Epicentric, Bowstreet ease portal changes

Portal software vendor Epicentric on Tuesday unveiled Foundation Builder, a set of tools integrated with its portal server that enable business users to customize applications within portals without the aid of their IT departments.

While portals have become invaluable to businesses that want to aggregate disparate content and applications, users have found customizing applications within the portal can be costly and time consuming, analysts say.

Most portal software vendors provide out-of-the-box application components -- referred to by terms such as "gadgets" and "portlets" -- that can be embedded into the portal view. Those typically don't meet the level of customization desired by enterprise users, Epicentric executives say. When application customization is necessary, business users typically have to turn to IT.

"Ad hoc requests for portal applications, coupled with scarce IT resources, can create a bottleneck," says Fergus Griffin, VP of product management for Epicentric. "Business users can see what they want to create, but they have to talk to a developer to make it happen. Foundation Builder is targeted at that type of situation, so you don't need a developer to launch or tweak every portal initiative."

Foundation Builder, based on technology Epicentric acquired when it bought Application Park last year, provides business users with browser-based interfaces and wizards to build and modify applications. Because Foundation Builder is integrated with Epicentric's Foundation Server, which provides the portal framework, applications are automatically embedded in the Epicentric portal and leverage the portal's features such as delegated administration, personalization and security.

Also on Tuesday, Web services firm Bowstreet Software Inc. unveiled the latest version of its Portal Automator, a framework and set of tools designed to automate the task of deploying and managing portals. Portal Automator 2.5 sits on top of Bowstreet's Web Factory, which is a vendor-neutral Web platform that uses standards such as XML to integrate Web services.

The Web Factory stores programmed application components that can be reused, eliminating the need to code changes every time, Bowstreet executives say. That enables businesses using the Portal Automator to make application changes in a central portal and then have those changes propagate through a hierarchical family of portals automatically.

Portal Automator 2.5 also provides more granular delegated administration so that each portal manager can be given unique administration capabilities. In addition, companies can use the Portal Automator in conjunction with the Web Factory's Designer tool to customize so-called portal modules, application components that are embedded into the portal.

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