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Archive for the ‘WebSphere Portal’ Category

How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals, Part 3: Knockout Portlet

In this series, I’m showing how Portals don’t have to be heavyweight.  In Part 1, I wrote about how to make the infrastructure lighter by using cloud or IBM’s Pure System.  In Part 2, I introduced the concept of using IBM’s Web Content Manager system to build very simple portlets.

Now in this final installment, I am going to extend the concepts introduced in Part 2 to show how we can build more complex portlets, but still keep everything lightweight.  To review quickly, in Part 2, I avoided the build and deploy cycle of building Java portlets by using the built-in content management system – WCM.  In that example, I used WCM to display a Reuter’s news feed from a simple Javascript widget supplied by Reuters.

My Appointments Portlet

Final Appointments Portlet

In this blog, I want to implement a more complex portlet using Knockout, which is a popular Javascript framework.  My example is to display in a portlet a list of my Doctor Appointments pulled from a REST service.  Our goal is still to keep this lightweight, so I shouldn’t see a lot of code.  The first screen shot shows you what the final version looks like in Portal 8.

A typical web page or application consists of several sections:

  • CSS
  • Links to external files
  • HTML body
  • Javascript

In WCM, we can create an authoring template that contains four HTML fields, one for each of the sections described above. The authoring template also has a workflow associated with it so we can control the publishing of our code.
Read the rest of this post »

How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals, Part 2: Portlets

In part 1 of this series, How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals, I wrote about the infrastructure and installation aspects of Portals. To make the tasks of managing and installing portals, I recommended cloud solutions and for IBM, their PureApplication system both in the cloud and on-premise.

In Part 2, I turn my attention to applications and how to make task of developing portal applications more lightweight.

The goal of a portal is to combine applications and content at the glass for a user.  By this definition alone, we should always think of how to make lightweight portlets.  If you have a larger application to build, break it down into core components that can be built into separate portlets, rather than one large portlet.

Even if you can get to smaller, bite-sized applications or portlets, you are still faced with the underlying framework imposing additional layers on your efforts.  We’ll focus on Java-based portals to make the discussion simple and I’ll use IBM WebSphere Portal as an example.  Say we want to simply display a feed from Reuters as shown in our first picture here.

Reuters News Service

Reuters News Service


Reuters provides the javascript, so all we need to do is put it into a portlet for display on our page.

To create a portlet for use in IBM WebSphere Portal, a developer is going to use IBM Rational Application Developer (already a heavy-weight tool), create a new project using a wizard, fill in some details about the portlet, like name, Java version, etc.  and then hit go.  RAD will do a nice job of building the portlet shell with all the right components set up.  These components include xml files, TLD files, libraries or references, file folders and start JSP files.  Already, we have a lot of code to manage.

Once I put in my custom code, I then have to build the project, create a .war file, and then deploy it to WebSphere Portal. After its deployed, I can create a portal page, and my new portlet and I’m all set.  In most IT shops, build and deploy to production can take weeks or months just because IT has to control the changes to production very tightly.

If I’m a business guy who just wants a very simple portlet, this makes portal look heavyweight to me, but its likely the process than the technology.

So how to fix this?

Read the rest of this post »

How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals

One of the complaints we often hear about horizontal portal systems is they are complicated and feel “heavy”. What makes a system feel heavy and how can we lighten the load?

In a typical portal application we have to integrate multiple applications, content and document management systems, security, search, personalization, page management, etc, etc. is it any wonder why a portal would feel heavy when you try to bolt together all these systems? Some vendors have taken the approach that they will build all of these components into their horizontal portal, which makes them seem heavier out of the box. Other vendors go lighter out of the box, but then put the burden on others to integrate the missing parts.

Given that portals are naturally heavy, what can we do to lighten them up or make them appear lighter?

First, let’s talk about requirements. Do you really need all these systems integrated to accomplish your goals? If not, maybe simpler web pages built off simpler content management systems maybe all you need. For example, if your site is going to be content only or mostly content, then you probably don’t need a full blown horizontal portal.

But let’s assume a horizontal portal makes sense. Then you’ll likely need the portal software, an application server, a database server, an http server, a security system like LDAP, and maybe a few other servers just to get started. From an install and infrastructure point of view, that is a lot of heavy lifting to install all those servers and get them to work together.

To make this infrastructure lighter or appear lighter, we can turn to cloud vendors, or in the case of IBM their PureApp system. Let’s look at cloud vendors first.

IMG_0203.JPG

If you’ve kicked the cloud tires yet, you know it is fairly easy to get individual servers up and running. You can request a database instance, an http server, security, and an application server and have it running in minutes. In the portal world you may still have to install the portal server separately, but some vendors are able to have that provisioned too. In most case you still have configuration steps to take to get all of those servers to work together. Still the cloud makes the portal infrastructure feel lighter because you didn’t have as much work to do to get it running.

