Oracle opens 'portlet' strategy

While many enterprise software companies are creating portals for their customers, Oracle Corp. has created a do-it-yourself approach.

While many enterprise software companies are creating portals for their customers, Oracle Corp. has created a do-it-yourself approach.

Last week, the Redwood Shores, Calif., company unveiled Portal Framework, which enables corporate developers to reuse server-side components or Web applications to build custom user interfaces for employees, salespeople, customers and suppliers.

Portal Framework, scheduled for beta release in November, is designed around "portlets," an Oracle term for sets of Java classes. The classes wrap existing application code, providing programming interfaces that a developer could map to back-end platforms, such as an Oracle database or a legacy mainframe application, officials said.

Portal Framework will provide single sign-on from any Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directory as well as access to portlet applications and services, such as discussion groups, calendaring, and Web and other search capabilities. Oracle and third parties will provide the services.

Lanette Freitag, systems consultant for the state of Kentucky's Department of Information Systems, in Frankfort, said Oracle's Portal Framework would tie in nicely with her group's implementation of WebDB, an Oracle technology that helps developers link Web applications to a database.

"I could have a strong database [connection] in the background and then have Web publishing in the front of it—and I like that," Freitag said.

Kentucky has built an intranet that provides online reservations for state cars, she said. The reservation system uses an Oracle Version 8.05 database, but the system sits on IBM's MQSeries for integration with IMS and DB2 on the back end.

Oracle officials said portlets can be built with any Java development tool, including Oracle's own JDeveloper. The company has promised a portlet software development kit by the end of the year.

Oracle will ship a dozen portal templates in the beta version of WebDB 3.0, due for release in November. General availability of Portal Framework and portlet assembly capabilities is set for April 2000. In addition, a packaged portal will be available in mid-2000 along with the shipment of Oracle Applications 11i.

The Portal Framework also will extend to Project Panama, the code name for a forthcoming Oracle server that translates HTML content into formats understandable to Web-enabled mobile devices. Portal Framework will also be supported in Oracle8i starting with Version 8.1.6 in November. Project Panama is scheduled for release by the end of the year.

Oracle eventually wants portlet-based portals to provide an integrated view of its Applications product suite. Along with Oracle Applications, Portal Framework would allow customers to add functionality from SAP AG R/3 or other third-party enterprise resource planning applications.

Oracle's Portal Framework

WebDB 3.0 Beta in November
Oracle8i Version 8.1.6 November
Project Panama End of year
Oracle Applications 11i Mid-2000