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Red Hat Delves into Applications

Red Hat charted a course beyond the operating system Monday, revealing its new Red Hat Enterprise Applications family, starting with the Red Hat Enterprise Content Management System (CMS) and the Red Hat Enterprise Portal Server.

The new applications give Red Hat a foothold higher up in the stack, adding a revenue stream while making its core offering -- the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating environment -- a more attractive package.

Both solutions are built on Red Hat's Web Application Framework, a platform for writing database-backed Web applications in Java. By leveraging the framework's APIs , applications can enable the authoring of persistent structured data and retrieve and display the data as content.

The framework also integrates services like search, versioning and permissions into its basic objects.

Red Hat promised that its CMS solution could get a company up to speed with content management in as little as two months. The J2EE-compliant software will be delivered with source code included, and provides a workflow-based engine for managing content on the intranet, extranet and Internet settings.

Unsurprisingly, the company is making 'open source' its selling point for the product, noting that "To be truly flexible, a system must offer extensibility and control beyond the 'customization' offered by a closed-source or an out-of-the-box system.

The company continued: "An organization must be able to extend and adapt a content management system to its specific needs, otherwise it will find its production environment adapting to the constraints of the content management system, which is neither efficient nor productive. An organization must also be able to make future changes and adaptations without requiring the involvement of external professional service teams. In short, a content management system must allow an organization complete control of functionality."

To ensure that sort of flexibility, Red Hat said different "instances" of its CMS can be mounted under the different "managed content" sections of an overall site, with each instance configured differently to handle a particular production process. However, all the instances would interface with a single content repository.

On the department level, configurable aspects include:

  • The primary content types to be produced
  • The workflow required for production
  • Deployment rules
  • Staffing.

Red Hat said organizations can configure "projects" or "departments" through a "Control Center" that is mounted as an application under the Site Map, with administrative authority limited to the same branch of the site where the Control Center instance is mounted.

Meanwhile, the company offered up its Portal Server as a framework for personalized and group-oriented aggregation and delivery of information. Portal Server uses a configurable framework that supports multiple languages in its user interface and pervasive devices with support for WAP, XHTML and VoiceXML in its rendering pipeline.

Red Hat listed numerous use cases for the Portal Server, including: creating portals from scratch or defined portal templates; administering user and group membership and privileges; aggregating local and remote content within a personalized framework; developing and integrating customized portlets for existing applications, data sources and work processes; syndicating or subscribing content using RSS feeds; and viewing globalized user interfaces in all user and administrator contexts.

Red Hat said Portal Server integrates directly with its portlets, including Discussion Forum, Document Manager, Resource Scheduler, Tasks, Calendar, Urgent Request Notification, Bookmarking and Chat.

Red Hat has already used the two new offerings to capture business from donut juggernaut Dunkin' Donuts. The Dunkin' Donuts Northeast Distribution Center -- the central point in a supply chain for more than 1,500 Dunkin' Donuts franchisees -- implemented the applications to build a franchisee portal that provides operational, marketing and training information to the franchisees. The Web-based portal also allows franchisees to place product orders, inquire on the status of orders and view order histories. The order management information comes from an existing back-office system, with the portal using standard XML to enable the information exchange.

"Our aggressive growth plans demanded a new approach to serving our franchisees," said Bryan Hartnett, general manager of the Northeast Distribution Center. "We knew that we had to deliver more than great products. Our franchisees need timely access to our central business systems, our expertise and the latest information about our products."