What if you can’t go cloud and have to stay on-premises? IBM has tackled that problem with their PureApplication System. With PureApp, IBM has defined system patterns and has created the tooling necessary to implement the patterns automatically. For a portal environment, an IBM pattern looks like this: two portal servers clustered, an http server, a db2 server, and a Websphere Deployment Manager. That’s a lot of servers and configuration and feels heavy.

In PureApp, with this defined pattern, the system can install and configure a complete WebSphere Portal production environment is less than an hour. Five servers, fully configured and operational in less than hour. Now that feels much more lightweight. My colleague Kate Tuttle just posted an article on our Healthcare Blog about how Blue Shield of California used PureApp in their portal implementation project.

In the next part of this post, I’ll talk about how to make portlet development lighter weight. Here is a link to part 2: How to Implement Lighter Weight Portals, Part 2: Portlets

Forrester Digital Experience Wave

Last week Forrester published their first Wave on Digital Experience Platforms.   I was at the IBM Digital Experience Conference and it sounded like IBM was expecting good news from Forrester in this wave.   In fact, Stephen Powers from Forrester was the Keynote speaker at the conference and one of the principal authors of the Wave.  Forrester Wave

Much to every one’s surprise, the Wave came out with nobody listed as a Leader.  Adobe, hybris (SAP), IBM and Sitecore came out as the Strong Performers followed by many others in the Contender category. Nobody was listed as a Risky Bet.

So what gives?  Really no Leaders?  Dom Nicastro wrote a story last week about this development: Forrester Wave: No Leaders in Digital Experience Delivery.

Forrester considers a Digital Experience Platform a full end-to-end delivery platform and most vendors fell short in the completeness of their offerings.  Each vendor seemed to shine in one or more areas, but nobody stood out as having all the components needed to be a Digital Experience Leader.

For me, part of the issue stems from how Forrester defined the market.  hybris from SAP is strong in Commerce, while Adobe and Sitecore are more known for their Web Content and Marketing capabilities.  So the companies included in the wave are really all over the map, in my opinion.

Is it fair to compare commerce systems with WCM systems?  Yes and no.  If you need commerce in your digital experience, then you want to know who has commerce capabilities.  If commerce isn’t important, then no and the analysis gets skewed.

There is a lot of interesting information in the Forrester report, so I encourage you to read it yourself.

WebSphere Portal and UI Myths and Facts

I don’t know how I missed it but Harish Bhavinachikar has a nice post on what you can do with modern UI tools in WebSphere Portal.  It’s on our Spark Blog but addresses something that keeps coming up again and again.  Frankly, the front-end tools have changed considerably in the last couple years.  Modern UI tools / frameworks like AngularJS, Bootstrap, JQuery, and a host of others make it easier to manage the UI and to further enforce separation of the front-end from the back-end. While a horizontal portal like IBM’s WebSphere Portal does some of that, it wont’ take you all that way.  But as Harish explains, all is not lost.   You can still leverage those frameworks and best practices within the portal.  I’ll let you read the entire post but here’s his list of Myths. Note how he is also telling you some best practices here.

  1. WebSphere Portal and UI Myths and FactsMyth – Websphere portal is not compatible with latest front end frameworks like bootstrap, foundation, jQuery Mobile, etc.

  2. Myth – Websphere portal is not compatible with jQuery and associated plugins.

  3. Myth – All the css, javascript, images associated with a portlet should be inside that portlet.

  4. Myth – To make a change in the css file, this should be done in the portal theme, deployed to QA, tested and then served to production.

  5. Best Practices a Front End Developer needs to follow while working with portal theme.

IBM Portlets Running on Liberty Profile on IBM Bluemix

You may not have heard of the Liberty Profile, unless you are interested in running WebSphere Application Server in a cloud environment like BlueMix.  Saurabh Agarwal and Jaspreet Singh presented this session at the IBM Digital Experience Conference.

What is this Liberty Profile? Liberty is a lightweight WebSphere Application Server that is already embedded in IBM Bluemix which runs on Softlayer.  By lightweight, I mean that the install of the server is fast, startup is fast, and it is optimized for cloud. Liberty is really targeted at developers and improving the experience for developers.  Rather than install the big WebSphere Application Server on every developer machine, which requires more memory, more CPU and more disk space, a developer can spin up a Liberty Profile locally or on Bluemix very, very quickly.  IBM estimated that developers waste 5 hours per week managing the large WAS installation on their local machines.

