Plumtree Ups Enterprise Portal Ante

Software maker Plumtree Software Inc. is looking to make its Corporate Portal software more scalable for large enterprise customers.

With last week's release of Corporate Portal 4.0, the company can now distribute user requests over multiple servers, enabling the portal package to support more users. The idea is to bolster scalability and fault tolerance for hundreds of thousands of users requesting information and services from thousands of sources, the company says.

Plumtree's Portal Network Architecture allows customers to distribute "gadgets" to multiple servers that converse via HTTP over the Internet or corporate LAN. Gadgets are small applications that integrate information from databases, e-mail, the Web and other sources into a single portal view. Gadgets can run on any application server, including those that support Java and Perl.

About 500 gadgets are available from Plumtree and third-party developers that connect to approximately 50 application suites, says Glenn Kelman, vice president of worldwide marketing at Plumtree.

"Gadgets can be written in any language," he says. The new Portal Network Architecture distributes various portal services to different machines, meaning any one gadget can fail without affecting the main server.

Previously, gadgets ran in serial on the same server as the Plumtree Portal Engine, dragging down performance during heavy loads. When users launched their personalized pages in a browser, the server would have to sequentially access each piece of data - such as e-mail, calendar and news headlines - before building the page. Now the data can be accessed simultaneously for quicker delivery.

Ames Department Stores of Rocky Hill, Conn., is one of the company's piloting a beta version of Plumtree's Corporate Portal 4.0. Ames has around 6,000 corporate users of its current installation - Version 3.51 - but hopes to be able to roll out Version 4.0 to almost all 40,000 employees, including sales associates in its retail stores, says Peter Hayes, director of research and development.

Hayes is hopeful the distributed gadgets will help his implementation's performance. "We've tested the gadgets on a dedicated server and it worked well," Hayes says. "We hope it will help speed up the loading of pages and give us better organizations of our gadgets."

Other new features in Version 4.0 include the ability for departments to create custom pages and community areas for employees. Version 4.0 also supports threaded discussions, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and Web-based administration.

Plumtree has also added a federated search capability for tying multiple indexes together, allowing end users to query multiple data sources from a single interface.

The main portal engine is available for Windows NT, though gadgets can run on just about any platform. Pricing starts at US$100,000 for 250 users.

Plumtree: www.plumtree.com

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