CleverPath gains Web services features

Computer Associates International released CleverPath Portal 4.0 Tuesday, an updated version of its portal software with wireless and Web services support and improved scalability.

CleverPath 4.0 complies with Web services standards including SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) and XML (Extensible Markup Language), and includes tools intended to make it easier for developers to integrate third-party applications.

In a demonstration during his Monday morning keynote address, CA Chief Technology Officer Yogesh Gupta showed how an application to search Barnes & Noble's Web site for a book's price using IDBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) can be constructed in minutes.

"Across the board, we see Web services as key," Gupta said Tuesday during a press conference. "We're using Web services internally so we can integrate our stuff quicker, better, faster."

Generally speaking, Web services refers to technologies that let previously incompatible applications talk to each other over the Internet and other networks in an automated way using standard technologies such as SOAP and XML. For example, Web services could be used to link a manufacturer's IT system with those of numerous suppliers, allowing it to gather real-time information about the price and availability of parts.

CleverPath 4.0 also includes new wireless functionality to detect what type of device is accessing CleverPath Portal. If a desktop PC queries a service such as the book price search, content will be delivered in HTML (Hypertext Markup Language); if the request comes from a wireless handheld, results will be sent in a format more suited to that device.

CleverPath Portal 4.0 has a tiered pricing structure starting at US$25,000 for a perpetual license. The software is available worldwide. Extensive localization features are planned for version 4.1, expected to be released in about three months, according to a CA spokeswoman.

While CA gathered a panel of customers to speak about their CleverPath use at a press conference Tuesday, none had yet upgraded to CleverPath 4.0, which has been available in beta for around three months.

Electronic Data Systems Corp. Program Manager Bob Giannascoli, who is working on a portal deployment for the U.S. Navy, said EDS selected CA's CleverPath after evaluating nearly every portal vendor in the market. With tens of thousands of applications in an array of programming languages running on an equally diverse set of hardware, the Navy needed software robust enough to handle millions of users that could pull everything together into a single interface. Simplicity was also key, he said.

"Think of the average age of a sailor today. We wanted something easy to use, something whereby they could customize the portal to meet their specific needs," Giannascoli said. "We believe the flexibility (CleverPath) provides is unmatched in today's market."

Kimberly Joyce is supporting an even younger set of users: the million-plus schoolchildren in the Massachusetts state education system. Joyce is executive director of Virtual Education Space, a project offering students and educators personal online workspaces with customizable applications.

VES evaluated some 20 options for its portal, including products from Sun Microsystems Inc. and Epicentric Inc. CleverPath's adaptability made it stand out, Joyce said.

"The roles and permissions that engineer and power our system are pretty interesting and unique. We needed to be able to have that flexibility," she said.

CleverPath's distributed administration features are another plus, she said. VES can't manage all of its users' accounts centrally, and needed to be able to push many administrative tasks down to "the school and classroom level," which CleverPath allows.

While Joyce hasn't tried CleverPath 4.0, she does have a wish list of things she'd like to see improved in CleverPath, including the administration tools. Right now, most customization of users' personal portals rests with the schools; Joyce would like functionality allowing end users more control.

She also cited the uneven look and feel of the portal across multiple platforms, such as Macintosh and Windows machines and Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers, as an area in which the software can improve.

Analyst Michael Dortch, of the Robert Frances Group, said CA has the skills and breadth of expertise to lead customers considering Web services to begin making use of the technology.

"If CleverPath 4.0 and its successors deliver on what CA promises in a lot of enterprises, it will be revolutionary in its ability to leverage and speed Web services deployment," Dortch said. "The difficult thing about Web services is registering it, publishing it and distributing it to a whole bunch of users."

Toward that end, CA said Tuesday it is creating a portlet Web site, accessible soon through http://www.ca.com, to let developers download CleverPath portlets and share ones they've created. Portlets are content components displayed in a portal, comparable to windows on a PC desktop. Around 250 new portlets from CA and dozens of partners are being released this week, CA said.

(InfoWorld staff writer Brian Fonseca contributed to this story.)

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