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Berndt Hamboeck

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J2EE Journal: Article

Working with the Enterprise Portal

An Overview Part 1

An enterprise portal is the converged "hub" of multiple, complementary information management solutions, including document and content management, information search and retrieval, knowledge management, team collaboration, workflow, and business intelligence.

In this article, we describe what an enterprise portal is and give you a brief overview of Sybase Enterprise Portal. Then we take a closer look at the portal and go over some of the installation requirements and steps for the Information Edition of the portal. We also delve into how to use a portal and build components (called portlets) for the portal using PowerBuilder. Finally, we include a section on portal security, an extremely important aspect of having a portal. Whether you write your own portal software, are thinking about using portal software, or are already using the Sybase Enterprise Portal, this chapter will provide some enlightenment on the subject and will show that PowerBuilder can be used even in this space to grow your distributed application environment.

Why Do You Need a Portal?
In this period of economic uncertainty, corporations are looking for solutions that will reduce costs and improve productivity. They also need to take full advantage of their information resources and maximize the value of their IT investments. One such solution is to Web-enable business-critical information and applications and to consolidate them in a portal. Portals empower employees, partners, and customers with immediate access to information and services that they need to perform their jobs by providing a unified view. Beyond providing a unified view of information sources, enterprise portals are seen as the "hub" of a convergence of multiple, complementary information management solutions, including document and content management, information search and retrieval, knowledge management, team collaboration, workflow, and business intelligence.

With an enterprise portal, you can do the following:

  • Integrate all types of enterprise data and take control of heterogeneous IT environments through a common view of the data provided by these environments.
  • Take advantage of open standards to leverage existing investments such as J2EE, LDAP, and messaging services.
  • Convert unstructured information into usable information by providing views of this data in this portal. Users can change this view and modify it if they like (and if the portal administrator allows it).
  • Provide content to users according to their specific roles.
  • Share information and collaborate across the extended enterprise.
Essentially, the portal will be the secure, personalized, and centralized access point to all enterprise content and applications, as well as the tools users require to find, share, manage, publish, and analyze that content.

What Is an Enterprise Portal?
In November 1998, Merrill Lynch declared the portal marketplace a legitimate investment space. The company describes an enterprise information portal (EIP) as follows:

Applications that enable companies to unlock internally and externally stored information, and provide users a single gateway to personalized information needed to make informed business decisions.

But these gains aren't made without meeting new challenges. If you start thinking about a portal solution, you will see that you are faced with a lot of, well, let's call them features that you did not have before. For example, you must leverage existing systems while bridging across enterprise business applications such as ERP and CRM systems. Security and reliability requirements present new challenges around every corner. New demands for access to information arise from increasingly mobile work forces no longer bound to desktop machines. Will the portal handle complex business transactions? How will portal users interact with each other? What development expertise does your IT have and need?

To succeed in this mission, a complete enterprise solution should provide the following:

  • A customizable environment for the management and personalized delivery of information, possibly in multiple languages, as well as inter-application data sharing, not only within the portal, but beyond it to other enterprises.
  • Integrated consistent access to existing systems and applications. This includes access to all users, including those using mobile devices (although most of your users will use the browser to access and configure the portal).
  • A secure extensible easy-to-learn and "always available" infrastructure for delivering portal-based information and evolving e-business applications.

More Stories By Berndt Hamboeck

Berndt Hamboeck is a senior consultant for BHITCON (www.bhitcon.net). He's a CSI, SCAPC8, EASAC, SCJP2, and started his Sybase development using PB5. You can reach him under [email protected]

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