Backed by heavy hitters IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc., industry efforts to form portal interoperability standards are gaining momentum. IBM and Sun will announce this week at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco that they are leading an initiative to define a single API that ensures applications work with any portal without having to create specific portlets. The API, known as JSR (Java Specification Request) 168, would allow portals from different vendors to interoperate. The specification, an extension of the servlet API in J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), addresses how different content sources and applications are aggregated and presented within the portal. It also addresses how security and personalization of the content and applications are handled.
JSR 168 should be completed by the end of the year, with the first products that use the API available next year, said IBM officials in Armonk, N.Y.
A companion standard from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, dubbed WSRP, or Web Services for Remote Portals, is also in the works. A technical committee from OASIS met for the first time last week to create an XML and Web services standard that allows portlets to be deployed and accessed by portals as Web services.
Portlets are pieces of code that extend a portal to other applications. They are unique in structure to each portal vendor.
While companies supporting the standards said they will broaden users application deployment options via portals and ultimately drive more use of portal technologies, not all customers are convinced. But if they work as promised, the standards could minimize the differences among competing portal products in the market, said Robert Brock, enterprise portal management practice leader at Electronic Data Systems Corp., in Plano, Texas.
"If the [JSR 168] standard becomes successful, then the portal could become a commodity, just like Netscape or Internet Explorer," Brock said. "What portal you use could become a nonissue."
Officials of companies participating in JSR 168 disputed this notion, saying only the portlet will become a commodity and that individual portal products will maintain differences.
Also at JavaOne, IBM and Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., will announce new configurations of IBMs WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Studio development tool set that support Suns J2EE Connector Architecture for its integration capabilities. In addition, IBM will announce a new WebSphere UDDI Registry at the show.