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Sybase Enterprise Portal Evaluation Version

Sybase Enterprise Portal Evaluation Version

The Sybase Enterprise Portal is ideal for organizations that are looking for a solution that allows developers to integrate existing enterprise content and applications as well as incorporate the tools that will enable them to access, manage, share, and understand them better.

Parts 1 and 2 of this article will take a close look at the Sybase Enterprise Portal. I'll start by describing why you might need an enterprise portal and then examine the evaluation version of the Sybase EP.

We'll look at:

  • The architecture of the Sybase Enterprise Portal
  • Installing Enterprise Portal 5.01
  • Creating pages and using portlets using the portal interface
  • Creating pages and portlets using the portal studio
  • Using the security features in Sybase EP
  • Using the search service
  • Creating applications for the enterprise portal
Why Do We Need a Portal?
According to Sybase, "In this period of economic uncertainty, corporations are looking for solutions that will reduce costs and improve productivity. They also need to take full advantage of their information resources and maximize the value of their IT investments. One such solution is to Web-enable business-critical information and applications and to consolidate them within a portal."

By providing a unified view, portals give employees, partners, and customers immediate access to the information and services they need to perform their jobs. By providing a unified view of information sources, enterprise portals are seen as the "hub" of the convergence of multiple, complementary information management solutions, including document and content management, information search and retrieval, knowledge management, team collaboration, workflow, and business intelligence.

With an Enterprise Portal, you're able to:

  • Integrate all types of enterprise data and take control of heterogeneous IT environments.
  • Take advantage of open standards to leverage existing investments.
  • Convert unstructured information into usable knowledge.
  • Provide content to users according to their specific roles.
  • Share information and collaborate across the extended enterprise.

    Essentially, the portal will be a secure, personalized, and centralized access point to all enterprise content and applications, as well as the tools users need to find, share, manage, publish, and analyze that content.

    Why Sybase Enterprise Portal?
    Sybase offers a lot of tools for developers, and you can choose between different databases to fit your needs. They offer enterprise and mobile development tools as well as enterprise integration tools. These tools come together to help you provide high-quality service and/or products to clients at an affordable price (the Enterprise Portal gives both employees and customers fast, secure access to information, which leads to better service and better products). As we'll see in Part 2, Sybase Enterprise Portal is built around these market-proven products (EAServer, ASE, ASA, iAWS, and much more).

    Sybase Enterprise Portal 5.01 enables users and developers to build portlets without programming and deploying to leading application servers and offers point-and-click portal maintenance with tools you might already know.

    Sybase EP Evaluation Version
    The current version of Sybase EP is 5.01 (we'll start to look at this version in the next article, but there's also an evaluation version). You can download it from http://crm.sybase.com/sybase/www/eBD/ EP5EvalDnld.jsp. It's a zip file with about 37MB.

    This evaluation version is designed for a single machine install on Windows NT or 2000.

    The following browsers are supported: IE 5.0, 5.5, and 6.0. There are known stability issues with Netscape because of its support of JavaScript.

    What's included:

  • Tomcat version 4.04: Tomcat is the servlet container that's used in the official Reference Implementation for the Java servlet and JavaServer Pages technologies developed by Sun.
  • An access control database: Sybase EP provides a page where you can register for the portal. Enter your first and last name, username, password, and e-mail and, after submitting this information, you can log in to the portal by entering your username and password. This information is matched against the information found in the Access Control Database (ACDB). The database used is Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere.
  • The Portal Interface: An enterprise portal that end users view and interact with to access predefined content or to create their own. It consists of site areas and tools that help you create and manage your pages.
    - Page tabs let you name your pages so you can navigate between them. The number of page tabs in a page group varies, depending on the length of the page tab names you choose. If you run out of space, Portal Interface activates the page groups feature.
    - Page groups group your pages in sets of pages. This allows you to add more pages to your account than you can view in a single browser window.
    - The toolbar, located below your page tabs, contains some of the major functions necessary to create and manage your pages. Additional functions display as icons above the page tabs.
    - Portlets display the content you've selected from the Portal Interface or the Web. Portlets are visual, dynamic components that make up a Web page residing in the enterprise portal. Typically, when an end user requests a personalized page, multiple portlets are invoked when that page is created. Take care when choosing a portal since portlets rely on APIs to access various types of information, such as a user profile. Until now, the lack of standards has led portal server platform vendors to define proprietary APIs for local portal components and for invocation of remote components. This creates interoperability problems for portal customers, application vendors, content providers, and portal software vendors. To overcome these problems, the Java Portlet API was defined by the biggest enterprise portal vendors, including Sybase. It will cleanly separate portlets from the surrounding portal server infrastructure so that the portlets can run on different portal servers, just as servlets can run on different application servers. The API is now specified (see JSR-168 Portlet Specification at www.jcp.org/ en/jsr/detail?id=168) and will be a great enhancement for enterprise portals.

