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Vignette Launches App Portal Outreach

Vignette's latest version of Application Portal hit the streets Monday, featuring enhancements in Java standards, and a bid to woo companies that want to build up corporate Web sites.

Vignette Application Portal (VAP) 7.0 features essential support for Java Specification Request 168 (JSR-168), a Java specification that standardizes the use of portlets within a corporate portal site. Portlets are similar to servlets in that they let people perform specific tasks in the portal browser that reside in a back-end application.

The portal offering is also a re-branding process, skipping from its existing version 4.5 past 5 and 6 to align with its Vignette V7 platform. For the first time and in a nod to industry outreach, officials at the Austin software vendor are also giving out free 60-day trials of the software for potential customers to test drive.

The free download trial is likely a concession to the increasingly competitive portal landscape and Vignette's relatively late entrance with software that supports JSR-168.

Sun Microsystem's Portal Server beta included JSR-168 last July, while portal vendor Plumtree released its own version in September, both before the actual final approval of the standard in October 2003. In November, a portlet community was established by Sun, BEA Systems , Documentum and Plumtree to address the JSR's adoption in business.

None of the earlier-released software featured the final, approved version of JSR-168. Vignette first announced Application Portal 7.0 with portlet support last month; Fergus Griffin, Vignette spokesperson, said the decision to hold off release of its own version was a combination of the Java Community Process (JCP) changing certification standards late last year and providing a finished product.

"We did not jump the gun and release half-baked support for the standard until it was ratified, and more importantly, the (Technology Compatibility Kit) was not finalized until the fourth quarter," he told internetnews.com. "And while it was probably good for marketing clout to say you supported (JSR-168) already, there's a difference between intending to be in compliance and actually being there." Vignette developers wanted to give customers more collaboration tools in their portal application and went out and bought up a company to do so. Griffin said a robust collaboration suite leads to more interest in a portal to centralize the information sent back and forth along the network.

Last September, the company acquired Intraspect, a collaboration software developer specializing in end-to-end collaboration tools.

It's that internal dissemination of information that prompted developers to make many of its improvements in VAP 7.0 with an eye towards the corporate intranet. Griffin pointed to research that indicates 50 to 60 percent of portals are used within the company between employees, not outside the network.

Because of this need, Vignette created a number of applications that can be plugged in by the customer for their internal portals: human resources self-service, recruiting, surveys, event calendars, FAQs and sales dashboards to name a few.

Griffin expects a much larger audience of people trying out their latest software, something he said they've been working to improve.

"In the past, it hasn't always been the easiest to get a hold of our software just to experience it and understand how it's different from some of what we would call the sub-par kind of portal frameworks that are out there," he said. The download is available here.