IBM Bluemix image

IBM Bluemix

Why talk about Liberty at the Digital Experience Conference?  When developing portlets for the Digital Experience, a developer will typically install a full WebSphere Application Server and Portal Server on their local machines. That is more disk, more memory, and more configurations to manage.  If all a developer needs to do is test portlets prior to deploying to a test server, this is a lot of wasted resources and time.

Liberty helps in this area because it comes with a Portlet Container.  A Portlet Container is simply an environment that enables running JSR portlets.   The Liberty Profile enables you to run JSR portlets that you will eventually put into WebSphere Portal, so it has the base libraries needed to run these portlets.  As you develop a portlet you can deploy it to Liberty for unit testing and skip all the configuration and installation efforts.

In addition to the Portlet Container, Liberty also has a WSRP Producer that you can use.  A WSRP Producer allows a remote portal server to access and display your portlet running on Liberty.  Imagine that you are developing a portlet, testing it on Liberty and want to see what it looks like in the full portal interface.  If you have a portal running on a test server, for example, you can use that server’s portlet consumer (WSRP Consumer) to show your portlet in context.  You don’t have to deploy the portlet to the test server, so it saves you some time there.

IBM also has Portlet Container Tools for the Liberty Profile.  These tools provide:

  • the ability to use a wizard to create portlet projects in the Eclipse IDE.  Here you don’t need to use RAD to create portlets that you will test on Liberty
  • a WSYWIG Editor for configuring the portlet (editing portlet.xml) and a JSR 286 event manager
  • configuration of the liberty profile server
  • publish, test and debug your portlet within Eclipse

All these addons to Liberty for portlet development are free to developers.  You will pay a fee to use Bluemix, but you will save time and money by using Liberty in your development environment. The cost of using Libery on Bluemix is extremely affordable.

Web Experience Factory ships with a Liberty instance so you can test portlets you create in WEF on your local machine without having a full WebSphere Portal installed.

When would you choose Liberty and the Portlet Container tools versus using Rational Application Developer and a full installation of WebSphere Portal?  Here are some considerations:

  • Liberty
    • Easy and no charge for the tools or license
    • Light weight
    • Portal customers using WSRP
    • Want to test portlets in Bluemix
  • Rational Application Developer
    • Target full WebSphere Portal installations that may have specific security or database configurations
    • Need Portal specific features such as Credential Vault, Business Process and Personalization
    • Need advanced features like JSF, Dojo & jQuery
    • Multi-channel portlet development

If you do use Liberty for your development, you easily migrate those projects into RAD when needed.

 

 

Consumer Engagement at Florida Blue with IBM Digital Experience

Glenn Kline of Perficient and Phani Kanakala from Florida Blue presented a case study of how Florida Blue, Florida’s largest healthcare payer, uses IBM Digital Experience to engage consumers.  Florida Blue’s mission is “To improve the health and well-being of Floridians and their communities”.  This really is a good reason to engage customers.

Florida Blue has been using IBM Digital Experience platforms since 2008.  Every year Florida Blue added new features and new sites to their customer experiences.  The IBM platform allowed the business people to manage content on the portal.  logo-header

Back in 2010, Florida Blue started to implement metrics and marketing concepts into their site to provide a more personalized shopping experience with guided selling.  They extended this to provide cost metrics regarding hospitals and doctors, so members could evaluate the potential cost of a provider against five others in their plan.

In the mobile space, Florida Blue was an early adopter of mobile sites and applications for their members.  After implement mobile capabilities with Digital Experience, they saw an immediate boost in customer transactions and shopping.  Today all sites at Florida Blue are accessible via mobile devices.  They have recently added videos, agent tools and more healthcare content for mobile users.

Today, they show 20-25% increase in traffic every year, but have to deal with ever changing consumer and regulatory changes.  Because of healthcare reform, they now have new customers for whom to provide an experience.  These are younger consumers who are demanding different engagement models, different payment services and new products.

IBM solutions that Florida Blue uses include the following:

  • Websphere Portal
  • IBM Web Content Manager
  • IBM Tealeaf
  • IBM iLog
  • DataPower
  • WebSphere Application Server

Glenn talked about why Web Content Management is so important to Florida Blue.  WCM helps them react quickly to consumer needs by letting business users manage the site content. One WCM system feeds multiple Florida Blue portals to provide consistency of content across their various properties.

On top of WCM, Florida Blue has implemented a lot of Personalization capabilities using IBM Digital Experience.  They used visibility rules to deliver reform capabilities tailored to each individual consumer.  Allowing the business to change the rules lets them react quickly to marketplace demands.  They load contract materials in WCM and then use personalization rules to select correct documents based on the individual user.

