The WebSphere Portal Blog
Welcome to the WebSphere Portal Blog. We're the team responsible for the strategy and planning of WebSphere Portal. Let me introduce the team (they should be putting all this into their profiles, but those will be filled in over time. ;)
Rob Will is the chief architect of WebSphere Portal. He's an IBM Distinguished Engineer. That's a fancy title that means he's a technical expert and has made substantial technical and leadership contributions in IBM over a long time. It is an executive title equivalent to Director. He's never been a manager in IBM. One great thing about IBM is that there is a robust career track for technical professionals that doesn't lead to management. I first worked with Rob almost 10 years ago when I was working with another product he led, WebSphere Personalization.
Stefan Liesche is another architect for WebSphere Portal. (We have lots of architects!) He lives in Germany and works out of the Boeblingen lab which is near Stuttgart, Germany. The Boeblingen lab houses the core portal development team. They were the team that built the first version of WebSphere Portal, version 1.1, way back in 2001. Today, WebSphere Portal is built by teams all over the world. In addition to Germany, we have developers working on WebSphere Portal in Dublin, Ireland, Sydney, Australia, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Westford, Massachusetts (near Boston), and, like most companies these days, we have developers in India and China as well. These days Stefan spends most of his time working on Portal Accelerators. Portal Accelerators are products that are complementary to and plug into WebSphere Portal.
Marshall Lamb is the third architect on this blog team. He works out of the Research Triangle Park lab. (He also just works out--if you haven't met him in person, he's like 6'3" tall and very fit). Marshall is responsible for the management and deployment aspects of WebSphere Portal. Some people think that stuff is just boring technical infrastructure--like plumbing, but Marshall doesn't! ;) But our customers love Marshall because he's the guy that makes WebSphere Portal easier to roll out and manage.
The last development person on our team is Doug Gieger. He's the Director of Portal Development. He's in Research Triangle Park with Marshall. Besides WebSphere Portal, he also is responsible for Lotus Web Content Management, Mobile Portal, Lotus Forms, Lotus Active Insight, Portlet Factory, Portal Accelerators, and other products too. That's a log of stuff to keep track of and he does a great job. He's relatively new to the Portal team, but has been in IBM a long time.
Lauren Wendel is the product manager for WebSphere Portal. She is responsible for Portal requirements and product marketing activities. She's the keeper of the product roadmap schedule. If you want to know when the next fixpack is coming out, she's the one to ask. She's very involved with our Portal-related education events like Lotusphere and Portal Excellence conferences. She works in the Westford office or from home. That's another great thing about IBM. Many IBMrs work from home. A phone line and an internet connection are the only office requirements. With the Lotus collaboration tools for mail, calendar, instant messaging, team rooms and web conferences, all the things you need to do your job are provided. Sometimes we'll work with someone for years and never meet them in person. (ok, enough of that. I'm starting to sound like a recruiter!)
Brian Chaput is the offering manager for WebSphere Portal. That means that he is responsible for directing the activiites that bring the product to market. He creates the text for the brochures and announcement letters, builds the portal presentations our executives use, does market research, trains the sales team and plans the business strategy. Sometimes he gets to do other stuff that is more fun. ;) He's another work-from-home IBMer and lives in New Hampshire.
And then there's me. I'm Bill Swatling and I lead the product management team for WebSphere Portal. I've been involved with WebSphere Portal since the first release in 2001, first as the Product Manager and then managing various parts of the WebSphere and Lotus portfolio before coming back to being responsible for Portal about a year ago. Before coming to IBM Software Group, I worked an consultant, architect, and developer in IBM Global Services where I built web applications using WebSphere and other technologies. A big part of my job is to go around and talk about how great IBM technology can be applied to solve business challenges. Lately we at IBM have been talking a lot about how social software is changing the world and how it can help businesses and organizations better communicate and foster communities that build value. But I've only been a spectator in that Web 2.0 revolution until now. Sure I have posted a few videos to YouTube and occasionally I have posted to forums, but I haven't really made a contribution to any online community. So I got together some of the best minds in IBM on Portal and we agreed to start this blog.
