CATEGORY: Portals

REVIEWER: Mary Fonder, CIO and vice president of information technology for Maysteel LLC.

BACKGROUND: Maysteel LLC manufactures precision enclosures for the data, telecommunications and electric utility markets. Maysteel has six facilities located throughout the United States and Europe.

PLATFORMS: Maysteel runs Oracle9i Application Server Portal on an IBM Netfinity 5100, 733 MHz, 1GB memory with one CPU. The company deployed its Oracle8i Database on an IBM xSeries 250, 700 MHz, 1GB memory with one CPU.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Maysteel's customers provide us with computer-aided design (CAD) drawings. In return, Maysteel presents a quote on the finished product as well as an alternative quote that outlines design enhancements. Maysteel found that it was becoming increasingly difficult to provide its customers, employees and suppliers with timely and secure data from its legacy systems. In an effort to alleviate this problem and streamline its business processes, Maysteel determined it needed to create and deploy an enterprise-wide portal that would allow users to securely access relevant information anytime, anywhere via a Web browser and reduce processes cycle times, trim costs and give the company a competitive advantage. Following a rigorous evaluation process, Maysteel selected the portal technology in Oracle9i Application Server (Oracle9iAS) due to its ease of deployment, product features and price.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Oracle9iAS Portal combines a rich, declarative environment for creating a portal Web interface, publishing and managing information, accessing dynamic data and customizing the portal experience along with an extensible framework for any Web-based technology including J2EE-based application access. A wizard guides a page designer through the steps of creating a page, defining its geometry and setting page- level properties. No knowledge of HTML, coding or editing of configuration files is required. This technology enabled Maysteel to build and deploy its enterprise portal in a short amount of time – it took only one day to deploy a prototype portal and showcase its benefits to senior management. Also of importance are the product's self-service publishing capabilities. Oracle9iAS Portal's tight integration with the Oracle8i database assures reliable and simple integration into legacy IT environments and provides flexibility in hardware platforms and architecture options. In addition, Oracle9iAS Portal's extensibility features enable enterprise data to be exposed as portlets. Portlet developers can build data-driven components and create portlets that interact with enterprise data in an Oracle database or other data sources. Components include JavaScript-enhanced data entry forms, customizable HTML bar charts and column-style reports that produce results in HTML, plain text or MS Excel format. Maysteel used this technology to drill down into its legacy data, develop charts, graphs and reports and publish these into the portal environment.

STRENGTHS: For Maysteel, the greatest strengths of Oracle9iAS Portal are its ability to integrate legacy data into the portal, self-service publishing functionality, rapid graphs and charts development feature, managed delegation capabilities and ease of deployment.

WEAKNESSES: While Oracle9iAS portal technology can be used to generate reports, it is recommended that companies use Oracle's developer tools, Oracle Reports or Oracle forms when creating more complex reports.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Maysteel selected Oracle9iAS Portal because of its ease of deployment, product features and price.

DELIVERABLES: Using Oracle9iAS portal technology, Maysteel provides customers with real-time inventory data, manufacturing order status, shipments, open orders and forecasts. Apart from enabling employees to access different applications, forms and news through the portal, Oracle9iAS portal technology also enables employees to obtain key performance measurements in various areas of the manufacturing process.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Oracle offers 24x7 technical support; the Oracle MetaLink Web site that contains tips, product patches and software downloads; and Portal Center (which is a part of the Oracle Technology Network) that includes white papers, best practices and technical discussion forums. Paid support options include product upgrade, incident and premium support packages.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is good for standard functionality. However, the more advanced capabilities are not covered. We obtain this documentation from Oracle Technology Network and Oracle MetaLink.

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