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Oracle Offers Web Services-friendly Portal Software

Looking to keep ahead of the curve in the software-as-a-service sector, Oracle Friday took the lid off of its new portal enhancements for Oracle9i Application Server, which are geared to integrate data from multiple data sources including Web Services, spreadsheets and Web sites.

The features, dubbed OmniPortlet and Web Clipping by the Redwood Shores, Calif. software maker, take the customization and portal development integration chores away from information technology (IT) departments and bestows them on end-users, making it possible for the not-so-tech savvy to customize content and integrate data via simple interfaces. Enterprise portals are vital pieces of the business supply chain puzzle, as they connect partners, customers and suppliers with crucial steps in the business process. They are used to consolidate Web sites and personalize information to provide employees with greater efficiencies.

While at first glance this would seem to place an added burden on the end-user, Oracle assures the public OmniPortlet and Web Clipping increase productivity because IT workers save the time of putting the requests through IT personnel. The tools also decrease the development costs by association.

John Magee, vice president, Oracle9i Application Server marketing, said OmniPortlet lets business users access Web services, XML, and spreadsheet data sources and publish them in various formats including reports, forms, charts and news, in the form of a portlet, which is a small window displayed within a portal page.

"This is the first-generation of smart clients that is Web services-aware out of the box," Magee told internetnews.com.

How does this save time? Previously, the process for displaying Web services and other data through portlets was complicated because developers had to use standards such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) to render desired data.

"Normally, when end-users need to see certain information, they may file request with the IT group, which gets it done in about three months," Magee explained. "This eliminates the 'Webmaster bottleneck.'"

Also with OmniPortlet, Magee said data that formerly needed to be coded by developers can now be pulled from almost any department in the company by an end-user to be transformed into a single report that displays all of the data in any format.

Accompanying OmniPortlet, the new Web Clipping feature makes it easier for portal page creators to capture content and functionality from internal Web sites and present them as portlets. In the past, developers had no way to centralize and integrate content pieces from different sources, such as portions of Web site text, graphics and reports into a portal. With Web Clipping, a browser may be used as an editing tool that allows Web-based content to be extracted and quickly turned into a portlet.

Brian McDonough, research manager for Enterprise Portal Solutions at IDC, approved of the new Oracle tools and said "these new capabilities are designed to make publishing information and applications less costly."

Oracle made it clear at its OracleWorld conference last November that it would be revving up its Web services engines come April, but Friday's announcements prove the company couldn't wait to unveil some of its new wares. Rival BEA Systems made back in November with its Liquid Data product, which performs similar tasks for enterprise portals. However, Magee said, it is geared for much more technology-savvy programmers.

OmniPortlet and Web Clipping are currently available for download via Oracle Technology Network (OTN) and will be included in the upcoming release of Oracle9i Application Server.