Oracle rolls out middleware with portlet support

At least one major Canadian Oracle customer used the company’s recent OpenWorld conference in San Francisco to explore software that will put some Web 2.0 features into its Enterprise Portal product.

Oracle introduced Web Center Suite, a middleware module that extends Java Server Faces and NetBeans with support for portlets with a client based on asynchronous Java and XML, or AJAX. The software is designed to let Oracle customers build in Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and RSS feeds into company intranets, internal dashboards and other portals.

“Right now the interactivity with portals is fairly limited,” said Thomas Kurian, senior vice-president of Oracle Fusion middleware via Webcast from OpenWorld. “We believe those technologies are fundamentally changing how people interact over the Internet.”

Kurian said Web Center Suite will allow enterprise IT organizations to create “mashup” applications that combine content from databases and other repositories such as their PeopleSoft, JD Edwards or Siebel systems. Business users will be able to access this data through MS Office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, he said. They will be able to do the same thing with personal digital assistants or voice over IP clients, he said.

Canadian Oracle Portal customers include Calgary-based Petro-Canada, which connected it to content stored in a system from Documentum (later acquired by EMC) last year. John Matthew, Petro-Canada’s manager of financial and enterprise systems, said he was aware of Oracle’s Web 2.0 push.

“I have people down there (at OpenWorld) this week to look at exactly that,” he said, adding that some employees within Petro-Canada use some Web 2.0 tools today, but none from Oracle. “There’s blogs, there’s wikis – it depends on the group.”

Glen Cripps, a member of the Ottawa Oracle User Group who works at Health Canada, was less certain Web Center Suite would make it into his office anytime soon.

“If you’re talking about creating those big central portals, it’s not happening here,” he said. “The tools are there, but it’s a question of demand at this point.”

Cripps said Health Canada does make use of Oracle’s implementation of Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) in its business intelligence products, an updated version of which was also launched at OpenWorld.

“It’s matured very quickly,” he said.

Web 2.0 tools have found some enterprise users who are interested in loosely structured types of portals, said George Goodall, an analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research. This is an evolution from using simple office tools like Microsoft Access to collaborate on projects, he said.

“The question is, how well is that going to play with IT departments that are concerned with compliance and tightly structured systems?” he said, adding that business departments may be more likely to champion the technology. “There’s almost a mismatch in terms of the users it will benefit and the audience Oracle will be marketing it towards.”

Oracle also offered users a preview of E-Business Suite 12 and an identity management system at OpenWorld.

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