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WebCenter Suite takes Web 2.0 collaboration software to the enterprise

Oracle's new WebCenter Suite lets developers combine blogs, wikis and mash-ups with Oracle business applications.

Oracle today took the wraps off its new WebCenter Suite, a set of collaboration software tools designed to let Java developers more easily blend so-called Oracle Fusion Applications when they're unveiled beginning in 2008. Fusion is Oracle's plan to provide the "best of" of its homegrown and newly acquired applications on a single Java-based platform, making it easier for customers to implement Web services and service-oriented architectures.

Oracle is moving its Fusion initiative a significant step forward by providing customers with insight into its user interface strategy, according to Jim Murphy, an analyst with Boston, Mass.-based AMR Research.

"This is going to be a way of insulating users from the complexity that has to happen on the backend as Fusion occurs over the next six or seven years," Murphy said.

WebCenter Suite, Murphy said, is also an important part of Oracle's plan to respond to some of the "hype" surrounding Web 2.0 and keep pace with rival software vendors SAP AG, IBM and Microsoft, which also have plans in the market. IBM, for example, announced a new social networking platform called Connections at its recent Lotusphere conference.

WebCenter Suite features

Through a single interface, WebCenter Suite gives users access to collaboration software, transactional and analytical modes of working, Murphy said, rather than requiring them to move around between separate desktop and Web-based applications. In addition, he said, interfaces can be personalized to match the needs of individuals and groups at different levels of an organization.

Greg Crider, Oracle's senior director of technology marketing, said that the release of WebCenter Suite is focused on letting developers build Web-based enterprise mash-ups, which combine information from different applications and repositories.

The three main features of the suite include the WebCenter Framework, WebCenter Services and WebCenter Studio, Crider said.

WebCenter Framework is a Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based development environment that lets developers "rapidly" create customizable content and applications that can be personalized based on user roles and identities, Crider said. Those applications can support standards-based components such as JSR-168 compliant portlets, he said. The Framework also supports the emerging WebCenter Services is a collection of pre-built Web 2.0 services, including content management, threaded discussions, wikis, secure enterprise search and instant messaging. Web Center Services is also the component that allows developers to create mash-ups.

WebCenter Studio is designed to decrease the time developers spend coding by providing wizards and other tools to aid them in such tasks as building a portlet, integrating existing portlets, creating a content repository and managing security.

"WebCenter Suite is our integrated approach to bringing Web 2.0 capabilities into the context of the enterprise," Crider said. "[WebCenter Suite] breaks down the boundaries that have existed between enterprise applications and enterprise portals by giving you a standards-based platform for combining different types of user experience into one robust and rich user interaction layer."

Oracle's Web site.

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