Portal vendors unite behind standards

Attempting to drive real-world deployments of standardized portlets, several competing enterprise portal vendors this week kicked off an open source site designed to let customers share portlets developed according to new standards.

Plumtree Software, Sun Microsystems, BEA Systems and Documentum joined forces to launch the POST (Portlet Open-Source Trading) site, an open source Web site where customers can share portlets and submit components for community development. Available at sourceforge.net/post, the site is hosted by SourceForge, an independent organization that hosts a variety of Java and Linux-based initiatives.

JSR 168 and WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portlets), two portlet standards developed by the Java Community Process and OASIS standards bodies, respectively, aim to let portal components be deployed across a variety of platforms. JSR 168 was approved in early October, while WSRP was finalized in mid-September.

The idea of POST is to create a way for portal customers to share and leverage standardized portal components, according to Glenn Kelman, vice president of product marketing and management at Plumtree.

"We have a site where Plumtree customers can share portlets, but the standard exists so that a Plumtree customer could share portlets with BEA customer. However, there is no way to do that unless they have a forum for exchanging these," he said.

"The JSR 168 and WSRP (efforts) imagined people would share code but hadn't taken the extra turn of the screw to see how it would happen," Kelman said. "This is making the standards real."

Any registered organization can contribute portlets to POST, which then become available to all other members of the open source effort. POST lets participants see lists of newly available portlets, post requests to the community for the development of new portlets, search for portlets, upload or download new portlets, submit modified or enhanced versions of portlets, and discuss portlet development best practices, issues, and solutions.

Plumtree, BEA, Sun and Documentum each will provide an initial library of standards-based portlets, and will offer ongoing feedback, suggestions, and best practices for portlet development.

One incentive for customers to share portlets is the capability to improve their code, Kelman said.

"This is the same phenomenon that is powering Linux. JSR 168 created the same possibility to have portlets shared across different vendors," he said.

Even before portal standards were developed, BEA customers got together informally to share portlets, according to Nils Gilman, director of product management at BEA.

"Now that there are standards there's no reason why the community of users shouldn’t be expanded," he said. "This is an opportunity to increase the sharing of code among portal customers from all vendors."

Long-term benefits from portal standards and multivendor efforts such as POST include less vendor lock in with portal infrastructures and more repurposing of code among multiple vendors' frameworks, according to Gilman.

"In the short run, standards will make is easier to share code between portals form a single vendor," Gilman said. "What will happen long term is the repurposing of code between vendors. If you have two customers running portals from different vendors and they wan to share content they could do pluggable portlets."

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