There's a lot of stuff that we do that we think the community of WebSphere Portal customers and the people who work with them would be interested to know. All of us spend time talking to customers. We're all involved in planning the future of portal. We are actively involved in Portal-related events and activities. So in this blog, we'll try to share some of our experiences with the WebSphere Portal community on IBM developerWorks.
WebSphere Portal is #1 in portal market share. The data comes from a new report from Gartner, Inc, that shows IBM has maintained its #1 market share position. What makes this even more impressive is that IBM has held the #1 portal market share title for 7 years in a row now. Given the market consolidation and intense competition in this space, that makes this accomplishment even more significant. A #1 ranking by market share is a good measure of actual value for customers since it is measured in dollars, not seats or servers which can be given away in bundles or other packaging. It is value customers are willing to pay for.
The report also lists some of our customer success stories. These are great. Our customers are using WebSphere Portal in very innovative ways. But in the press release, these are cut way down because of space. IBM has posted some great WebSphere Portal case studies here.
The other great news in the press release is our industry success. This is more than just rounding up our best customers and listing them together in a press release for good marketing. It is a focused effort to expand the horizontal value proposition of WebSphere Portal into industry verticals by introducing industry-specific product capability. Let me explain what I mean...
Portals are a horizontal product in that they can be used by companies in any industry. An intranet portal in a financial company really isn't all that different from an intranet portal in a technology company. Even when a customer uses a portal for their public, external web sites, many of these sites are not all that different in what they contain. It is when companies start implementing applications on their web sites that there begins to be a significant difference between industries.
For example, Duke Medicine implemented WebSphere Portal for their patient self-care portal called HealthView. This site enables patients throughout the Duke Medical system to make appointments, check and pay their bills, and even get lab results through the portal. Because of HIPAA and other privacy and regulatory concerns, the process of doing those things is substantially different from the way people make appointments and pay bills for other things. IBM and Duke Medicine partnered to build the Healthview portal with the thought of reusing this for Healthcare-focused portal customers. This is where the Websphere Portal vertical or industry-specific portal strategy began to evolve from just an industry-focused marketing and sales approach to have a vertical/industry product focus as well.
The code that we wrote for Healthview has been enhanced and expanded and is now available as the IBM Healthcare Accelerator. We are now expanding this strategy to include new Industry Toolboxes. Toolboxes have both collateral and code that enable companies in that industry to get a head-start on implementing portal solutions to their industry-specific challenges. The first two toolboxes for Healthcare and Government are posted already. We have plans for more industry toolboxes. On the product team we are now discussing what industries to go after next and what the toolboxes should contain. Do you have any suggestions?
I was invited to participate in the first meeting of the WebSphere Portal Canadian and Carribean User Group session. (CC-WPUG). This community held the meeting in Toronto and simultaneously across their member locations. We always look forward to learning from our customers at these sessions, as it's a great way to understand how our customers are progressing, their common questions, and for customers to discuss their experiences and best practices.
A key area of interest for this group were deployment best practices. We spent time discussing approaches, test plans, best practices for building well performing portlets, and more. There are many resources for information that users can leverage as they finalize plans for test and deployment. A publication has just been made available on the WebSphere Portal and LotusWeb Content Management wiki, entitled: Managing WebSphere Portal 6.1 Environments This wiki provides high level information about how to set up a WebSphere Portal v. 6.1 Environment, including a development, staging, and production environment. Within the context of each of these environments, it includes direction related to how to move changes through the system and successfully manage releases of a WebSphere Portal 6.1 site. We look forward to your view of this information and input as to how more detail or clarifications could be added.
