Plumtree builds infrastructure into integrated framework

Corporate portal vendor Plumtree Software is challenging heavyweights such as IBM and BEA Systems with a strategy designed to...

Corporate portal vendor Plumtree Software is challenging heavyweights such as IBM and BEA Systems with a strategy designed to boost its infrastructure presence.

As part of its Enterprise Web strategy, Plumtree introduced a content management server, an updated collaboration server, and a bundling agreement with identity management provider Oblix. Plumtree also plans to extend its portal offering with a business process engine, codenamed Fusion, due for release next year.

Meta Group executive vice president and director David Yockelson believed Plumtree's move to bind related infrastructure elements into an integrated framework was a good move.

"A [portal] framework needs to be close to related things like content management, identity management, and collaboration capabilities. People tend to look at those technologies together anyway," he said.

As the portal becomes more tightly fused to its surrounding infrastructure elements, including the application server and security functions, software offerings such as Plumtree must attempt to broaden out, Yockelson added.

"The portal framework is a core function, very close to being infrastructure," he said. "Plumtree has to diversify. If the portal is an infrastructure play, they can't go up against IBM without a [broader framework]."

Another trend gathering momentum among portal framework vendors is tying in identity management as a core capability. Plumtree kick-started its efforts this week with security vendor Oblix, announcing a deal to bundle Oblix NetPoint Access System with Plumtree Authentication Web Services for synchronising the portal's security system with other user directories.

IBM, meanwhile, recently purchased Access 360, and in the future will push its Tivoli provisioning services and meta directory capabilities down into the infrastructure level to the portal and application server.

While many vendors look toward the emerging standards in the portal space to level the playing field, standard connection points will shift the battleground to value-added capabilities such as business process automation and event management powered by Web services, Yockelson said.

"This is the evolution of the portal framework with Web services and the ability to manage them and provide an integrated development environment to hang a bunch of components together and trade information among them and execute a business process," he said. "Process automation in the portal is where the portal framework has been heading for a while."

IBM and BEA are naturally well positioned for this trend, SAP is moving in this direction with its xApps initiative, and Epicentric is pushing toward basic Web services management capabilities in its portal.

Plumtree customer Pratt & Whitney, an aircraft engine manufacturer, sees the increased linkages among infrastructure elements as suited to its portal vision.

"The Enterprise Web is the logical culmination of what we've been doing, to be able to use [the portal] for secure and high-performance access to all our business processes from anywhere," said Colin Karsten, manager of infrastructure services program at Pratt & Whitney. "We want to leave the complexity on the back end. Let the IT guys deal with it."

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