CATEGORY: Enterprise Information Portals

REVIEWER: Bruce Polderman, director of Autodesk Point A.

BACKGROUND: Autodesk is the world's leading design and digital content creation resource. The company provides software and Internet portal services to help customers drive business through the power of design. One of the largest software companies in the world, Autodesk helps more than four million customers in more than 150 countries turn designs into reality.

PLATFORMS: The key components of the Autodesk Point A Web site consist of seven front-end DL360 Compaq servers running Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft IIS, and Allaire's Jrun; Epicentric Foundation Server 3.5; and two redundant Sun 420 UNIX servers running Oracle 8i on the back end as well as Veritas Heartbeat.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Autodesk customers had no way to access consolidated post-purchase information such as e-learning, product tips and techniques, and third-party resources that provide work solutions. Autodesk wanted to provide customers with a convenient place to find everything they would need to use their products effectively ­ at the same time maintaining a sense of relationship with worldwide customers in all industries served: manufacturing, geographical information systems, land development, architectural engineering and construction, and general design and drafting.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Epicentric Foundation Server provided a flexible and scalable portal platform for the Autodesk Point A Web site, a personal global access point to Autodesk services and information on the Internet. Epicentric Foundation Server enables Point A to deliver customized Web services to each of the five industry segments that Autodesk serves and enables each member to personalize his or her own browser view. Users can connect to Point A from any Web browser or directly from the Autodesk AutoCAD-based products. Point A helps Autodesk customers learn, communicate and collaborate with their professional colleagues and helps them save time on administrative design tasks by providing them with reliable and up-to-date product and industry information in one location.

STRENGTHS: Time to market was a key strength. Epicentric enabled Point A to go live within four months of the initiation of the project. In addition, Epicentric's personalization capabilities enable a one-on-one relationship with customers by empowering them to create their own portal page views by selecting the information and resources that are most important to them.

WEAKNESSES: The ability to integrate back-end technology with Point A's high-end Oracle databases was immature. Also, concurrent usage has fallen short of expectations.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Autodesk required an Internet solution that was flexible enough to support different platforms and databases, could scale to handle potentially millions of users and could be rapidly deployed in just a few months. The diverse nature of Autodesk's clientele also demanded a platform that could be centrally managed, easily modified and provide each business community and every individual user with the unique set of resources he or she requires. Epicentric Foundation Server was the only product in our search that met all of these criteria.

DELIVERABLES: Epicentric Foundation Server delivers licensed software that is extensible and customizable enough to support Point A's need to provide a unique and meaningful user experience. The product also provides the support and documentation to use the software to its full extent.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Epicentric was very responsive to Autodesk's need for an accelerated time to market for deploying Point A and provided the full range of support resources to make it happen. In particular, Epicentric's ability to support the software's extensibility and the development of customized services on the site was very helpful. Epicentric personnel also provided quick answers to our questions and offered strategies for the most effective methods for leveraging the portal platform.

DOCUMENTATION: Epicentric's documentation enabled Point A to get the job done. It provided us with a resource for the initial deployment as well as the ongoing evolution of Point A.

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