Portal product, see the Managing documents section in the WebSphere Portal product documentation..
For more information about IBM Workplace Web Content Management, see IBM Workplace Web Content Management Information Center.
As with previous releases, WebSphere Portal administrators can customize WebSphere Portal. You can adapt the look and feel of the portal to fit the standards of your organization, and you can customize page content for users and groups in accordance with business rules and user profiles.
Improvements to the administration portlets make it easier for you to perform the most common tasks. For example, you can use a new XML import administration portlet to import an XML configuration file of arbitrary content. You can also export a page or page hierarchy as an XML configuration document from within the Administration Console while managing page layouts.
A new tool, Release Builder, helps you deploy new applications from staging to production. It captures the differences between two versions of the configuration and builds a delta XML configuration file that can be imported in the production environment to represent the new deployment.
A new scripting interfaces helps you create scripts to perform administrative tasks. The scripting component provides scripting interface to administrative functionality previously only available through the administration GUI. The scripting syntax is based on Java Command Language (JACL), which is also supported by the WebSphere Application Server wsadmin tool.
You can now move a page from one location in the page hierarchy to another location, preserving all user customizations in the process.
While managing access control, you can view access based on resources, as well as based on user and group.
Portal and portlet developers can now use integrated features in Rational Application Developer V6 to develop portals and portlets for WebSphere Portal V5.1
Updated documentation helps you create your own themes and skins.
To learn more about developing portals and portlets using Rational tools, see the Portal Search section of the IBM Redbooks: Rational Application Developer V6 Programming Guide .
A new universal Search center portlet improves searching across the entire portal. Search now crawls and indexes portal pages. Search is now integrated with more security and personalization features, and it supports portal clusters. The search service can be remote.
You can provide a Search box on every portal page, using new sample themes. Users can search additional content sources.
To learn more about the new search capabilities, see the Portal Search section of the WebSphere Portal V5.1 InfoCenter.
WebSphere Portal V5.1 includes the following two offerings:
- Portal Enable is the base offering and provides personalization, content publishing, document management, and productivity functions along with the scalable portal framework.
- Portal Extend adds powerful collaborative, extended search and web analysis features to enhance portal effectiveness.
Rational Application Developer is included to support the development of themes and skins and JSR 168 portlets. Portal Toolkit, which was available as a download for WebSphere Studio, is now integrated with Rational Application Developer V6.
WebSphere Portal Version 5.1 supports additional software and platforms:
- WebSphere Application Server Version 5.1.1 Cumulative Fix 1, taking advantage of many of the latest features.
- Expanded support includes the latest platforms, database software, and LDAP software.
For information on supported systems, see the Hardware and software requirements of the WebSphere Portal product documentation..
- For a quick overview of WebSphere Portal, see New to WebSphere Portal.
- For the latest product documentation, including access to all levels and supported national language versions of the WebSphere Portal InfoCenters, API references, and product requirements, see the WebSphere Portal product documentation.
- See the WebSphere Portal zone for comprehensive, current technical resources for portal administrators and developers, portlet developers, and other technical professional involved in developing enterprise portals.
- For information about IBM Workplace Content Management see, the IBM Workplace Web Content Management Information Center.
- To learn more about Rational Application Developer, and its integrated portal and portlet development tools, see
Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software.
- For an introduction to the virtual portal capability, read Creating portal instances on demand: Implementing virtual portals with WebSphere Portal V5.1.
- Connecting to a business process engine using a portlet is one of several new articles on the WebSphere Portal zone which illustrate the use of the business process support in V5.1.
- To learn more about developing portals and portlets using Rational tools, see IBM Redbooks: Rational Application Developer V6 Programming Guide
- For the official release announcement, see IBM WebSphere Portal V5.1 Announcement Letter.
Deborah Cottingham is the editor of the developerWorks WebSphere Portal zone, and the content team leader for developerWorks WebSphere. In previous roles, she has helped develop several of IBM's software products, has written an IBM Redbook, published other articles, taught IBM Business Partner classes, and helped design and plan emerging products.