Portals, Novell style

By Dave Kearns, Network World |  Software

One of the neatest new products I saw at BrainShare this year was Novell's new Portal Services -- or, as I've nicknamed it, ZENWorks for Browsers.

Portal Services allows personalization and customization of users’ " browser experience " -- and I hate that phrase, but there's really no other way to describe it. Think of how you customize your start page at Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista, Lycos, or any of the many Internet-based start pages that allow registered users to personalize their opening page.

Portal Services allows you to do that personalization without using any one particular Internet site. You can use many Internet sites: a weather report from one place; stock quotes from another; news headlines from a third; and maybe a cartoon, an opinion column, and some classified ads. And since it’s all stored in a directory, the user gets the same experience anywhere on a network but can modify the experience based on platform (1024-by-768 desktop monitor vs. 800-by-600 laptop vs. handheld wireless device, for example).

All it takes is a handful of "gadgets," the enabling pieces for the various parts of the portal view. Some commercial services already have gadgets available, a number of others (messaging, calendaring and database services) are packaged with the product.

To learn all the details, visit the Portal Services home page:

http://www.novell.com/products/portal/quicklook.html

But for starters, here's what you'll need:

* Windows 2000 or Windows NT 4.0, Red Hat Linux 6.2, or Sun Solaris

* One of the following Web servers:

- Apache Software Foundation Apache Server 1.3.14

- Sun-Netscape iPlanet Application Server (which includes a servlet engine)

- Novell Enterprise Web Server 5.10

* Apache Software Foundation Jakarta Tomcat 3.1

* Directory that completely adheres to the LDAP v3 standard

* One of the following Web browsers:

- Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 or higher

- Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher

- Macintosh IE 4 or higher

If you're considering developing your own gadgets for in-house software, go to the Novell Developer Leading Edge site:

http://developer.novell.com/ndk/leadedge.htm

Get Leading Edge #137, which provides an early-access version of the Software Development Kit (SDK) for Portal Services. With this kit, you can test gadgets without having to fully install them into Novell eDirectory. Reference documentation and sample gadgets are included with instructions to get you started. The SDK is designed to run with any Java Virtual Machine Version 1.2.2 or newer and requires Internet Explorer 5.0 or greater.

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