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IBM 'Accelerates' Websphere of Influence

IBM  today introduced a new framework and toolset allowing customers to build customized portlets that can help them access business applications through their Websphere portals.

The first of these, which IBM is calling "business accelerators," is the Dashboard Accelerator, which allows customers to assemble dashboards and scorecards from a catalog of pre-built portlets.

Customers can then use them to aggregate data from line-of-business (LOB) applications, such as customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software running behind the firewall, as well as outside sources like news feeds, into a single view.

The application is able to pull data from a variety of proprietary systems, said Steven Ricketts, program director for Websphere portal and Web content, because it builds on both the Websphere Portal Server architecture and the tooling technology IBM acquired when it bought portal-maker Bowstreet in December 2005.

"This is important because you have to have an open architecture that can be configured to a customer's environment," Ricketts told internetnews.com.

The new tooling technology also introduces AJAX  to Websphere. This gives customers access to important improvements in the user interfaces of their portlets, including the ability to edit information or change the appearance of charts. "It's the most comprehensive Web 2.0 support on the [enterprise] market," said Ricketts.

IBM plans to introduce an employee self-service accelerator around mid-year, allowing customers to aggregate all of their different human resource provider applications, such as payroll processing or 401(k) management, into a single portlet.

It also plans to introduce a content-management accelerator and a collaboration accelerator during the second half of the year, at which point it will offer all four accelerators as part of a single package.

The Websphere Portal Server itself is priced at $51,500 per processor and the Dashboard Accelerator at $67,000. Pricing for the other accelerators is not yet available.

IBM is in a battle with Microsoft  as well as smaller niche vendors in the enterprise portal space, although the word "portal" is falling out of favor. (Microsoft, for instance, calls its flavor SharePoint Server.) Gartner analyst David Gootzit said the market for these kinds of horizontal collaborative portals represents $1 billion in software revenue alone.

Gootzit told internetnews.com that the Dashboard Accelerator will be of particular interest to companies with heavy investment in business-intelligence applications. "Being able to tie them together in a unified interface is a value that most companies would find compelling," he said.



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