 

 

 

 

 

IBM Digital Experience in the Cloud: New Options and Capabilities

Tony Higham and Paul Kelsey spoke about deploying IBM Digital Experience on both an on-premise and public cloud.  There are 5 properties of the cloud generally recognized in the market.  IBM is fully supporting each of theses properties:

  • On-demand & Self Service – its there when you need it
  • Broad Network Access – a global network with fast access from any device
  • Resource Pooling – customers share computing resources at some level.  IBM is not really embracing shared hardware.  They are really into private instances on bare metal.
  • Rapid Elasticity – you get what you needXDXCloud1
  • Measured Service – pay for what you get

IBM is going after the cloud using the following concepts because the cloud presents real business value:

  • Months to Minutes
  • Heroics to the Easy Button
  • Automate Everything

Digital Experience on the cloud creates the entire infrastructure so you don’t have to separately install and  configure each type of software you need in the application.

Here is how IBM Digital Experience works on the cloud.  It really is the IBM PureApplication story.  IBM has built PureApp to provision application patterns quickly and efficiently.  You may have heard about the WebSphere Portal Pattern on PureApp. In the recent past PureApp was an on-premise box.  Now IBM has implemented PureApp Services on their SoftLayer cloud.  As a result, you can use the Digital Experience Pattern right on the SoftLayer cloud and have an instant cloud-based system.

In a non Pure App infrastructure, it typically takes several engineers and two weeks to install a WebSphere Portal cluster with a database and security in a production environment. What is the impact of PureApp on the portal?  This same environment can be installed in 45 minutes either on premise or in the cloud.  Paul demonstrated creating a clustered environment on PureApp.  Everything needed for a production environment is setup, configured and tuned.

With the new PureApplication Service on SoftLayer, you can run your entire WebSphere Portal cluster and take advantage of all the PureApplication capabilities on-prem.  PureApp on Softlayer is a pay as you go service in increments of three months. You can also incrementally add cpus and memory to nodes you have installed on SoftLayer.

Another interesting feature is the ability to move your Portal environment from on-prem to SoftLayer or from SoftLayer to on-prem depending on your needs.

 

 

Integrating IBM Digital Experience and Microsoft SharePoint

Jason Cornell spoke at the IBM Digital Experience Conference about how well IBM Digital Experience software integrates with SharePoint. When IBM talks about integration with SharePoint, its usually how to display SharePoint content or apps within WebSphere Portal.

There are a bunch of ways that IBM has enabled out-of-the-box integration with SharePoint:

  • IBM has Web Application Bridge to pull in SharePoint sites, libraries, lists, wikis, blogs, announcements and so on.  The Bridge displays content from SharePoint as-is or you can intercept the HTML produced by SharePoint and do some manipulation on it.
  • Another technique is to use RSS Feed portlets to display SharePoint RSS Feeds.
  • IBM has Exchange portlets that allow you to bring in mail and calendaring into Portal.
  • When you have SharePoint Web, REST services or SQL services, IBM can use its new Digital Data Connector to grab feeds from those services and allow you to manage the display of the data in Digital Experience.
  • When you use SharePoint for document management, you can use CMIS capabilities to provide access to those documents from your WebSphere Portal. IBM provides a sample portlet on the Digital Experience wiki that access a SharePoint library, displays content and allows writing content to SharePoint.
  • Sometimes you want to migrate content from SharePoint. For this you can use the IBM’s Web Content Integrator to feed that SharePoint content directly into IBM Web Content Manager.  In this case, the content will live inside IBM WCM.
  • IBM’s Search technology will provide search services against SharePoint sites.  Search results can be combined with content from other sites to have a unified search experience.

Jason demonstrated all these techniques in IBM Digital Experience software.  Some of the pre-built applications are available on IBM’s Solution Catalog and some are available on the Digital Experience wiki site. All of these pre-built integrations are free to use, though you will have to configure most them appropriately to connect to the SharePoint system.

IBM Digital Experience Conf: Developing Portlets Using JQuery

jQuery is one of the most pervasive scripting libraries in use today. The session “Developing Portlets Using Javascript and JQuery for Engaging Digital Experiences” by Stephan Hesmer, Web 2.0 Architect, IBM and  Jaspreet Singh, Rational Tools Architect, IBM provided good insight as to how to leverage jQuery in IBM WebSphere Portal.

First, a couple of key statistics to indicate why this is important and cannot be ignored:

  • 57.5% of websites use jQuery.
  • jQuery has a 93% marketshare.

WebSphere Portal still includes Dojo but it isn’t required for view mode.  It is required in edit mode however, especially for in place editing.    One key change in portal 8.5 however is when edit mode, the edit panel is now isolated from pages so it will not conflict with the page. Read the rest of this post »