A few weeks ago when I was up in Cincinatti, Ohio at a Lotusphere Comes to you event, I met Ken Freedlund, the portal architect for NewPage, a paper company. Ken had come to the event to hear about WebSphere Portal since he is a portal customer running WebSphere Portal 6.0 for their public web presence as well as their intranet. Ken is planning their migration to WebSphere Portal 6.1 and the seminar had a migration session in addition to the portal keynote and Web 2.0 sessions. After the morning portal sessions I had a good discussion with Ken.
The unique thing about NewPage's portal implementation is that NewPage is running both their internet site and their intranet from a single portal installation. They use a reverse proxy firewall to secure the traffic coming into the portal from the internet. Their intranet site is a virtual portal on that same portal installation. Although there are many customers that use WebSphere Portal for both internet and intranet portal sites, this is the first customer that I have talked to that did both one portal installation, using the virtual portal feature of WebSphere Portal.
When we introduced virtual portals back in WebSphere Portal 5.0, the goal was to enable customers to quickly roll out new portals. A virtual portal is a "portal within a portal". It is a way to create a portal that looks like a separate, independent portal to the end user, but it runs on the same portal installation and can utilize delegated administration to allow a different portal administrator to manage the portal creation and management of the virtual portal. The key design points are:
1. A graphical user interface for the portal administrator to create and manage multiple virtual portals.
2. Virtual portals are created from a template which defines the pages and portlets that are pre-populated when the virtual portal is created.
3. Administration of virtual portals can be delegated to a different portal administrator or a business user.
4. Virtual Portals share the resources (themes, portlets, etc) of the existing portal installation.
5. Portal Access control is used to ensure security so that users of a virtual portal only have access to that portal or can be optionally allowed to access other virtual portals.
By not having to install the software again and providing the administration benefits, virtual portals can drastically reduce the amount of time expense it takes to roll out new portals. We have many customers that run virtual portals for both internal and external web sites. Some of those customers allow their business users to create virtual portals when a business need arises. This it is also a great way to empower business users to solve their business needs themselves--self-service IT. Care must be taken to prevent unwanted proliferation of virtual portals through policies, governance or monitoring.
Virtual Portals have gotten even more attractive with the addition of WSRP. By using WSRP to run portlets in a remote portlet container, virtual portals can now be more robust. If a poorly written portlet causes an out of memory error, only that one virtual portal would be affected. So virtual portals can achieve a greater measure of isolation to ensure that the main portal site doesn't go down because of an inadvertant error by a virtual portal administrator. WebSphere Portal 5.1 and later versions support WSRP 1.0 and WebSphere Portal 6.1 and later versions support WSRP 2.0.
In the case of NewPage, an acquisition of a new company force the quick integration of the acquired company's intranet. Since Ken already had WebSphere Portal running NewPage's company internet site, he decided to run the merged companies intranet as a virtual portal on WebSphere Portal 6.0. They moved the existing intranet content from Vignette into Lotus Web Content Management to be displayed through the portal. The spare capacity on their existing AIX servers was more than enough to handle the combined load of the two portals. The business results of the project were impressive. They eliminated the extra planned hardware cost of servers for the intranet portal. They didn't have to pay for additional software licenses to run the newly moved intranet portal. And the project was done more quickly and for less money than anyone expected. (Except Ken).
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