Sun portal server to support latest Java spec

Sun Microsystems' latest version of its portal server software will have support for a proposed Java specification that could...

Sun Microsystems' latest version of its portal server software will have support for a proposed Java specification that could save time and effort for businesses building portals.

Java Specification Request (JSR) 168, which is also backed by IBM and BEA Systems, among others, is expected to be finalised by early September, Sun officials said.

Sun will support the specification in a beta version of its Sun One Portal Server 6.2, which will be released early next week to a dozen or more of its larger customers. It hopes to ship the final version of its product in mid to late September, said Adam Abramski, a Sun product line manager.

Portals are basically websites that aggregate information for end users, including content such as weather reports or news feeds, and applications such as e-mail or sales automation tools. The various elements are displayed on the page in the form of "portlets", or windows of information that can be personalised for employees and customers.

One problem with portal development is that portlets designed for one portal server cannot be deployed easily on a server from another supplier. That means businesses risk becoming dependent on one portal vendor, or have to recode portlets for use across other platforms, costing time and money.

One of the main goals of the specification is to define a standard API (application programming interface) that will allow developers to write a portlet once and deploy it from any compliant server with little or no recoding. JSR 168 is "probably the primary standard in the portal space related to Java and interoperability," said Meta Group analyst David Yockelson.

"If I make a decision on a portal vendor and they are 168-compliant, that tells me I don't have to rely on that vendor's potentially proprietary development methods to build my portlets. So if I bought another portal server later on, or if I have a second portal, it's possible I can get some re-use from my portlets or, at least, leverage the development capabilities I have across those environments," he said.

The specification will also comply with Web Services for Remote Portals (WSRP), another standard being hammered out by the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis), said Alejandro Abdelnur, the Sun engineer co-leading the JSR 168 spec.

"WSRP is about a web services standard that will allow a Web portal to consume, display and interact with portlets that are running somewhere else, so you don't have to deploy the portlet into the portal server itself. ... It defines a common web services definition language contract and the semantics behind each operation," he said.

Along with its Sun One Portal Server, Sun will support JSR 168 in Portlet Builder 2.0, a plug-in to Sun One Developer Studio. The plug-in will be available next week to all registered Sun developers, allowing them to start developing and testing portlets compliant with JSR 168. They will also have access to source code for sample portlets that use JSR 168, and a white paper on the topic, Sun said.

James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service

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