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Yesterday (3rd March) BEA announced version 8.1 of BEA WebLogic Portal, which is due to be generally available in mid-summer, writes Phil Howard.

WebLogic Portal was first released about 18 months ago as version 4.0. This reflected the fact that much of the functionality in WebLogic Portal had previously been available within BEA Personalisation Server, which had been in version 3.5.

The second release of WebLogic Portal was version 7.0, last summer and the numbering had changed to match that of the current version of WebLogic Server. This is the policy that BEA has now adopted for its entire product range, with the exception that the Application Server is now released in a .0 release, and all other products then appear together with the first point of release of WebLogic Server. Thus 8.1.

In practice, version 8.1 of WebLogic Portal is the first major update, at least in terms of functionality and user features, since the initial release of the product. Version 7.0 concentrated mainly on infrastructure improvements.

There are two key features to understand about WebLogic Portal. First, it is integrated with, and requires, WebLogic Server. This has some significant advantages, not only in performance terms but also with respect to features. For example, you can use Liquid Data (another part of the WebLogic Suite) to integrate internal and external data into the portal, more easily than would otherwise be the case.

Secondly, WebLogic Portal derives not only from the previous Personalisation Server but also from the former Commerce Server and Campaign Manager products. This means that it includes e-commerce and other capabilities that you would not normally expect from a portal product. In addition, features required for these environments, such as workflow, were implemented in WebLogic Portal long before most competitive products (some of which have still not implemented workflow).

There are three major areas of enhancement in version 8.1. The first is with the Unified Portal Framework, the second in Portal Lifecycle Management and the third is in Portal Business Services.

The most notable new feature of the Unified Portal Framework (UPF) is that there is enhanced support for a network of portals and, in particular, if security considerations mean that you need to have multiple distinct portals, then the integration with WebLogic Server means that you can do this within a single instance of the Application Server. This is a big advantage compared to most other suppliers, where multiple instances of the Server would be required.

As far as Portal Lifecycle Management is concerned, BEA has put a major emphasis on supporting business people in assembling their portals rather than requiring the intervention of the IT department. In addition, although this is really a function of the UPF, BEA has focused on allowing the whole environment to be created and supported without the need for Java programmers (because they are expensive).

Finally, in so far as Portal Business Services are concerned, BEA has introduced its own content management capabilities. These are not for heavy-duty requirements (for which BEA has a partnership with Documentum) but will be suitable for many users that do not have such in-depth requirements. Also in this release, BEA has extended the search capabilities of the embedded Autonomy engine, which now supports federated search capabilities; and has added a virtual content repository that allows you to manage or view third-party content repositories as if this was a single environment.

BEA claims over 750 customers for WebLogic Portal, making it a leading vendor in this market. © < a href="http://www.it-analysis.com">IT-Analysis.com

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