The Support Authority: Introducing the new IBM Support Portal

The IBM® Support Portal is the latest addition to the portfolio of self-help tools for IBM software. With its new look and feel, you get an unprecedented and consistent support interface for all IBM products -- which you can customize to suit your specific support needs. This article introduces you to all its new features, plus gives you the latest IBM Support news. This content is part of the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal.

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Bill MacIver (maciver@ca.ibm.com), Senior Development Manager, IBM  

Bill MacIver has worked at IBM for 25 years in various software development related roles. He has extensive knowledge of the client support business and currently drives the Software Group team responsible for improving the client’s Electronic Support experience.



Kathy Coon (coonks@us.ibm.com), Program Manager, IBM  

Kathy Coon has several years of experience as a Program Manager in the AIM eSupport team deploying eSupport tools and user interfaces. She is currently working on the testing and deployment of the new IBM Support Portal user interface.



Russell Wright (rbwright@us.ibm.com), WebSphere Serviceability Development, IBM

Russell Wright has several years of experience developing and supporting data communications and middleware software including WebSphere Application Server. He currently manages the deployment of troubleshooting tools for the IBM Support Assistant and is a developer for the IBM Guided Activity Assistant.


developerWorks Contributing author
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22 July 2009

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In each column, The Support Authority discusses resources, tools, and other elements of IBM® Technical Support that are available for WebSphere® products, plus techniques and new ideas that can further enhance your IBM support experience.

This just in...

As always, we begin with some new items of interest for the WebSphere community at large:

Continue to monitor the various support-related Web sites, as well as this column, for news about other tools as we encounter them.

And now, on to our main topic...


Customizing your support experience

The IBM Support Portal, the latest addition to the portfolio of self-help tools for IBM software, provides a consistent support interface for all IBM products and lets you to customize the site to your specific needs.

The IBM Support Portal complements many of the features and tools that have been covered in other Support Authority columns, including these:

This article introduces you to the new IBM Support Portal -- which now has a new look and feel -- and describes the key features of the new site. After reading this article, we hope you take the opportunity to try out the new site and give us some feedback on how you like it.


Get started

The IBM Support Portal is built using IBM technology: IBM WebSphere Portal provides the portal framework and IBM DB2® Universal Database provides the back-end storage. The IBM Support Portal operates on Firefox, Internet Explorer®, Safari, and Opera.

Let’s begin our exploration at the beginning.

Quick start page

The first time you access the IBM Support Portal, you will see the Support & downloads quick start page (Figure 1). From here, you can select the products you want to include on your customized portal page. Your selections are saved for your next visit. Follow the three simple steps below to quickly set up your customized support page.

Figure 1. Quick start page
Figure 1. Quick start page
  1. Choose your products

    Select the software product or products you want to include on your customized support portal page. You can select products by either browsing a list, or by searching for a specific product:

    • To browse, select Browse for a product. A hierarchical list of products will display for you to choose from. Expand the tree, scroll the list, and select the products you want on your customized portal (see the arrow in Figure 1).
    • To search for a product, select Look up a product. A search field will display where you can type in a product name, part numbers, machine type, or any other search value.
  2. Choose your topic

    Select a default topic. When you access your customized portal, the topic you select here is positioned on this page by default. For example, you could choose to start with an Overview, Troubleshooting, or Installation view.

  3. See your results

    Click View your page to see your customized support portal.

Figure 2 shows an example in which the user is browsing for WebSphere Application Server with the Overview topic selected as the default view. Figure 3 shows the customized IBM Support Portal page created from these selections.

Figure 2. Using Quick Start to customize your support portal
Figure 2. Using Quick Start to customize your support portal
Figure 3. Customized support portal
Figure 3. Customized support portal

Structure of the IBM Support Portal

In Figure 3, you see that there are three areas of the page:

  • The left column provides navigational controls that enable you to select the products you want to work with, switch the topic you are interested in, or invoke a search.
  • The right column contains useful links for such things as support resources, providing feedback on the IBM Support Portal, translate the page, and more.
  • The wide center area contains content, arranged in logical groupings, that relate to the topic you currently have selected.

In the center content area of the Support overview page in Figure 3, sections of information (content) are organized into categories such as Featured links, Flashes and alerts, and Product news. Each content module contains information for the products you selected for your customized portal.

For example, the Flashes and alerts module on the Overview topic contains information such as security vulnerabilities, critical patches, and solutions for known problems. The Training module contains information on various educational opportunities related to your selected products. Figure 4 shows the Flashes and alerts module, with WebSphere Application Server expanded (which you do by clicking on the plus sign).

