IBM Delivers New iSeries ‘Starting Point’
July 13, 2004 Dan Burger
New OS/400 portal software is available from IBM as part of its Solutions Builder Express portfolio of pre-built software templates. Last week Big Blue launched five new “Starting Points,” which are templates designed to help resellers or system integrators instigate implementations in areas, such as e-commerce Web sites, or analytics software. The new template IBM delivered for the iSeries is called the Collaborative Community and Employee Portals for IBM eServer iSeries.
The Employee Portal for iSeries is designed for companies that can take advantage of an intranet, or portal, that gives employees a single point of access to their personal information, management tools (e-mail, reminders, “to do” lists), business applications, business information, and productivity tools.
There are several primary benefits of implementing this type of portal. It allows various types of users (for instance, employees in customer service, operations, or marketing) to access the same applications and company resources. This has the potential to improve productivity based on accessibility to company resources, and it can also play a role in increasing the sense of community among employees, regardless of whether employees are located in one facility or spread out in numerous locations. It also provides the infrastructure to allow employees, customers, or partners to access necessary information, applications, and resources, with devices such as a desktop, WAP, or PDA. Customization allows controlled access based on roles, needs, and privileges.
Implementation relies on the portal architecture. That begins with the portal server, which presents the content and structure of the portal Web site to users. It also manages access to all the elements. The portal server runs as an application on the Web application server.
The Web application server, as well as any additional application servers, can serve as runtime hosts for customer applications, which can be integrated into the portal. The Web (HTTP) server provides connection services and the Web page content for the browser clients generated by the portal server.
One or more database servers are used as a repository for storing configuration data for the portal and application servers as well as customer application data. This data can be accessed within the portal directly or though applications. Directory services provided by an LDAP directory are used for user authentication and authorization.
The suggested runtime environment for the portal includes a variety of hardware and software. The list includes WebSphere Portal Express for iSeries Version 5.0.2 with components that include the HTTP server, DB2, WebSphere Application Server with Enterprise Enablement, and WebSphere Portal Server. V5R2 or i5/OS is required.
Hardware requirements include 750 CPW per WebSphere Portal instance, 2 GB of memory per WebSphere Portal instance, and 1.5 GB of free disk space to start, plus 0.5 GB free disk space for each additional portal instance.
Because the Express product line is focused on small and midsized businesses (companies with 100 to 1,000 employees, according to IBM), the success of Express rests on the shoulders of IBM’s value added reseller channel. It is the VAR channel and the system integrators that have the most trusted point of entry into organizations at this level, and, fortunately for the iSeries, the business partner channel is one of the best in the industry. Matching the technology, products, and services to small business operations is the goal that determines success.
To this end, the Starter Points program was designed to include templates, guidelines for implementation, and tutorials to help the VARs, the integrators, and the users to get up and running. In the big picture portals are expected to be critical in tying together disparate business solutions. According to IBM market research, more than 75 percent of midsized businesses across the globe operate in heterogeneous computing environments. However, at this point, portal technology is more accurately described in terms of companies getting familiar with the technology. Many small and midsized businesses are coping with how to integrate their own processes and systems before looking externally. Express is seen as a building block, a scalable, on-demand type of program that will grow as businesses grow.
Within small and midsized businesses beats the heart of many iSeries servers, which makes the success of that brand, as well the success of the Express product line, a critical play for IBM in its defense against Microsoft. Overall, IBM has invested $500 million in its Small and Medium Business Advantage program in past two years. Primarily this has gone to VARs and independent software vendors. The Express software program is also a big part of this investment. According to IBM’s recent announcement, 3,000 business partners across the globe have been enabled to build and sell IBM Express middleware solutions since the portfolio’s launch.
It was with the VARs and independent software vendors in mind that IBM created the Solutions Builder Express program, which was launched earlier this year. That program spotlights six areas: business integration, business intelligence, content management, e-commerce, infrastructure, and portal/workplace. It also takes aim at key industries, which are electronics, banking, retail, financial markets, automotive, insurance, wholesale, and consumer packaged foods.
In addition to the Collaborative Community and Employee Portals for IBM eServer iSeries Starting Point, IBM is adding four other Starting Points to its Solutions Builder Express Portfolio. The list includes Collaborative Document Management in Banking, Retail e-commerce Website, Cross-industry B2B e-commerce, and B2C e-commerce Analytics. Since its launch at PartnerWorld this year, Solutions Builder Express has delivered 17 Starting Points to business partners working with Express middleware.