This group also learned about the latest updates in WebSphere Portlet Factory, an easy to use development tool included with WebSphere Portal. We saw an extensive demonstration of it's capabilities via Sametime Unyte, which ranged from building portlets accessing data tables, making modifications and republishing, to using the tools Web 2.0 features such as the AJAX builder to create highly responsive, interactive portlet applications. There are many good demonstrations and articles for developers new to and experienced with Portlet Factory on the WebSphere Portlet Factory wiki
Another topic of discussion across the participants was the ways organizations were incorporating search services to their Portal deployments. Some were using the Portal Search Engine, included with WebSphere Portal, others used IBM OmniFind, to expand the search reach beyond the Portal managed resources. Other customers were using additional search engines they had invested in, some were using both Portal and external third party search engines. There are useful articles related to these efforts, for customers who may want to deliver more customized search experiences, or to extend the Portal's Search Center portlet. This article, Customizing and Extending WebSphere Portal 6.1 Search Center portlet, shares how to extend the newly redesigned portlet, now leveraging Dojo and AJAX, with custom widgets, or with additonal portlet samples to manage External Search source queries or Suggested Search Links to guide user search results.
We also reviewed some of the recent enhancements to the WebSphere Portal and Lotus Web Content Management Version 6.1 offerings, including the new JSR 286 Web Content Viewer portlets, PHP Extension and WebDav extension, available from IBM on the WebSphere Portal Business Solutions Catalog. These new offerings make it easier for portal site designers and content authors to expand sources, tools and associated user skills to easily contribute to and update portal paes and content.
This was a very productive event for attendees at the customer host facility in Toronto and participants from remote member locations.
Another venue we look forward to each year as a way to share information, best practices, strategy and experiences across our portal community as it the IBM Portal Excellence Conference 2009. We've renamed this event from the WebSphere Portal Technical Conference this year, to provide an expanded agenda which will cover industry and business topics across the IBM software portfolio. During the week, these events provide many programs and sessions to interact with our customers, IBM Business partners, IBM architects, services and business leaders to share information that helps to shape the future direction of our products and solutions. We are building the session directories now for events we'll offer at four worldwide locations this year. You can visit the event site to receive the latest updates. We look forward to you input on the topics and agenda in plan, and to your participation this year.
- - Lauren
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).
How are you saving money with WebSphere Portal?
We often get asked what is the difference between a portlet and a widget and so I thought it would be a good idea to provide a post that explains some of this. Portlets and Widgets both provide a UI component model and as such have a lot of similarities. They also have some differences. Lets start with the similarities.
Both Portlets and Widgets are mostly concerned with the applications UI vs. the applications logic. So they both assume that there is some useful service on some 'back end' system and they provide a user interaction with that service. We say they are 'mostly concernced with UI' because it isn't always clear what is UI and what is logic, and there are certainly cases where some logic is performed in the Portlet or Widget.
Both Portlets and Widgets can pass information/context to other Portlets or Widgets, and they can also both consume context from other components on the page. There are a number of techniques for doing this context sharing and they have pros and cons, but those pros and cons will rarely enter into the decision of which component model to choose.
End users and administrators can put portlets or Widgets onto a page and re-arrange them on the page, and customize their behaviors based on global settings that impact all users in the case of administrators as well as personal settings that only impact that one user.
So does that matter and what does it mean?
The second consideration is how much augmentation of the back end services is likely needed? If there is a lot of logic or data manipulation required, then using a language like Java, or doing that processing on a server vs. on a client is probably a good idea. Or alternatively, you might want to deploy some server logic on a Java server or PHP server or sMash server to do the necessary processing and then use an Widget for the display. Purists can argue whether or not this is an 'Widget' scenario, but that isn't important. We'll just refer to it as a Widget hybrid scenario. The important consideration is to determine whether or not your back end services are ready to use or need additional server side logic. If they need additional logic, portlets are a good model for that if you are comfortable with Java and the portlet spec. Otherwise, you should consider what language you do want to write these services in and look at Widgets to create the UI components.
The fourth consideration is responsiveness. This is a tricky one. In the purest sense, Widgets are independent browser calls to server side services and will be, or will feel, more responsive than the standard portal pattern of rendering all the portlets before returning the page. Where this is a bit tricky now is because you have more options for rendering individual portlets as well as the portlets using AJAX for improved responsiveness. There are also cases where it is best not to independently render parts of the page. So you want to consider your bandwidth, the 'chattiness' of the user interactions, what the right kind of page(s) make the most sense.
The fifth consideration is standards and investment protection. Portlets are the most mature of the choices and is covered by second versions of widely adopted Java and Oasis standards. Widgets are relatively new and you should expect some amount of evolution and possible churn as the industry moves to standardization.
