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Senior WebSphere Portal IT Architect Richard Gornitsky

WebSphere Journal: There's quite a bit of development, we understand, going on in the WebSphere Portal space. So we'd like to learn about of how Portal has evolved over the last two years. There's quite a bit of development, we understand, going on in the WebSphere Portal space. So we'd like to learn about of how Portal has evolved over the last two years.

Richard Gornitsky: Well, this has been a very exciting time for us. Over the last couple of years, WebSphere Portal was focusing on the traditional portal environment space of aggregating Web pages. People would be looking at our product to support B2E applications in their Intranet environment. Because of all the new features we have been adding to the product for scalability, reliability, and availability, our customers are now looking to WebSphere Portal as an overall presentation framework. So now customers are putting large scale applications, like online banking, on WebSphere Portal.

WJ: So it's been kind of growing on its own in an organic way through the different vertical markets that maybe at the onset you didn't necessarily anticipate. So it's been kind of growing on its own in an organic way through the different vertical markets that maybe at the onset you didn't necessarily anticipate.

RG: Exactly. And because of this, we have been motivating our lab people to make many interesting modifications to the product to support these new initiatives. So for instance these new applications have a huge user base that need to access portal sites with hundreds or thousands of pages. New features have been added to support the scalability challenges these applications present.

WJ: So it seems that Portal development has really been a collaborative effort on behalf of IBM and your existing and expanding customer base. So it seems that Portal development has really been a collaborative effort on behalf of IBM and your existing and expanding customer base.

RG: Yes, it has. Our customers have been critical to the development of WebSphere Portal. Their input has been instrumental in keeping WebSphere Portal a "best-of-breed" product. My feeling is, and I can clearly tell you that I'm very biased about this, none of our competition can touch us.

WJ: Would you say that the marketplace has been finding Portal as a technology or tool to gain some competitive advantage? Would you say that the marketplace has been finding Portal as a technology or tool to gain some competitive advantage?

RG: I see that it's actually becoming more than just a tool; customers are using WebSphere Portal as the standard presentation framework for their entire IT infrastructure. They're saying, "Okay, if any Web development is going to be done we're going to use WebSphere Portal." Normally we saw it isolated to portal applications. Now companies are seeing a major productivity boom by replacing their multitude of custom web frameworks with a single web presentation framework based on open standards. That of course is WebSphere Portal.

WJ: With the growth and the acceptance, and uptake of Portal, I imagine that you have a repertoire of challenges and experiences on behalf of your customers. Are there any in particular that you'd like to share with our viewing audience today? With the growth and the acceptance, and uptake of Portal, I imagine that you have a repertoire of challenges and experiences on behalf of your customers. Are there any in particular that you'd like to share with our viewing audience today?

RG: Previously our customers were developing applications that were either departmental or not critical to their company. Now they are using WebSphere Portal to develop large enterprise applications. These applications require the same discipline/process that you would use for any conventional critical production application.

You cannot expect to deliver a major application in two weeks. You need to adhere religiously to a project management process and a defined methodology process throughout the portal development life cycle. In reality, the average portal application development cycle is between four to six months, and even some take up to two years. It's not because it's difficult to use; it's because we're talking about large applications that integrate multiple systems throughout your enterprise.

Another challenge that we find is the lack of emphasis on testing. Testing needs to start at the beginning of the project. WebSphere Portal projects usually touch every critical system in the enterprise. Each time you integrate a different component you should plan at least one to two weeks of stress testing per integration component. Testing can take up to four months with a complex application that has numerous integration points.

WJ: Well, today we hear more and more about acquisitions and mergers in the business marketplace. How quickly can Portal scale in the event of a merger or acquisition of a company that already is using Portal quite extensively when they acquire another company or an expanded division? Well, today we hear more and more about acquisitions and mergers in the business marketplace. How quickly can Portal scale in the event of a merger or acquisition of a company that already is using Portal quite extensively when they acquire another company or an expanded division?

RG: That's an interesting question. For a merger or acquisition, I do not believe the tool is a critical element as much as the process. I have seen too much dependency on the tools and not on properly creating and validating the integration process. The process is actually far more critical than the technology, especially when we're talking about large mergers.

WJ: With regards to Portal, how does it support small- to medium-size businesses? With regards to Portal, how does it support small- to medium-size businesses?

RG: We have a product called WebSphere Portal Express. The product is designed to be installed quickly and easily and fits within the price range that a small to medium size business can afford. It gives you the functionality you need to create sophisticated portal applications. But to be honest with you, WebSphere Portal Express gives you tremendous value for the dollar that you're getting.

WJ: And is Express supported and receiving upgrades alongside the large scale version, if you will? And is Express supported and receiving upgrades alongside the large scale version, if you will?

RG: Yes, it is. And actually it has some really interesting and very nice user interface enhancements (also available in IBM WorkPlace) that makes it easier for the small and medium size businesses to use it.

Part 2 of this interview will appear in the May 2005 issue of WebSphere Journal. Richard Gornitsky addresses future WebSphere Portal enhancements, including enterprise management and system management tools integration in this concluding portion of the interview.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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