Figure 4. Flashes and alerts
Figure 4. Flashes and alerts

Some of the topics contain a Browse module; more about this later.


Working with content modules

All content modules are made up of the same elements and features which control the size of the module and how you view information contained within it. The title bar at the top of each module identifies its purpose. The right side of the title bar shows icons for expanding and collapsing the module:

  • Clicking the inverted triangle shows a menu with two options. The two choices displayed depend on the current state of the module:
    • When the module is open, the choices are minimize (collapse the module so that only its title bar is visible) or maximize (open the module to full size so that only that module is displayed in the browser).
    • When the module is collapsed (or minimized), the choices are maximize and restore (open the module to normal size so that its contents are displayed).
  • Clicking the plus or minus [+/-] icon expands or collapses the module. The plus [+] sign is equivalent to restore, and the minus [-] sign is equivalent to minimize.

If the text is truncated, you can hover the mouse pointer over the text and a pop up window will show you the full title text (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Flashes and alerts
Figure 5. Flashes and alerts

Later in this article you will learn how to customize the IBM Support Portal. The options available when you have signed in provide you even more control over the modules that appear on your topic pages.

The next sections describe how to work with the content modules to help you maximize your support experience:

Using full page

Only the five most recent articles are shown in the Flashes and alerts module. If you want to see older information, select Full page in the bottom right corner of the module (Figure 5).

Figure 6 shows you what full page for the Flashes and alerts module looks like. Although Figure 6 is truncated, you can see that there are 79 applicable documents, with the first 20 currently displayed in the module.

Figure 6. Flashes and alerts full page
Figure 6. Flashes and alerts full page

You can click on Next to page through all the documents (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Paging through results
Figure 7. Paging through results

You can also click on More or Less Detail to control whether only the document title is displayed in the list, or both the title and the abstract. As before, moving your mouse pointer over the text fields will display the full text.

Figure 8. More or Less detail
Figure 8. More or Less detail

Search

The search function in IBM Support Portal operates differently than you might be accustomed to from other IBM Web sites.

The Search support module is located on the left side of the panel, regardless of which topic is selected. Figure 9 shows the Support overview page with WebSphere Application Server selected as Your selected products. Beneath the search terms box, you can choose to search either within your selected products, or throughout all of IBM support and downloads.

Suppose you want to search for WebSphere Application Server memory leak issues. For this example, you will enter your search term and search for related articles within your selected products.

Figure 9. Search
Figure 9. Search

Click on the arrow next to your search term and the search results page will display (Figure 10).

Figure 10. Search results
Figure 10. Search results

This search results page is also different than what you may be accustomed to from the other support pages. You can page through the results in the same manner as the full page view above. You will notice that there is a new navigation section on the left side of the panel that shows you the product to which these search results relate. Figure 11 indicates that there are 693 results in the knowledge database related to memory leaks for WebSphere Application Server. You can narrow the results by filtering by content type or task.

Figure 11. Search results
Figure 11. Search results

In Figure 12, under Task, you see there are 40 documents that are related to the Install task.

Figure 12. Search filters
Figure 12. Search filters

If you click in the Install check box, the search results page changes to show just the 40 filtered knowledge base documents that are related to WebSphere Application Server installation and contain a reference to memory leak (Figure 13).

Figure 13. Search filter results
Figure 13. Search filter results

Choosing other topics

The IBM Support Portal lets you change the context of your customized portal by applying different topic types. You can select different topics from the Choose your topic option in the left navigation bar. Topic types are:

  • Overview
  • Downloads
  • Troubleshooting
  • Documentation
  • Forums and communities
  • Planning
  • Installation
  • Usage
  • Open service request for problems reported to IBM Support
  • Site assistance for IBM Support Portal (help).

For example, if you choose the Troubleshooting topic, you will see that the available modules in Figure 14 are different from those that displayed for the Overview topic (Figure 3). Here, each module is specifically about troubleshooting problems using the products you have selected. When you click in the Browse troubleshooting links module, you can navigate through troubleshooting resources. Similarly, Problem resolution offers solutions to known problems, Troubleshooting tools provides links to relevant diagnostic tools, and Troubleshooting documentation shows you links to different types of documentation to help you with problem solving.

Figure 14. Troubleshooting page
Figure 14. Troubleshooting page

Browse module

You can also apply filters to the Browse module, similar to how you can filter search results. Figure 15 shows the Browse troubleshooting links module, expanded to its full page view. There are IBM recommended links at the top of the page, plus filters on the left side that let you the refine the document list by selecting or deselecting tasks, topics, and document types.

