IBM Dials up Web 2.0 For Enterprise Portals

IBM plans to announce today that it will bring the latest version of its portal software to the market this quarter — a release that aims to satisfy what it sees as a growing need for Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise.

WebSphere Portal 6.1 is a refresh of IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) current portal offering, with an added focus on the Web 2.0 features that the company has been loudly heralding as a vital part of its new model for enterprise software.

IBM is not alone in its campaign to introduce corporate IT to Web 2.0. Increasingly, companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are delving into the enterprise social software market. IBM has been aggressively promoting collaborative Web 2.0 products like Lotus Connections and its Mashup Center, and is now adding similar capabilities to its portal software.

The portal market is a more established business line than enterprise social software, but is still poised for strong growth. In a report published last July, research firm IDC projected that the market would grow to $1.4 billion by 2011, up from $900.8 million in 2006. The study also named IBM as the market leader for five years running.

“It’s all about making it much easier to bring in Web-based information into the portal,” said Steve Ricketts, program director of IBM’s WebSphere portal and workplace Web content management unit.

Ricketts said that in talking with clients since the release of WebSphere 6.0 in September 2006, IBM discovered that they increasingly expected the ability to import any type of Web content to their business portals.

“They don’t want to compromise,” Ricketts told “They want that very customized, adaptable Web 2.0 type of experience.”

WebSphere 6.1 will include a live tagging feature, which will add relevant context to information by mashing it up with data pulled from another source. Clicking on the address of a customer, for instance, might bring up a map with directions.

With version 6.0, only limited forms of data were available for this type of portal mashup, Ricketts said. “What we’ve done with this one is we’ve really expanded the list of elements that you can bring in.”

The new software also provides iterative updates of Web pages, so information will appear on the screen without having to refresh the browser. This AJAX-enabled feature was included in version 6.0, but it only applied to the portlets — the connections to a business’s back-end system that are embedded in the portal.

Now, Ricketts said, the update applies to all parts of the portal, speeding performance and reducing bandwidth consumption.

In addition to the core portal software, IBM is also announcing that it will ship two WebSphere 6.1 accelerators, or add-on software packages, this quarter. The Dashboard Accelerator will sync up with business intelligence software from IBM Cognos, SAP’s Business Objects, and Oracle’s Hyperion. The Content Accelerator will offer authoring templates for quickly creating blogs and other content.

Separately, IBM plans to announce the development of an entry-level version of its Lotus Forms software code-named Total Forms. Expected to ship in beta in June, Total Forms will be geared for technical novices to develop create and distribute electronic forms.

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