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Can Lotus Sell Me on Portal? What would it take to make me a believer?

By Andrew Pollack on 11/19/2008 at 02:54 PM EST

I've been overtly hostile to IBM's Portal product for a long time now. I'll get to why in a minute. Is there something IBM Lotus can do to convince me that this is a product I would want to work with? Yes. Sure they can, but it won't be easy.

The idea of a "Portal Server" kind of tool actually appeals to me. The concept matches the kind of work do when I build sites in Domino. You create resources and display them through standardized wrappers and it all works well. In practice, this particular product doesn't do it in a way I'm willing to adopt yet.

What spurs this note is a conversation I had today about Sametime and Quickr. It is my contention that these two products should be entirely moved to their Websphere/Portal back-end versions -- as soon as Websphere/Portal can really accommodate them. That means, to me, as soon as the same functionality currently offered on Domino will sell if offered on a J2EE based version. Those two products, even when delivered on a Domino server, aren't very much Domino applications. There's almost nothing "Domino" about them from an Admin or from a Development point of view. The current split strategy is making things difficult for customers to understand, price, and manage. So why not just move them and be done?

At present, those I spoke to about this believe that it wouldn't sell anywhere near as well. If that's true, it makes a really good milestone to judge the future developments of Portal against. When the same functionality at the same price will sell just as well on a Websphere/Portal server as it will on a Domino server, we'll know its ready.

To get someone like me to buy into that product line, the following criteria need to be me:

Installing, maintaining, and upgrading a Portal server must be as integrated and manageable as any other application server. I should be able to take an image (on CD, DVD, or Downloaded file) and a README file and have a server up and running in an hour. It should have a single administration entry point in which each choice is documented. I should run on a machine with two single core processors or one dual core, and need no more than 2gb of ram to run smoothly. I'm not saying a server that size has to handle 10,000 users -- but it has to handle a local office size environment.

So, can this be done? Can the platform scale to a point where it can be adopted by the innovators out here?


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Can Lotus Sell Me on Portal? What would it take to make me a believer?By Craig Wiseman on 11/20/2008 at 07:29 AM EST
I have to agree. It's not the functionality of Portal I have issues with. It's
the implementation. Way too many loose edges and 'magic' things you just have
to know in order to get it running and then support it.

Can you confirm/deny that the Xpages implementation grafts a J2EE engine into
Domino 8.5? If so, that'd be a nifty thing for them to run portal on.
There are rumors but even they don't go so far as that.By Andrew Pollack on 11/20/2008 at 07:57 AM EST
I've heard a couple of people speculate that to show xpages required a j2ee
engine to be wedged in there. So far as I know that's not really all the way
true because to be a true j2ee engine requires a set of features that aren't
all necessary for what they've done.

I have no idea what that all means for the future of what you can do on the
Domino server.
re: Can Lotus Sell Me on Portal? What would it take to make me a believer?By Gerald Mengisen on 11/20/2008 at 07:47 AM EST
Andrew,
Your requirements look like a nice wish list - I hope the Portal team gets to
read it. During last year's Portal conference in Munich, they vowed to make the
install and configuration easier - and it has gotten easier. WPS 4 was terrible
to install; WPS 6 at least you can get up and running without need to hook it
up to an LDAP directory or an external database.

I, too, would like a single admin interface and not fiddle once in WAS and once
in WPS. I just don't know if it can be done since the portal is one huge WAS
application and uses WAS for all things security. Maybe parts of the WAS
console could be mirrored into WPS.

The 2GB of RAM work for a development environment if you install WPS on Linux.
When you deal with portals on Java, you have just a few layers more that eat
memory (JVM, WAS), so no surprise 2GB are tight. That's why 64bit-support with
WPS 6.1 was great news to me because RAM on a 32bit portal is the resource that
runs out first.

Finally, if you find the correct use case for a portal, then the server is
certainly justified. For an intranet, I personally believe a portal server is
overkill and WCM is overly complex. But if you want to surface to one desktop
the 3 key applications for a business user and link them via portlet wiring so
that the user can have a new integrated solution, then I'm all for it.
re: Can Lotus Sell Me on Portal? What would it take to make me a believer?By John Head on 11/20/2008 at 10:31 AM EST
I think you will be disappointed if you go in with that mindset Andrew. Here is
why:

1. Portal is no harder to install and maintain than Oracle Portal, SAP,
JDEdwards, and any other Portal or Integration server.

2. Portal is not an application server - that is WAS. And yes, WAS can run
under all of those terms you set.

3. But more importantly, Portal's strength is at being the integration software
in an application. Portal works best when bringing application together. Like
multiple financial, insurance, or health care systems. Think about a company
that aquires businesses and has to integrate multiple systems ... like this one
http://www.psclistens.com/enTouchCMS/app/viewDocument?docID=3460&parntCatgId=17

Portal is also great as an ECM delivery mechanism. Yes, Quickr is the 'ecm' UI
for IBM for the next couple years, but Portal Quickr J2EE is going to be huge
in ECM.

Portal is also the application that seems to have the most success going head
to head with Sharepoint, either to displace or defend. Quickr is usually
included in those sales, but Portal is the key.

I think its great your being open minded and willing to get the pitch Andrew,
but not sure Portal can meet those expectations. In most cases, I would not
take Portal into a 'local office size environment'
re: Can Lotus Sell Me on Portal? What would it take to make me a believer?By Craig Wiseman on 11/20/2008 at 01:50 PM EST
In my experience (like .this week.), Portal is "key" because the IBM salesforce
don't find it worth the time to work on a sale that doesn't include it. In
fact, they seem to go to extreme efforts to make the case for
Portal/Connections regardless of what fits.

Example:
Company with 100% Domino infrastructure and overworked admins wants document
mgt and is looking at Sharepoint. IBM gets them a Quikr-on-Portal demo
environment. My question was "what are we integrating with Portal to make it
worth it? The answer: Quickr.

It really looks like if you have a problem, Portal is the answer. Which is
backassward.
Fair points JohnBy Ben Poole on 11/21/2008 at 06:19 AM EST
I take isue with #1 though ;o)

"Portal is no harder to install and maintain than Oracle Portal, SAP,
JDEdwards, and any other Portal or Integration server."

That's true, I'm sure, but it's not a plus point for Websphere Portal Server!

If WPS is to succeed, it must be a straightforward install, and must beat those
other systems hands-down. Each major release has gotten better, but there's a
long way to go yet.


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