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Microsoft Gathers Support for Portal Platform

Microsoft Corp. Tuesday unveiled the latest developer toolkit that helps businesses improve the content in their portals -- and it has gotten plenty of help from numerous software makers.

The kit, Microsoft's Digital Dashboard Resource Kit (DDRK), is free and was designed with the software giant's SharePoint Portal Server 2001 and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 digital dashboards in mind.

The whole idea behind Microsoft's SharePoint portal server is to improve upon the company's idea of "business agility," which is essentially a buzzphrase that means the company's software allows customer transactions and collaborations to be conducted asseamlessly as possible.

Microsoft's digital dashboard technology is a portal framework that allows workers to collaborate on personal, team, corporate and external information. Web-based content can be integrated into the portal via Web Parts (XML wrappers around pre-existing Web-based code), which allows existing enterprise systems to become integrated, such as analytical and collaborative tools in Microsoft Office, Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft SQL Server, into their corporate portal.

Web Parts shipping in the DDRK 3.0 can be used with SharePoint Portal Server, or with custom-built Exchange 2000 or SQL Server 2000 digital dashboards. SharePoint Portal Server is a flexible portal solution that allows companies to easily find, share and publish information.

The suite also features a Web Part Gallery with more than 100 Web Parts for use in connecting enterprise content to the portal. The Web Parts integrate Microsoft applications, MSN services, and enterprise-level applications, including those from SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc. to provide interfaces into customers' existing business systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and knowledge management applications.

The three-CD Digital Dashboard Resource Kit 3.0 will include a CD dedicated to SQL Server 2000 digital dashboard development, a 120-day SharePoint Portal Server evaluation edition, and a Web Part Development Kit containing the Web Part Gallery. The Web Part Development Kit will include portal integration tools designed to convert TopTier iViews and InfoImage Portal Objects into Web Parts.

Developers will also have access to code samples and white papers that enable them to build Web Parts and custom SQL-based dashboards for the desktop and mobile devices.

Some of the companies that have created Web Parts available on the Web Part Gallery include .netWire, Avanade, Bridge, Business Objects, Cornerstone Concepts, Correlate Technologies, Decision Support Panel, Elite, eRoom, Factiva, FileNet, Hoovers, Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions, Moreover, Navision, NQL, Pcubed, Plural, ProClarity Corp., Sage, SAS, Tactical Marketing Ventures and TopTier/SAP Portals.

Business Objects SA said it will offer six business intelligence Web Parts that will integrate with SharePoint Portal Server.

Claiming his company shares the joint goal of providing customers up-to-date information with Microsoft, Business Objects SA's global alliance Vice President Mark Tice said the Web Parts "deliver personalized access to secure and relevant business information and enable users to easily collaborate with colleagues directly from within the digital dashboard."

With the toolkit, Microsoft also gets to showcase its acquisition of Great Plains Software, a maker of business applications that allow organizations to conduct accounting, payroll and online transactions. Microsoft scooped up that firm in December 2000 for $1.1 billion in stock.

"Our Web Parts enable knowledge workers to access complementary information from multiple Microsoft Great Plains applications simultaneously, significantly improving their ability to access the right information quickly and easily," said Lynne Stockstad, vice president of e-business at Microsoft Great Plains.