Oracle Announces Roadmap for Plumtree / AquaLogic / WebCenter

UPDATE 2: I’ve incorporated all the great feedback and comments from ex-Plumtreevians, ex-BEA and ex- and current Oracle folks.

UPDATE: A bunch of Plumtreevians are contributing really good comments on this post over on Facebook.

bea_think_oracleI worked at Plumtree Software, Inc. from June 1998 to December, 9th 2002. In four-and-a-half years, the company grew from 25 employees to over 400 and it had thousands of happy customers before it was purchased by BEA Systems in 2005 for $220M. Here at bdg, we’ve been supporting dozens of Plumtree/AquaLogic Interaction (ALI)/WebCenter Interaction (WCI) customers since we opened our doors in December of 2002.

Back around 2005, BEA’s BID (Business Interaction Division) still had a lot of really smart engineers from Plumtree working on a lot of really interesting things, including Pages (think CMS 2.0), Pathways (kind of an enterprise version of del.icio.us) and Ensemble (the portlet engine/gateway, minus the overhead and UI of the portal itself).

They were also working on an enterprise social network, kind of a Facebook for business if you will.

However, there was a lot of wrangling at BEA, primarily between BID/AquaLogic and BEA’s flagship product, WebLogic (the world-class application server). Most of the strife came in the form of WebLogic Portal vs. AquaLogic/Plumtree Portal nonsense. Senior management at BEA, in their infinite wisdom, had taken a “let’s try not to alienate any customers” policy and in the process they confused all their customers and alienated/frustrated quite a few of them as well. They renamed Plumtree to AquaLogic User Interaction (ALUI), put in place a “separate but equal” policy with WebLogic Portal (WLP) and spewed some nonsense about how WLP was for “transactional portal deployments” vs. ALI for .NET and non-transactional portals, but no one, including BEA management, had any idea WTF that meant. To further confuse the issue, the WLP team, which also had a lot of really smart engineers, built products like “Adrenaline” (which was basically a less-functional and more buggy version of Ensemble) rather than do the unthinkable and integrate Ensemble into WLP so that WLP could finally host non-Java/JSR-168 portlets.

I was really pissed about BEA’s spineless portal strategy, their “separate but equal” policy between WLP and BID/ALUI and their waste of precious engineering resources in an arms race between WLP and ALUI rather than just stepping back, growing a spine, and coming up with a portal strategy.

Because I can’t keep my pie hole shut, I started several loud, messy and public fights with BEA management. Why? Because the real loser here is the customer.

And BEA, because management got mired in politics and chose to waste engineers’ time on in-fighting and competition instead of building enterprise Facebook, which Steve Hamrick and I arguably already wrote in our spare time. All they needed to do was product-ize that and they would have owned that market.

In 2008, Oracle inherited this clusterfuck of a portal strategy when they bought BEA for $7B+, giving me new hope that cooler heads would prevail and fix this mess. The first thing they did was fire all the impotent BEA managers who were afraid to make any decisions. It took Oracle a while, but alas, they have finally arrived at a portal strategy that makes sense. I first learned about this strategy when I crashed the WebCenter Customer Advisory Board last Thursday.

First of all, let me say this: under the leadership of Vince Casarez, current (and future) customers are in good hands.

I realized when he said “everyone still calls it Plumtree” that this was going to be a bullshit-free presentation.

He also said something regarding the “portal stew” at Oracle that puts all of my ranting and raving in perspective: “Oracle did not buy BEA for Plumtree or WLP, just like it didn’t buy SUN for SUN’s portal product.” To rephrase that, Oracle bought BEA for WebLogic (the application server, not the portal) and Sun for their hardware (not for Java, NetBeans and all the rest of Sun’s baggage).

So, let’s face it, portals are a relatively insignificant part of Oracle.

However, they’ve finally did what I called for 2008 and what BEA never had the wits to do: pick a single portal strategy/stack and stick to it. SO, if you’re a current Plumtree/ALUI/WCI or a current WLP customer, you have a future with Oracle.

Here’s the plan, as I understand it.

All roads lead to Web Center (not Web Center Interaction, but Web Center)

At the heart of Web Center will be WebLogic’s app server and portal. Plumtree/ALUI as a code base will be supported, but eventually put into maintenance mode and retired. You get nine or twelve years of support and patches (blah blah blah) but if you want new features, you need to switch to the new Web Center, powered by WLP. CORRECTION: WebCenter will not be “powered by WLP.” At its core will be the Oracle-developed, ADF-based WebCenter Portal running on WebLogic Server.

All the “server products” (Collaboration, Studio, Analytics, Publisher) will be replaced by Web Center Services or Web Center Suite

Publisher will be subsumed by WCM/UCM (Web Content Management / Universal Content Management, formerly Stellent). The other products will be more-or-less covered by similar offerings in Suite or Services.

What about Pages, Ensemble and Pathways?

