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2/2/2007
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Put to the Test: IBM WebSphere Portal 6.0

This portal's best play is enterprise integration, but it's also suitable for intranets and workgroup collaboration. Implementation can be complex and confusing, but a new Portal Express offering is aimed at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees aims to speed and simplify deployment.

Intangibles

On the plus side, you may not have to pay list price for WP. IBM has often heavily discounted licenses, in particular when included in larger software deals or in combined software-and-services contracts. This has helped disperse the product and, indeed, WP boasts a large and fairly active developer community, which bodes well for finding peer support for your projects.

Some customers complain that IBM used WP as a kind of loss leader, demonstrating all manner of content and data integration during the sales process that actually required substantial investments in other IBM tools when it came down to implementation. Caveat emptor.

With a veritable army of consultants available in large numbers around the world, IBM can take the lead on any WP implementation. Most projects, though, get implemented with the help of experienced local partners, many of whom are more experienced in the portal product than IBM’s own consultants. This labor is not cheap, but you can save money by negotiating installation help with the software deal.

Customers report mixed experience with the optional portlets in the IBM Portal Catalog. Some have worked well and saved time while others have been difficult to get up and running and tough to maintain. As with any other portal product, you’ll want to test third-party portlets carefully, especially with respect to security and performance.

Support and documentation for WP product can be hard to come by. IBM has many support sites, but it can be difficult to find answers to specific questions. IBM hosts forums that the support team doesn’t seem to actively monitor; questions often go unanswered or peers jump in and explain short cuts because of a dearth of official support. The best advice can be found in the articles written by integrators and in trade publications like Websphere Developers Journal.

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