Plumtree reins in diverse Web apps
Portal package oversees security, content, collaboration, and search
Does your organization often turn to portals in an attempt to manage the sprawl of Web-based applications? If so, you may be all too aware that these projects can fail to deliver their anticipated ROI. That’s because IT managers overlook the need to extend core functions -- content management, search, and security -- to the applications that appear within a portal. As a result, companies often settle for a portal that provides a decent user experience for a few locally hosted functions. However, the portal doesn’t provide an overarching administration framework, nor does it help you lower development and maintenance expenses.
Of the top portal vendors -- Microsoft, IBM, and Plumtree -- the latter appears to best understand these issues and effectively address them.
Plumtree Enterprise Web Suite includes major updates to every Plumtree product. Plumtree Corporate Portal 5.0 offers new community, knowledge management, and administrative functions, most notably the ability to index content and broker security from many systems. Complementing the portal are the Plumtree Search, Collaboration, Content, and Studio (portlet development) Servers that better integrate with the portal. Equally important, you get an architecture based entirely on Web services (either Java or .Net), which simplifies creating portal applications and customizing the user interface.
Plumtree Corporate Portal 5.0 streamlines setup so deploying this solution requires fewer customization steps and less time compared to Version 4. For example, ready-made configurations for menu layouts and navigation cut my initial setup time to about half a day.
The straightforward tab-based navigation is consistent throughout, which simplifies management and use of the portal. My testing started with user and group administration. I especially liked this version’s support for groups within groups, which I created dynamically by synchronizing with an LDAP directory server. As a result, the only small amount of work at this step was granting groups access to certain portal areas.
Similarly, I had no trouble creating page and community templates, which entailed simply picking the desired task from a drop-down list and then pointing to a specific object. To build a page template, for instance, I navigated to the Collaboration Server folder, selected various out-of-the-box portlets (including calendar, discussions, and task lists) and then dragged and dropped them where I wanted them on the page.
Portals often give each user a “My Page” they can personalize, which is certainly possible with Plumtree. But truly useful portals these days are community-based -- another Plumtree 5.0 strong point. As with other tasks, community-building went swiftly: I merely named my community, selected a template for the Home Page, and applied branding, such as a custom header and footer.
Even in this early stage, I appreciated Plumtree Portal’s granular security. Each object’s access control list determines who may, for example, read and edit it. As a result, with just a few page and community templates along with appropriate security settings, I created a unique portal experience for many users. Case in point: A person logging in with a specific marketing role was automatically directed to a community containing a calendar of trade shows for his interest area along with topical discussions.
Spanning the Enterprise