Software // Enterprise Applications
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10/2/2003
06:31 PM
Tony Kontzer
Tony Kontzer
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No-Problem Portlet Development

Standards promise to make it easier for companies to take advantage of out-of-the-box portlets

Companies looking to use portals to create windows into their enterprise applications quickly discover there's a lot of custom development required to build portlets, or pieces of application functionality exposed via a portal. Software vendors offer out-of-the-box portlets, but only for certain portal platforms.

Two complementary standards should enable software vendors to write standards-compliant portlets, rather than having to write separate ones for each portal platform.

The standards--Web Services for Remote Portals, approved in September, and JSR 168, expected to be approved this week--together will let companies more easily plug any compliant portlet into any portal framework that supports the standards.

Just about every major portal vendor is expected to quickly adopt both standards. Plumtree Software Inc. already has revealed support for WSRP and expects to support JSR 168 as soon as it's approved. Sun Microsystems also is planning to support both. And Bowstreet Inc., which sells portal app-building tools, says it will begin supporting both standards in November. All are calling the adoption of the new standards a key moment in the evolution of the portal as a channel for delivering business applications.

This is good news for users such as Christina Fogle, manager of E-systems support for Cardinal Health System Inc., a health-care provider that operates a network of hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and doctors' offices. Fogle wants to use a corporate portal to share data from medical equipment suppliers with Cardinal's physicians by deploying a portlet linking doctors directly to suppliers' back-end systems.

But equipment suppliers such as McKesson Corp. build their portals using different technologies than Cardinal, so Fogle would have to devote at least 100 hours of staff time to custom-build the portlet. That could cost from $20,000 to $35,000, she says. With the standards in place, a job like that would take just a couple of hours and wouldn't require purchasing any APIs from equipment suppliers. Says Fogle, "It's going to increase our ability to provide portal data to our users."

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