Oracle Spotlights IPortal

SAN MATEO (06/26/2000) - Oracle Corp. on Monday took the wraps off an early-access version of its iPortal enterprise portal software, adding a new user interface and the ability to publish and integrate applications in the portal for easier use and management.

The iPortal software is built on a framework of "portlets," reusable interface components that link together to connect software services, content, and applications in one portal view. Portlets can be customized to give the portal user exactly the types of information they need, according to Oracle. Java applications and XML-based content both can be included as portlets; URLs also can be turned into portlets so that the Web page shows up in a user's portal.

"Software is increasingly moving off the desktop and to the Web, but everyone is approaching it as an exercise in building a Web site," said John Magee, director of Internet platform marketing at Oracle, in Redwood Shores, California. "What we are saying is, companies need an easy way to use applications they can install and then have a way to integrate all these different kinds of apps and provide them with the personalization that they need so that CIOs can see a different view of enterprise resources than, say, the shipping clerk."

The software sits on top of Oracle's Internet platform stack, which includes WebDB and Oracle 8i database and content management tools; business intelligence tools; and data warehousing tools, Magee said. He added that iPortal acts as "a very easy out-of-the-box portal that users can access to publish their own content" without necessarily having to know HTML or be a Web programmer.

Moreover, iPortal includes single sign-on, search, and security tools, so that users can share documents through portals themselves, bypassing the need for a Webmaster to be involved with the process, Magee said.

"What we see among our customers is they can't hire enough Web programmers to solve this Webmaster bottleneck problem of how you put applications on the Web and new content on the Web if you are just treating it as a traditional Web-building exercise," Magee explained, noting that "the real differentiator here is we have an application you install and so you have a portal that users can start accessing immediately without bringing in a huge consulting army.

Using iPortal, administrators would be able to designate which application portlets show up on which employees' "Web tops" without getting a programmer involved, Magee said. Users could then add additional content or application portlets they require and rearrange the view themselves.

Oracle's early-access preview version of iPortal is available for download at technet.oracle.com. The final version is expected to be released in late summer.

Stephanie Sanborn is an InfoWorld reporter. Ed Scannell is an InfoWorld editor at large.

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