The sixth consideration is that you probably will have some additional testing against different browser types based on how much logic you put into the browser. For intranets, you can often minimize this by specifying one or two supported browsers. This is not really just and Widget vs. Portlet consideration however. As already mentioned, you can put a lot of client side logic into portlets as well, and so it is a general consideration as you put logic into the browser.
And finally, client side aggregation (whether portlet based or Widget based) causes issues with most search engines and so you should consider having an alternate rendering for search engines. For public facing web sites with external crawlers, that is probably most easily accomplished in the near term via Portal and Portlets. For intranets, there are more options for indexing sites and search.
The 2009 Portal Excellence Conference just began. I'm sitting here in the opening general session. The room is pretty full. With most conferences and events having lower attendance due to the economy, it is heartening to see so many people here. And so many people I know. It's kind of like a family reunion. As I walk through the halls, I don't get very far before I shake a hand or wave to a friend. This is my favorite conference.
The topic for the opening session is "The Future of Portals." It is a fun topic and one that really defines my job. As a project manger, I'm always working on the "next" version of portal. I've heard it said that "I like to talk about the future since we're going to spend so much time there". That really is true for me and my role in IBM. Product strategy is a key part of a product manager's job. Most of my customer meetings are about helping customers use portal technology to solve their business problems. They aren't looking for just a quick fix. They want a solution that meets their current and future needs. So they want to know what the future holds for portals.
There is a lot of good stuff in the presentations. IBM is #1 in Gartner's Magic Quadrant again. IBM is #1 in portal market share again. WebSphere Portal customers have 300 million named users. So 1 in 6 internet users worldwide is a WebSphere Portal user. It is great that Bob Picciano, the general manager of Lotus and WebSphere, is here giving the keynote. I think that is a first for the portal conferences. Larry Bowden, the Vice President of Portals and Mashups, also was speaker. The portal demo presented by Dan Makuch was awesome. Very impressive.
I see some of the future of portal here in the room. The guy sitting next to me is using his iPhone. It looks like he is on Facebook. Social networking is one of the hot trends in consumer web sites. But social networking isn't just for consumer sites. It is also on the the hottest trends in IT. Enterprises are looking to leverage social networks to enable employees to collaborate more effectively, to better communicate with partners, and to build loyal communities of customers. Portals can complement social software by promoting the community, driving users to join the community and injecting social network collaboration into the content, applications and information that users come to the portal to get.
So my guy is now typing an e-mail. I can't see all of what he's typing, but I did see the words WCM. I'm going to guess that means web content management.
Some people see web content management and portals as competitive technologies. They are both technologies that can be used to build a web site. Sometimes when I talk to people about portals, they say "I don't need a portal. I just need a web site." But portals and web content management are used to accomplish the same thing--to deliver exceptional web experiences. Portals are about providing secure, role-based personalized access to information and applications in the context of the task or business process of the user. Web Content Management is more than just organizing content. It is about using the web to influence people--things like delivering a brand message, delivering marketing messages in an engaging manner, creating and managing multi-channel marketing campaigns. Delivering the best web experience for your customers, partners and employees requires both portals and web content management. Using them together is much more effective than pitting them against each other and then duplicating functions of one in the other.
The guy to my right is typing on his laptop. In fact, there are a bunch of people in the room working on their laptops (me included!) They are trying to get more done with less. More work. Less time. I'll bet some of them are checking on their portal servers. Maybe they are the system administrator of a portal site that just went live and they want to make sure that everything is going ok. They're probably bringing up their portal site in their browser. When it comes up quickly, they are happy--relieved. But what they really want to see is how those back-end applications are doing. Because those back-end applications integrated into the portal are the weakest link. If those connections go down, the portal will be "down" or at least not fully functional. But he won't know until the portal page doesn't come up. Most back-end applications have to be integrated at the API level. Any instrumentation of those servers is hard work. So it doesn't get done. Too low on the priority list. Too high on the cost list. But Web 2.0 integration methods could make it easy. What if that back-end application provided operational data in the form of a feed? What if the server memory usage, database connection pool status and average response time where delivered via a WSRP service? And what if that data could be assembled together into a mashup running on the secure, scalable enterprise portal that was accessible in a secure way through the internet on a web browser. That would make it much easier for the system administrator to do his job. Do more with less.
