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IBM Launches WebSphere Portal 5

The latest release feeds into businesses' growing focus on practicality in their IT initiatives.

IBM's latest release of its WebSphere Portal software feeds into businesses' growing focus on practicality in their IT initiatives. WebSphere Portal 5 features simplified installation, content integration, administration, and use, as well as refined capabilities in the areas of document management, portlet integration, and search.

The improvements are designed to let customers deploy, manage, and interact with the software more easily. "Because of the economic conditions, customers are very pragmatic," says Tim Thatcher, program director for the WebSphere Portal product line. "We're always trying to address the needs of end users, as well as simplifying things for administrators."

The software features componentized packaging, allowing customers to start with just a base portal structure and integrate additional elements of the portal as they're needed. From an administrative perspective, it's designed to let new users or groups inherit the roles and authentication of existing users, reducing the amount of time needed to set up new user profiles. WebSphere Portal 5 also ramps up the software's content-integration capabilities, providing portal builders that can pull data from back-end enterprise apps in addition to unstructured content.

IBM also has enhanced several key capabilities:

• Built-in document-management tools will let users create, publish, and share documents directly via the portal, using a traditional folder structure to organize them. Documents also can be configured to expire automatically to reduce the amount of outdated content residing in the portal.

• The "click-to-action" feature introduced last year to enable more interoperability of portlets has been expanded so users can create business-process scripts that will trigger an automated series of procedures based on one initial task.

• Improved search tools, most notably more sophisticated Web-crawling technology and more extensive content indexing, are designed to help users find relevant content faster.

Pricing for WebSphere Portal remains unchanged. The full enterprise version of the software lists for $87,000 per processor, while the express version for medium-size businesses is available on either a per-user or per-processor basis. It lists for $85 per user with a minimum of 20 users, or $33,000 per processor. All prices include a year's worth of maintenance. Maintenance subscriptions for subsequent years will run about 20% to 25% of the initial cost.

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