    Account access within the portal interface is controlled by Enterprise Security. We'll see how this works in Part 2.

  • Sybase Portal Studio: The application for portal development and administration, Portal Studio allows developers to build a variety of portlets, templates, pages, and catalogs without having to learn any portlet application interfaces (API) (see Figure 1). Developers can create HTML, JSP, XML, database, and Web content portlets without programming by using step-by-step wizards or the Portal Studio's Portlet Builder (see Figure 2). Portal Studio is a Web application, so log in using Internet Explorer (or Netscape Communicator in the Enterprise edition). It also provides a collaborative environment for developers and administrators by offering workflow, versioning, a search filter, detail view, and roles-based access.

    All user access within Portal Studio to Studio objects and Portal Interface pages and portlets is controlled through the Portal Studio Account Manager.

    Developers create content in Portal Studio and deploy it for display to end users in portlets in the Portal Interface. Administrators use both Portal Studio and Portal Interface to perform portal administrative tasks. Pages and portlets within a Portal Interface user account are controlled by either an administrator or by the end user. Portlets created in the Portal Studio can be arranged into pages that are automatically added to portal user accounts or made available through a catalog of pages. Alternatively, instead of selecting an entire page of portlets, portal users have the option to add individual portlets to their own account from a portlet catalog. Last, users also have the ability to define their own pages and portlets in Portal Interface that are not managed within the Portal Studio. Portal Interface and Portal Studio are completely integrated. Changes made to portlets, catalogs, or pages from Portal Studio are updated to Portal Interface.

    Installation
    When installing an Enterprise Portal for the first time, I locked my door and turned off the phone for the entire day. It should just be the machine, some CDs, and me. Yes, I was afraid of doing the installation, but I found that the installation is so easy that it can't really be called an installation. However, decide for yourself if that's true. The following is a list of the steps involved:
    1.   Extract the file to your hard drive (let's say this is c:\).
    2.   The evaluation version uses the name demo.sybase.com. To make your machine recognize it, edit your hosts file. You'll find it at \winnt\system32\drivers\etc\hosts. Add a line:

    127.0.0.1 demo.sybase.com

    3.   Go to the directory where you unzipped the files and run the file, startdb.bat. You'll initially see a few messages with "Ping server failed - Database server not found." This is okay, because the script pings the database during startup. Wait until you see the message "Ping server successful." The icon of the "SQL-ASA" database will appear in your taskbar.
    4.   Within the same directory, run the file starttomcat.bat. A new window will be launched and you'll see several messages starting with "Starting service Tomcat-Standalone" and "Tomcat connecting to our ASA database." Wait until you see the message "Apache Tomcat/4.0.4", then minimize this window.
    5.   To run the evaluation version of the Sybase Enterprise Portal use the following URL:> http://demo.sybase.com:4040/onepage/index.jsp (see Figure 3).
    6.   That's it. Click on the "Join now" link and register for the portal (see Figure 4).

    To run the evaluation version of the Sybase Portal Studio use the following URL: http://demo.sybase.com:4040/onepage/index.html.

    Use the existing login account "opsuper/0psuper". (Note that the first character of the password is a zero.)

    To stop the portal:

  • Close the window containing Tomcat.
  • Click on the ASA icon in the taskbar and then on "Shutdown".

    To login again in future sessions, simply perform steps 3 and 4 to start the database and Tomcat, and launch the portal with steps 5 and 6. That's it. Quite easy, isn't it?

    I suggest you get your hands on the EP light version as soon as possible, install it, and build your first portlets. Next month we're going to install the "big brother," the Sybase Enterprise Portal 5.01, and then we can start building our own portlets to provide company information to our employees or customers from a single point of entry.

    Conclusion
    The Sybase Enterprise Portal is aimed at providing a single, secure browser-based interface to all corporate applications and data. Its design and scope appeal to companies because it removes the heavy structure of complex, 32-bit applications. Only the most frequently used functions of each application are exposed, giving users a single point to access their information, whether inside or outside the office. With an Enterprise Portal, professionals are then able to use technology in the way it was intended, and can quickly and efficiently get on with their work.

  • More Stories By Berndt Hamboeck

    Berndt Hamboeck is a senior consultant for BHITCON (www.bhitcon.net). He's a CSI, SCAPC8, EASAC, SCJP2, and started his Sybase development using PB5. You can reach him under [email protected]

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