So maybe we don't need an eloquent speaker to tell us the future of portal. The future is sitting right here in the audience. And right here in this portal community. What do you think is the future of portal?
TNunes 100000GJQH Tags:  web lotus websphere tracks exceptional 2010 experiences event portal lotusphere orlando track events 3,273 Visits
2010 promises to be the year for IBM WebSphere® Portal software. Launched in 2000, WebSphere Portal software is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. And the celebration has already begun at Lotusphere 2010.
A new track debuted this year at Lotusphere focused on technologies that deliver exceptional Web experiences to customers, partners, suppliers and employees. Featuring the latest IBM WebSphere Portal, Lotus, and IBM Business Partner innovations, the new track is showcasing how companies large and small are leveraging IBM WebSphere Portal and related software to differentiate themselves and achieve greater success in the marketplace. Here's a sampling of what's being featured in the new track: new IBM Industry Toolboxes for WebSphere Portal, rapid deployment via WebSphere Portal NOW, best practices, and deeper dives into WebSphere Portal and IBM accelerators for WebSphere Portal, with sessions addressing Web content management, collaboration, electronic forms-enabled business processes, dashboards, mobile portals, mashups and more. For more information on the new Exceptional Web Experience Track, download the brochure.
In addition to the new track, a new 'event within an event' entitled the “Global Business Excellence Forum @ Lotusphere 2010” is being offered, focused on tapping into the power of collaboration within the Banking, Insurance, Government and Healthcare industries. The Global Business Excellence Forum promises to be the definitive place to learn virtually everything about how to achieve better business outcomes with IBM Lotus® and IBM WebSphere® Portal software, as well as services from IBM and trusted partners. Attendees are hearing from people within organizations just like yours who have achieved exciting business outcomes by deploying IBM solutions and offerings. If you're still interested in registering or would simply like to learn more, please visit the Global Business Excellence Forum @ Lotusphere 2010 Web page.
Finally, for those in attendance or following from afar, IBM is supporting both traditional and social media news this year at Lotusphere. Interested in reading near real-time news one 'tweet' at a time? Simply follow @LotusKnows on Twitter. In attendance and wishing you could share your event experiences with other attendees? Preface your tweets with @Lotusphere. Looking for more in-depth news? Visit the IBM Lotusphere 2010 news page on the Web, where press releases from IBM and IBM Business Partners can be found.
And remember... Lotusphere 2010 is just the beginning. The 10th anniversary of WebSphere Portal software promises to be an exciting year, and I encourage you to stay tuned!
~ Tim Nunes
TNunes 100000GJQH Tags:  portal business now web bps content partners portals issl management ibm websphere 1 Comment 4,519 Visits
Web portals provide a number of valuable and well recognized features, including seamless application integration, single sign-on, personalization, integrated collaboration and more. Such features help organizations large and small deliver exceptional Web experiences that set them apart from their competition.
So why isn't everyone using portal software? Well, some organizations may be unfamiliar with Web portals and others may have IT resource concerns. In fact, a number of concerns or perceptions have delayed portal deployments in the past... Until now.
The IBM WebSphere® Portal NOW business application is a proven approach to deploying an enterprise-class portal business solution in just 16 days. A comprehensive set of application templates, combined with a defined project plan, all help deliver exceptional results and provide companies with an exponentially greater ROI.
Listen to how IBM Business Partners are leveraging WebSphere Portal NOW to deliver exceptional Web experiences to their customers...
Want to learn more about WebSphere Portal NOW? Simply contact an IBM Business Partner or IBM to learn how your organization can deploy a fully working portal and content solution faster than you ever thought possible.
~ Tim Nunes
Announcing the IBM Customer Experience Suite, WebSphere Portal and Web Content Manager V8 Beta Strategy and Feature Focus sessions
LaurenW 2000005B31 Tags:  manager experience ibm suite websphere customer connections portal content web mobile portals 4,432 Visits