IBM details first step in portal strategy

IBM last week put the finer points on its initial enterprise information portal (EIP) offering, unveiling a foundation for data access and integration upon which IBM's partners will be able to build portal applications.

`You could call it a portal builder in a way, an EIP development tool,' said Janet Perna, the general manager of data management at IBM's software solutions division.

The IBM EIP, which will ship on November 20, includes a comprehensive set of APIs (application programming interfaces) and an expansive set of tools for building applications that can connect to a variety of back-end data sources. IBM will also provide a number of connectors for what it is calling `federated information access', and will publish the connector architecture so that customers and partners can write connectors that are unique to their own back-end data sources.

The goal of IBM's EIP, which will initially be available for Windows NT and the IBM RS/6000 operating systems, is to provide the foundation for Big Blue's overall portal strategy, which will be rolled out in the months to come.

That strategy, according to James Kelly, vice president of data management marketing at IBM's software solutions division, will see the company supply its partners and customers with a series of services to which IBM's partners can add value. Those services will connect both users and applications to the EIP foundation.

One of the key enabling technologies that IBM will use to extend its portal solution, a technology wrapper code named Garlic, is still under development. As IBM pushes forward with its strategy, Garlic will be used to wrap what Kelly referred to as `connection beans', providing even greater data access and application integration capabilities on top of IBM's portal.