Pages is dead as WCM/UCM does it better. Pathways is getting rolled into the new Web Center somehow, but I’m not sure how yet. Perhaps I can follow up with another blog post on that. Ensemble has been renamed “Pagelet Producer” — more on that below. CORRECTION: Pathways is now called “Activity Graph” and it will be part of the new WebCenter. Think of an enterprise-class version of the Facebook News Feed crossed with Sales Force chatter and you’ll be on the right track.

What about .NET/SQL Server, IIS and everything else that isn’t Java?

This is a really interesting question and the key question that I think drove a lot of BEA’s failure to make any decision about portal strategy from 2005-2008. Plumtree had a lot of .NET customers and some of the biggest remaining Plumtree/ALUI customers are still running on an all-Microsoft stack. In fact, one of them told me recently that they have half a million named user accounts, two million documents and 72 Windows NT Servers to power their portal deployment.

So, let’s start with the bad news: Oracle doesn’t want you to run .NET/Windows and they REALLY don’t want you to run on SQL Server.

(That will change when Oracle acquires Microsoft, but that’s not gonna happen, at least not any time soon.) WebLogic app server and WLP/WCI, to the best of my knowledge, will not run on SQL Server. They will, however, run on Windows, but I would not recommend that approach.

It’s inevitable that large enterprises will have both .NET and Java systems along with a smattering of other platforms.

So, if you’re a .NET-heavy shop, you’ll need to bite the bullet and have at least one server running JRockit or Sun’s JVM, one of Oracle’s DB’s (Oracle proper or MySQL), WLS/WLP/WCI and preferably Oracle Enterprise Linux, Solaris or some other other flavor of Un*x. CORRECTION: WLP will run on SQL Server. Not sure about the new WebCenter Portal, but my guess is that it does not.

Now, for the good news: the new WCI, powered by WLP and in conjunction with the Pagelet Producer (formerly Ensemble) and the WSRP Producer (formerly the .NET Application Accelerator) will run any and all of your existing portlets, regardless of language or platform.

This was arguably the best feature in Plumtree and it will live on at Oracle.

.NET/WRSP and even MOSS (Sharepoint) Web Parts will run in WebCenter through the WSRP Producer. The Pagelet Producer will run portlets written in ANY language through what is essentially a next generation, backwards-compatible CSP (Content Server Protocol, the superset of HTTP that allows you to get/set preferences, etc. in Plumtree portlets). So, in theory, if you’re still writing your portlets in ASP 1.0 using CSP 1.0 and GSServices.dll, they will run in the new Web Center via the Pagelet Producer. Time for us to update the PHP and Ruby/Rails IDKs? Indeed it is. Let me know if you need that sooner rather than later.

How do I upgrade to the new WebCenter?

Well, first off, you have to wait for it to come out later this fall. Then, you have to start planning for what’s less of an upgrade and more of a migration. Oracle, between engineering and PSO, has promised to provide migration for all the portal metadata (users, communities, pages, portlets, security, etc.) from Plumtree/ALUI/WCI to the new Web Center, with WLP at its heart. (Wouldn’t it have made sense for some of those WLP engineers to start building that migration script in 2005 instead of trying to compete with ALUI by building Adrenaline? Absolutely.) All your Java portlets, if you’re using JSR-168 or JSR-286, will run natively in WLP through a wrapper in WebCenter Portal. Everything else will either run in the WRSP Producer (if it’s .NET) or in the Pagelet Producer (if it’s anything else). The only thing I don’t fully understand yet is how to migrate from Publisher to UCM, but I’m due to speak with Oracle’s PSO about that soon. Please contact me directly if you need to do a migration from Publisher to WCM/UCM that’s too big to do by hand.

The only other unanswered question in my mind is how the new WebCenter will handle AWS/PWS services — the integrations that bring LDAP/AD users and profile information/metadata into Plumtree/ALUI/WCI. I wrote a lot of that code for Plumtree anyway, so if Oracle’s not working on a solution for the new Web Center, perhaps I can help you with that somehow as well. CORRECTION: User and group objects are fully externalized in Web Center, so there is no need for AWS/PWS synchronization. (Thanks, Vince, for pointing that out.)

So, that’s my understanding of the new portal strategy at Oracle.

Kudos to Oracle’s management for listening to their customers, making some really hard decisions and picking a path that I think is smart and achievable.

I’m here to help if you have questions or need help with your portal strategy or technical implementation/migration.

Q&A;

(Some other notes about discussions that have spawned from this original post.)

Q: What’s the future of the Microsoft Exchange portlets (Mail, Calendar and Contacts) and the CWS for crawling Exchange public folders. Retired and replaced with something Beehive related? Still supported? For how long? Against what versions of Exchange?

A: We’ve got updated portlets for Mail & Calendar in WebCenter now for Exchange 2003 & 2007. We don’t have a Contacts portlet but it could be added quickly if we see a large demand. Crawling public folders can be done with an adapter we have for SES [Oracle Secure Enterprise Search] already. We’re working but aren’t done with a new version of KD on top of the new infrastructure that will come out post PS3. (Contributed by Vince Casarez.)

