BEA Portal 9.0 - what's coming

I participated in a BEA breakfast seminar where the product manager for BEA Portal told us about new features in the coming 9.0 release. Before I forget anything, I'll better write them down :-)

Federated Portals
It's seems like the hype world within the portal enterprise market nowadays is federated portals. What is it? Well - shortly it's means that you can 'swallow' somebody else's portlets and present them as part of your own portal. This isn't a Java only thing since there's a web service standard called WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portlets). This got introduced in WebLogic Portal 8.1 Service Pack 3 so it's not a new concept. It's interesting because it allows reuse on presentation level - and also across organisations. So a few of the things BEA is addressing is grouping of remote portlets and the possibility to manage metrics and Service Level Agreement based on these metrics.

Content Management
The Content Management API, which BEA have offered for Content Management shops to integrate with, have been expanded. Their aren't allow to call it JSR-170 compatible since this specification isn't approved, but I guess these improvements are just to comply with JSR-170. These improvements are Content type inheritance, Softlinks, full text search and nested content types.
The Bulk Loader is removed and they have opened the life cycle API so one can write code responding to changes for instance in moving content from 'Ready for approval' to 'Published'. This is all good, but no reason to get really excited....
There's a wizard to easily getting started with retrieving content from a content repository. Hopefully the documentation will get better.

Commerce Server
BEA haven't done anything with commerce server for quite some time now. This release will be a major rewrite of the commerce functionality, and it's about time. The commerce server functionality haven't been available as Workshop controls so the tool support haven't been so good. There will be implemented a new service layer, but the tools won't be part of the first release. The product catalog will now use the content repository instead of using it's own database - which is good thing.

One of the most exciting news is actually a result of a new feature in WebLogic Server. If you have read anything about Diablo you will know that they will allow the possibility to upgrade applications without taking the application down and without killing the sessions of the logged on users. This is a wicked cool feature if you can't tolerate taking the applications down. A result of this is that you can actually upgrade the Portal framework (which is a J2EE application) without taking the server down. Pretty cool.... There's also functionality for extending the Portal administration tool - if needed.

I didn't get a 'wow-feeling' on the features coming in upcoming 9.0 release. BEA focus on federated portals, but I not so sure many of the companies I know of will actually use this functionality. I see similarities between this federated portals and the SOA hype. So an OK upgrade, but nothing revolutionary unless you are longing for hyping in the portal market ;-)

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