Building Portals Made Easier

Plumtree, BEA, Sun, Epicentric and Bowstreet unveil tools to simplify development of applications.

With portals growing more strategic to both application server providers and users, portal software companies are delivering tools that make it easier to build portals and applications that populate them.

Plumtree Software Inc. next week will announce Plumtree Studio Server, a development environment that enables users to build what the company calls "gadget Web services" or "portlets" that run on Plumtree portal environments. Plumtree Studio Server supports the development of portal applications in polls and surveys, data submission, data viewing, querying, and calendars, said Nils Gilman, product marketing manager for the San Francisco company.

"With Plumtree Studio Server, creating work order requests, gathering user feedback, developing questionnaires and group calendars takes a few minutes instead of weeks," said Mike Frame, director of research and technology at the U.S. Geological Surveys National Biology Information Infrastructure group, an early user of the technology based in Reston, Va.

Plumtree Studio Server is written using Java and runs atop BEA Systems Inc.s WebLogic application server. Similarly, portal technology is delivered as part of application server offerings from companies such as Oracle Corp., BEA and Sun Microsystems Inc.s iPlanet.

Meanwhile, BEA, of San Jose, Calif., this week is unveiling an application infrastructure strategy that includes portal technology as a fundamental piece of the BEA application server and Web services offering.

Sun officials said portals are a key differentiator between Suns offerings and those of competitors. Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., is pushing its iPlanet Portal Server as a driver for its application server. The company last week released Version 6.5 of its iPlanet Application Server.

To ease the development of its portal applications, San Francisco-based Epicentric Inc. last week announced Epicentric Foundation Builder 3.0, which enables business users to create custom portal applications.

Foundation Builder integrates with Epicentrics portal server technology and includes a visual application builder and an application generation engine. The product also features Web services integration capabilities in the form of support for Web services standards such as Simple Object Access Protocol; Web Services Description Language; and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration. In addition, Foundation Builder supports reusable portal applications, interactive reports and simplified creation of portal-based forms.

Meanwhile, Bowstreet Inc., of Portsmouth, N.H., got into the fray last week with an upgrade of a portal product of its own. Bowstreet announced Version 2.5 of Bowstreet Portal Automator.

Bowstreet Portal Automator 2.5 runs on top of Bowstreets Factory—a Web services development platform—and enables portal development. Version 2.5 adds new features such as cascading portals, where an enterprise can make a change to a portal application and have that change propagate through an entire family of portals.