Figure 15. Browse troubleshooting links full page view
Figure 15. Browse troubleshooting links full page view

You can select one or more check boxes in the Task, Topic, or Document Type sections to refine the content in the page. In Figure 16, filtering on the topic Configuration/Customization will return only the content that was marked as related to configuration and customization.

Figure 16. Browse troubleshooting links filter view
Figure 16. Browse troubleshooting links filter view

Managing your products

The IBM Support Portal introduces a unified, centralized view for all IBM Support pages. Hardware, software, and service support pages display concurrently within the support portal. From any topic page, you can modify your selected products by clicking on Manage my product list (Figure 17).

Figure 17. Manage my product list
Figure 17. Manage my product list

Figure 18 shows the panel that will open, where you can browse for a product or search for additional products in the same way you did on the quick start page (Figure 1). You can also remove an active product by clicking on the trash can icon next to the product name in the My products list.

Figure 18. Manage my product list view
Figure 18. Manage my product list view

Click the Look up a product tab to search for a product. Enter your search string in the box and click the search icon (Figure 19).

Figure 19. Look up a product
Figure 19. Look up a product

IBM Support Portal will return up to 100 of the most relevant results (Figure 20). Notice that once you have chosen your product from the list, a green circle labelled Version/OS displays next to your product name. Clicking on the green circle will offer you the option to specify operating system and version information. After selecting the version or operating system from the pull down menu, click Submit.

Figure 20. Selecting product version and operating system
Figure 20. Selecting product version and operating system

Click the double-arrow button in the center of the page between the modules to move your selected products to My products list. Click on the Finish button in the lower right corner to render the page. IBM Support Portal permits you to have up to 100 products in your My products list, but only 10 of those can be active at one time.

Using IBM Support Portal with two or more products

IBM Support Portal will render with content for both (or all) selected products. Figure 21 displays information for both WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere MQ 7.0 running on AIX®. With more than one product selected, you must click on the plus sign in one of the modules to list the first five links for that product. This is an important change to become familiar with because this navigation will no longer go to individual IBM product support pages.

Figure 21. IBM Support Portal with multiple products
Figure 21. IBM Support Portal with multiple products

Search with multiple products

When you have multiple products selected, search will work in a slightly different manner than when you have only one product. You will still choose to search within your selected products, but now you will see results for all of the selected products. Of course, you can filter the products selected, as you did earlier (Figure 22).

Figure 22. Search with multiple products
Figure 22. Search with multiple products

Personalize the portal

You must sign in with your IBM ID to personalize what appears in the center of any IBM Support Portal page. To sign in:

  1. Check the upper right corner of the support portal. If the IBM sign in option is displayed (Figure 23), then you are not signed in.
    Figure 23. IBM Sign In
    Figure 23. IBM Sign In
  2. Click on IBM Sign in and enter your IBM ID and password in the dialog (Figure 24). If you do not have an IBM ID, click on Register to create one.
    Figure 24. Sign in with IBM ID
    Figure 24. Sign in with IBM ID
  3. When the IBM sign out option is available (Figure 25), then you are now logged in.
    Figure 25. IBM Sign out
    Figure 25. IBM Sign out

An easy drag and drop interface enables you to customize the IBM Support Portal to match how you want to use it and how it appears. To add a new content module to the your page, click the Add modules to your customized page button in the upper right corner to view all available modules (Figure 26).

Figure 26. Add modules to your customized page
Figure 26. Add modules to your customized page

The list that displays (Figure 27) lets you drag and drop the modules of your choice onto the page.

Figure 27. Drag and drop modules
Figure 27. Drag and drop modules

If you want to delete a module from a page, simply click the X icon in the module header. From the module header you can also minimize the module (click on the minus sign), or you can use the down arrow and then Minimize, Maximize, Move Up/Right/Down, or Delete a module (Figure 28). You can also simply drag and drop modules to position them differently on your pages.

Figure 28. Module controls
Figure 28. Module controls

Conclusion

This quick introduction is all you need to get started with the new IBM Support Portal. It is an exciting new element of IBM’s Electronic Support portfolio, and we encourage you to try it out and send us your comments. A link is on the right side of every page so you can tell us what you think (Figure 29).

Figure 29. Feedback
Figure 29. Feedback

To find out more about the IBM Support Portal, try it out yourself (be sure to sign in with your ibm.com ID to access the personalization features), view the demo videos, check the IBM Electronic Support Community blog for discussion about the portal and other Electronic Support tools, and visit the IBM Support Portal News and Alerts blog for release notes.

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