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Oracle inks deals to boost portal push

Beefing up its business portal strategy, Oracle unveils a host of partnerships to provide content, software and consulting services.

Beefing up its business portal strategy, Oracle today unveiled a host of partnerships to provide content, software and consulting services.

As earlier reported, the database software giant launched a portal partner initiative with companies including professional services firms EDS and Ernst & Young; Web content providers Factiva, InfoSpace, iSyndicate and WebEx; and software makers Autonomy, NetPerceptions, SiteScape, UPS and Verity.

"We're starting this initiative to attract more partners to build on Oracle's open portal framework," said John Magee, a marketing director for Oracle.

Unveiled last September, Oracle's portal strategy aims to set a standard portal format for building software elements that can be combined to form a single view of corporate information. Oracle calls the new software elements "portlets" and is crafting a standard application programming interface for building the elements.

Portlets can be tied together using an Oracle tool called WebDB, which is an easy-to-use tool that lets businesses develop and run their own Web-based software.

A number of major technology providers have joined Oracle in the crowded but lucrative Web portal software market, including IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Hewlett-Packard, Sun-Netscape Alliance and others, as more and more companies look to the Web for all of their business needs. A corporate Web portal can offer employees email, stock quotes, news and corporate resources, such as human resources information or updated sales data.

"In recent months, the portal market has moved toward very large enterprise portals," said Hurwitz Group analyst Phil Russom. "Now, we see software vendors becoming infrastructure providers...These infrastructure providers are trying to provide a framework for truly enterprise-scope portals" that lets businesses plug any kind of content into them.

Oracle's portal product has an advantage in that it can manage "practically any kind of information," Russom said. Also, Oracle has taken the initiative to make the product easy to configure for developers and administrators, as most of the portal tools are created around the less-complicated WebDB development tool.

For example, partner WebEx will provide its online meeting services as a portlet, meaning companies can easily incorporate its technology on their Oracle business portal. Instead of different users bookmarking WebEx on various browsers, a company can manage that resource via the single, corporate portal as well as personalizing the way the content is viewed by users on their desktop, said Magee.

WebEx, which is also a content provider on SAP's business portal, lets people conduct Web-based meetings enhanced by phone conferencing, audio and video. Attendees can share documents on their computers, browse the Web together and annotate Web sites with full view by all participants. Additionally, SAP recently invested in the start-up.

Services giant EDS and Big Five consulting firm Ernst & Young will help implement the Oracle corporate portal at businesses, and software partners will make their applications available to users.

The goal is to "build up a whole catalogue of these portlet providers so that companies can pick and choose the applications and services" they want plugged into their corporate portals, added Magee.

Oracle said this is the first set of partners that are participating in its portlet model but intends to announce a number of new partnerships in the coming months.

In related news, Oracle today also announced Oracle FastForward Enterprise Portal, the latest in its FastForward line of products which allows companies to create and implement an Oracle business portal in five business days or less. Like other FastForward applications, which were first unveiled in August of 1998, the five-day portal offering include software, implementation services, and education and support for the new system from Oracle or a service provider partner.

Oracle FastForward Enterprise Portal is immediately available in the United States at a base price of $30,000 for 20 named users, the company said.