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Berndt Hamboeck

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J2EE Journal: Article

Working with the Enterprise Portal

An Overview Part 1

Major Features
An access-control database is provided where user access rights are stored and the user is evaluated against it when the user logs in. Sybase EP provides a page where you can register yourself for the portal. You enter information such as first name, last name, username, password, and e-mail. After submitting this information you can log into the portal by entering your username and password. This information is matched against the information found in the access-control database (ACDB). The database used is a Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere database. By registering, the user becomes part of the Default group. The administrator has assigned pages to this group that the newly registered user is allowed to see and has access to immediately when he logs in. Portal administrators can assign additional groups or pages to this user any time.

Account access in the Portal Interface is controlled by Enterprise Security. You will see how this works a bit later.

The Portal Interface is an enterprise portal that end users view and interact with to access predefined content or to create their own content. It consists of site areas and tools that help you create and manage your pages.

Portlets display the content you have selected from the Portal Interface or the Web. Portlets are visual, dynamic components that make up a Web page and reside in the enterprise portal. Typically, when an end user requests a personalized page, multiple portlets are invoked when that page is created. Take care when you choose a portal that the portlets rely on APIs to access various types of information, such as a user profile.

Until now, the lack of standards has led portal server platform vendors to define proprietary APIs for local portal components and for the invocation of remote components. This creates interoperability problems for portal customers, application vendors, content providers, and portal software vendors. To overcome these problems, the biggest enterprise portal vendors, including Sybase, defined the Java Portlet API. It cleanly separates portlets from the surrounding portal server infrastructure so that the portlets can run on different portal servers, just as servlets can run on different application servers. The API is now specified (see JSR 168, "Portlet Specification," on www.jcp.org/en/jsr/detail?id=168) and greatly enhances enterprise portals.

Sybase Portal Studio is the application for portal development and administration. Portal Studio enables developers to build a variety of portlets, templates, pages, and catalogs without having to learn any portlet application interfaces (APIs). Developers can create HTML, JSP, XML, database, and Web content portlets without programming by using step-by-step wizards or the Portal Studio's Portlet Builder. Portal Studio is a Web application, so you log in using Internet Explorer (or Netscape Communicator, in the Enterprise edition). Portal Studio also provides a collaborative environment for developers and administrators by offering workflow, versioning, a search filter, a detail view, and roles-based access.

All user access to Studio objects and Portal Interface pages and portlets in Portal Studio is controlled through the Portal Studio Account Manager.

Developers create content in Portal Studio and deploy it to display for end users in portlets in Portal Interface. Administrators use both Portal Studio and Portal Interface to do portal administrative tasks. Either an administrator or end user controls the pages and portlets in a Portal Interface user account. Portlets created in the Portal Studio can be arranged into pages that are automatically added to portal user accounts or made available through a catalog of pages. Alternatively, instead of selecting an entire page of portlets, portal users can add individual portlets to their own account from a portlet catalog. Finally, users can define their own pages and portlets in Portal Interface that are not managed in the Portal Studio. Portal Interface and Portal Studio are completely integrated. Changes made to portlets, catalogs, or pages from Portal Studio are updated to Portal Interface.

Other Features and Functions
Page tabs let you name your pages so you can navigate between them. The number of page tabs in a page group varies, depending on the length of the page tab names you choose. If you run out of space, Portal Interface activates the page group's feature.

Page groups help you to group your pages in sets, which lets you to add more pages to your account than you can view in a single browser window.

The toolbar, located below your page tabs, contains some of the major functions necessary to create and manage your pages. Additional functions display as icons above the page tabs.

Sybase EP Evaluation Version
The current major version of Sybase EP is 5.1.1. But there exists a small version, the evaluation version, which is easy to install and great for playing around with and getting used to the Sybase EP and the idea behind it (and it's free). The installation only takes a few minutes, and you're up and running. You can start with your own portal and build your own pages in the portal on your machine.

Of course, you won't have the full power of the full version. You won't be able to use the security architecture for single sign-on, the search service, and you don't have the full power of Sybase EAServer with its J2EE features and component architecture behind it.

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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