In-Depth

Web services and portals

'There's no such thing as a portal standard right now,' said Tom Koulopoulos, president of Boston-based Delphi Group. But relief may be in sight with the emergence of Web services and the work of the industry group OASIS, which is attempting to define a standard, Web Services for Remote Portals (WSRP), that will allow the plug-and-play of visual, user-facing Web services with portals or other intermediary Web applications.

'Web services have a key part to play [with portals],' said Colin White, president of Database Associates, Ashland, Ore. 'Each portal product has its own unique way of accessing business content - portlets, adapters, gadgets. If you can make content available as a Web service, whether it's business intelligence or content management, that enables that content to be accessed through any portal. It makes portal integration easier,' he said.

Both users and portal vendors are looking in the direction of Web services. Said Britt Hed, IS director at Staples, 'Web services is the direction we're going, and it's what we're doing with some custom applications. It will give me an opportunity as director of technical resources to move resources where they're needed.'

Added Michael Young, chief architect at San Francisco-based Plumtree Software Inc., 'The holy grail is interoperability. We finally have standards driven by the Internet, where Microsoft, IBM and Sun will agree that this is the way to standardize communications across systems. Portals are about interoperability; we built infrastructure to support that kind of deployment.' In May, Plumtree announced the Plumtree Corporate Portal 4.5WS, which completes Plumtree's Web Services Architecture.

What do Web services mean to companies implementing a portal? 'It means that if they've made an investment in mainframes, older Microsoft technology or J2EE, they can leverage it all without throwing it away or rewriting it,' said Young. 'With Web services, you're basically sending messages in and out.'

See the related story 'IT still spending on portals'

About the Author

Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.

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