Sun-Netscape Alliance Introduces Portal Platform

SAN MATEO (02/23/2000) - The Sun-Netscape Alliance on Tuesday unveiled its iPlanet Portal Server, an e-commerce-focused portal creation and deployment platform that comes in three forms which are designed to address the needs of enterprise businesses and service providers.

According to John Fanelli, director of product marketing for portal services at Sun-Netscape Alliance, portals are becoming a vital part of e-business. Fanelli cited Delphi Group Inc. figures that consider a $1 billion portal market by 2002 to be a "conservative estimate."

"What we define as the business driver for a portal is really the ability to integrate content applications and business processes to enable a business's dynamic value chain," Fanelli said. "This is allowing the portal to become the focal point of your business processes."

The iPlanet Portal Server will be available in three formats: the enterprise-targeted Portal Server, the Portal Server: Service Provider Edition, with more hosting features for service providers; and the Portal Server: Custom Netcenter Hosted Service, which provides preformatted content for a businesses' portal.

All three forms emphasize personalization and customization, which Steve Nathan, vice president of portal services at Sun-Netscape Alliance, said he considers a key component of the iPlanet Portal Server platform, along with content lifecycle management.

"One of the things that really distinguishes a portal from just a Web site and a collection of links is the fact that it adapts and learns and tailors itself," said Nathan. "Customization is primarily driven by the user themselves; they can specify things about themselves or they can modify the look and feel or channel management themselves. Whereas [we consider] personalization to be the capability of the system itself to adapt in making deductions about the users based on their behavior, the system can observe the clickstream behavior and the transactional behavior of the users and use that to tailor the portal to that audience."

The iPlanet Portal Server is designed to be hosted and built locally by an enterprise company so that the company can retain control over design and content. However, Fanelli said, the portal solution can be hosted by Netscape and America Online if a company wants to avoid creating a complex portal themselves.

Other features of the Portal Server include membership services to create and manage various portal communities; integrated knowledge management capabilities, for targeted intranet and Internet searches; and security authentication architecture supporting x509 certificates, LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol), Unix authentication, and Windows NT domain authentication.

The Portal Server Service Provider Edition has additional delegated administration services and multihosting capabilities, as well.

With the Custom Netcenter Hosted Service, companies can offer preformatted content that is branded with their own corporate image through their portal, either hosted internally by the company or hosted externally by America Online/Netscape, and delivered through iPlanet Portal Server's content provider interface. This content could range from stock quotes and weather to daily news or sports scores. Applications also can be brought into and integrated into the portal.

"We have sort of a special relationship with Custom Netcenter that allows us to offer customers prepackaged and pre-negotiated business relationships with many different content providers; there's over 100 different channels of content on Customer Netcenter," Fanelli said. "This interface is one example of an interface set that we will support in conjunction with the platform. Obviously, if we're claiming this as a platform, we have to give companies the ability to extend it [through content and development]."

The Sun-Netscape Alliance will continue to pursue partnerships with other portal application vendors, seeking to provide the platform and framework for their applications in order to streamline and the portal deployment process.

"Today, the portal software marketplace is very fragmented in terms of the various offerings that are available," Fanelli said. "They create this portal pandemonium; as you buy these individual solutions, it's very difficult to integrate them. There isn't a single, consolidated portal interface that provides you that single location for the aggregation and integration of content."

Fanelli added that the iPlanet Portal Server platform is expected to serve as this consolidation point in the near future.

Both the iPlanet Portal Server and the iPlanet Portal Server: Service Provider Edition will be available in the spring of 2000; Custom Netcenter Hosted Service is available now starting at a price of $9.75 per user.

The Sun-Netscape Alliance, in Mountain View, Calif., is at www.iplanet.com.

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