XML and Portals

May 15, 2000

Edd Dumbill

This month's Special Edition focuses on the role of XML in portals. There are few applications more obviously well-suited than that of XML in a portal. Portals, whether Internet or intranet, aggregate information from diverse sources and present it in a uniform interface. XML is capable of representing diverse information in a uniform syntax, addressable with one consistent toolset.

In Internet portals, XML provides a great way to efficiently aggregate and present content. Inside the enterprise, XML can go one step further, via the ability to export from the portal. This has the effect of turning the portal into a key integration step in internal and external business systems.

This special issue explores the application of W3C XML technologies in constructing portals, an approach for integrating non-XML data in an XML portal, and open source approaches to XML portals.

Creating an HTML/WML Portal

In the first part of a two-part "Style Matters" feature, Didier Martin instructs us in building a portal aimed at multiple devices: HTML browsers and the WAP-enabled cell phone. Using XSLT, XLink and XInclude, he demonstrates the advantages of an XML-based approach.

Didier creates his own mini-vocabulary to represent portal content, and shows how both local and remotely stored content can be integrated using and XSLT processor. This first article concentrates on the underlying principles and the HTML rendering of the portal. In two weeks' time, we'll be looking at the WML side of the story.

XML Portal Content Aggregation

Bryan Caporlette, VP of Product Management at Sequoia Software, explains how non-XML data can be effectively integrated into an XML portal server, by use of Sequoia's "EXTRA" schema. EXTRA wraps legacy data and allows the use of the full routing and metadata features of a portal server.

EXTRA builds on Microsoft's BizTalk framework to achieve its routing. Caporelette writes that "this scenario will be especially relevant as companies use the portal to support e-business processes with trading partners, where the portal will digest and present content required to support material and informational transactions".

XML at Jetspeed

Finally for this special issue, I took a look at Jetspeed, part of the Java Apache Project. Jetspeed is an open source project aiming at producing a full-featured enterprise integration portal and groupware solution.

One of Jetspeed's core features is support for one of the Web's hottest content applications, Rich Site Summary (RSS). Out of the box, a user can choose from hundreds of readily available Internet information sources, and integrate them alongside searches and their custom applications.

A young but energetic project, Jetspeed is a great way to get to grips with a variety of XML-oriented open source software.