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corporate portal experience

Hi all,

My company is reviewing the use of portal software (eg. Plumtree, Novell extend, vignette, etc). Our company is 1000+ person company, and use SAP for most of enterprise application, except Peoplesoft for HR. We still use some client-server apps, which some are not be migrated into web-based apps in the future.

My question is for anyone who work for in a company which already use portal, or for IT person who are involved in the portal deployment and especially the data integration part:
Please share with me (and other JOS'ers) your experience using and/or deploying it. Is it beneficial? easy to use? easy to deploy? easy to integrate with other apps?

Thank you beforehand,

gobar
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Er... What are looking for, exactly? Some tool to build web applications and manage content?

In that case, there are a bunch of engines and frameworks available, some open-source, some commercial. Personnaly, after playing with PHP, I finally understood the advantage of using a tool like Zope ( www.zope.org ), but you might have restrictions imposed by the legacy apps you need to work with.

Frederic Faure
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I've been involved in with MS SharePoint and my only recommendation is that you steer clear of it for now.

SharePoint is promising product that has tons of great features, but it's still a very new and unpolished product. At my current client, we have SharePoint being used by about 500 users which isn't a very heavy load. Even on a $50K quad-processor Compaq server with 2 GB RAM, we've seen SharePoint bring the box to it's knees.

We also had a lot of problems with the data store getting corrupted and memory getting fragmented after a few days of running and Microsoft's response to us was to schedule a reboot every night.

Go Linux Go!
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

SharePoint 2.0 beta was just released a couple days ago, I installed it on my machine - send me an email and I'll send you the link - I'd post it but I don't need 1000 connections to my cable modem ;-)

Seems pretty spiffy compared to the original sharepoint.

GiorgioG
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

After an evaluation of Plumtree, IBM Webshpere Portal Extend and Tibco ActivePortal my company picked Plumtree's Corporate Portal.

We selected Plumtree on the fit (Windows 2000, SQL Server, Active Directory integration) as well as the ability to write portlets in any language. This is key since we are not a java shop today. Unlike you, we didn't have to integrate to a big name package such as SAP or Peoplesoft so we had to do our own Portlet development.

We had a number of systems we needed to extend as extranets but wanted the security, search, collaboration, wireless device integration, etc.. that a Portal like Plumtree gives you.

It really depends on your requirements on which Portal to go for but I think the 3 we researched would be a good start.

Luke
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Tell me if I'm stupid bringing this up again...

Microsoft has an open-source portal framework at
http://www.asp.net/

I have no idea if it would meet your needs, but I figure you should at least *look* at the free one before spending six figures. [grin]

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I worked with the Plumtree Corporate Portal for almost two years at my former employer.  If you want advanced collaboration, workflow, and content management features, you have to purchase that add-on suite from Plumtree, which we did not do, because of the extra expense.

We used Plumtree more as a web-based file repository, where files could be shared with clients. Each client would have its own community within Plumtree. The user and group privs within Plumtree restricted access. When creating apps for Plumtree, it was easy to make use of Plumtree's security. Our Plumree installation contained the Verity search engine.

I was pleased with Plumtree's tech support. They responded quick. I called on Plumtree a lot at the beginning of our implementation, but rarely afterwards.

What's nice about Plumtree is their "Gadget" technology, which means homegrown apps can easily plug into Plumtree and appear on a user's MyPage or on the community (workgroup) page. Plumtree offers many gadgets too, some free and some at a cost. The default look for the personal MyPages and community pages is similar to  My Yahoo!.

There was one community, however, that I did a lot of extra programming on to produce a look that made it appear to have nothing to do with Plumtree. I created my own basic content management system for this community  that allowed Marketing people to add content, and manage the web pages within the community. But my custom code took advantage of Plumtree's security, folder structure, users, search,  etc., which meant it was faster to develop the site within Plumtree than as a stand-alone app.

I created a lot of gadgets, and once a repository is built-up, it's simple to create a new community for a client. The client picks from a menu as to what they want on their site. The community setup is done within Plumtree's web-based admin interface.  I also created many gadgets for users to put on their personal MyPage.

We didn't use Plumtree to tie into any back office applications. We did build a few internal communites, but they were used mainly as a virtual file folders. The biggest problem with internal implementions was getting the employees to see the value of the portal.

I know the Plumtree systems are used daily at my former company, but it was never accepted as much as I would have liked. People are used to working in an e-mail client, a browser, some kind of MS Office app, and maybe an internal custom app, and that's about it. A new system  better show a good reason for employees to use it, and it better show it fast or it gets ignored. You need that "killer" internal app to get people to use the portal, or mandate that they use it, which is not good.

Plumtree provides gadget develoment kits for several languages. We installed Plumtree on Windows 2000 servers, and I used the ASP development kit, except I used PerlScript. I had all of the advantages available in VBScript, plus the zillion Perl modules at CPAN.org, and the other features I like about Perl. But if Cold Fusion, ASP .Net, or Java is your thing, then Plumtree will work. It also helps that you have over $100,000 budgeted for the project, which I'm guessing you do based upon your other systems.

Plumtree seemed fast to me. You can run all of the different Plumtree services (portal, admin, search, job, gadget) on one server or split them out on multiple servers. You can have multiple gadget servers to balance the load of your apps. The web-based admin is easy for someone else to use. Sub-admins can be created for the communities, which took away some mundane work from me. If a community needs new users added, the admin for that community could do it.

Overall, we were pleased with Plumtree. Any system will have positives and negatives, but the positives won out in my opinion. Still, as a programmer, I believe two or three people in a few months could have created a system that would have filled our needs. It depends upon your requirements.  You have the type of internal apps that Plumtree is meant to work with. I think our needs were simpler than yours, and that's why an open-sourced system or a custom built one would have been better for my old workplace. 

Again, if you have the money, and if your programmers are tied up for months with other projects, then go with Plumtree.

munger
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Munger pretty much said it all. I have heard good things about Plumtree specially their Gadget technology.

Prakash S
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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