Q: If migration scripts are provided to move WCI metadata into WebCenter, I understand that a portlet is a portlet, but what about pages and communities, users and groups, content sources and crawlers, etc.? Do they all have analogous objects in WebCenter or is there some reasonable mapping to some other objects?

A: Pages and Communities follow a model where we extract/export the meta data and data, then run it through a set of scripts that create a WebCenter Space for each Collab project/community and a JSPx page for every page. Users and Groups will come out of the LDAP/AD directory they are already using and the scripts associate the right permissions to each of the migrated objects. I don’t recall what we did about crawlers but since we use SES directly, all the hundred or more connectors we ship for SES are now available for direct usage. The scripts go through a multiphase approach to move content, then portlets, then pages, then communities so that dependencies can be fixed up versus trying to do a manual fix up. (Contributed by Vince Casarez.)

Q: Will any existing WCI-related products that are slated for retirement (e.g. Publisher, Collab, Studio, Analytics, etc.) be re-released with support for Windows Vista, Windows 7, IE 8, IE 9 or Chrome?

A: For Publisher, we are planning a set of migrations to quickly move them to UCM. For Collab & Studio, we have new capabilities in WebCenter Spaces to match these functions. For Analytics, we’ve also rebuilt it on top of the WebCenter stack with over 50 portlets for the different metrics and made sure we provide apis/ access to the data directly. These analytics data also feeds the activity graph in providing recommendations for people on the content and UIs that are relevant to them. These are tied into the personalization engine that we brought over from the WLP side. So there is a rich blending of the best features from WLP with WCI key features. As for Neo [the codename for the next release of WCI], we are certifying the additional platforms. On the IE 8 front, we’ve just released patches for WCI 10gR3 customers to be able to use IE8 without upgrading to Neo. (Contributed by Vince Casarez.)

Where to Find Us at Web 2.0 Expo

Chris Bucchere is attending the Web 2.0 Expo this week, where Crowd Campaign is making its debut as the question suggestion and voting platform for Tim O’Reilly’s interview of Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO of Open Government for President Obama.

On Wednesday the 18th and Thursday the 19th of November, 2009, Crowd Campaign will be exhibiting on the expo floor in Long Tail Pavilion Booth #2. Come by and say hi!

Today, Chris will be attending sessions and keynotes and, as is the case with every good conference, having great hallway conversations with his peers. Clinton Bonner, SVP of Sales and Business Development for Social Collective, Inc., will be joining Chris on Wednesday in NYC.

Crowd Campaign, The Social Contest Builder

(I-Newswire) November 16, 2009 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CC_Glossy_Side2.pdf (1 page)New York, New York – November 16th, 2009 – At Web 2.0 Expo today, Social Collective, Inc., the company behind the hosted social networking and scheduling software that powered SXSW and Oracle OpenWorld, announced the launch of their newest product, Crowd Campaign. Using Crowd Campaign, Twitter users can easily launch cost-effective branded online contests.

With the power of Twitter and the social web, people who enter these contests, vote on entries, or make comments help propagate their viral spread via easy-to-use sharing tools that facilitate posting contest updates to a multitude of different social networking sites.

When setting up a contest, Crowd Campaign offers the ability to customize the contest’s subdomain, upload a logo and background image, write a Terms & Conditions page, set colors and styles, insert Google Analytics tracking code and change all of the contest rules and other marketing copy. Contest winners can be decided by popular vote or by an “expert panel” or some combination of both. Contests can include text entries, photo or video submissions and links to other content such as blog posts or web sites, meaning that Crowd Campaign contests can be used for any type of competition. Crowd Campaign also offers a rich set of entry management tools for removing offensive content, merging duplicate entries and tallying entries, votes and page views. Crowd Campaign offers a free version for contests containing no more than 10 entries and/or 100 votes. To increase these limits, contest managers can pay as little as $95 up to $4,995 for a one-year unlimited-use license.

Crowd Campaign is used by ad agencies, event managers, social media marketers, small business owners, popular authors, independent film makers and musicians – anyone who wants to leverage the power of the social web to build a brand. Any type of contest can be set up in 10-15 minutes, limited only by one’s imagination and federal, state and local laws.

During the private beta period that ended with today’s launch, hundreds of Crowd Campaign sites were created, including these prominent contests:

http://w2e.crowdcampaign.com — Ask Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO of the US Government a Question: Tim O’Reilly will pick from among the top questions and ask Noveck the best one during their Web 2.0 Expo Keynote later this week. The winner will also receive an autographed copy of Noveck’s book, Wiki Government.

http://w2e.crowdcampaign.com — Search for the Best LinkedIn Profile: Mike O’Neil and Lori Ruff will feature the top five vote-getters in O’Neil’s new book, Rock the World with Your Online Presence.

http://expoexpo.crowdcampaign.com — Ask Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Rick Calvert, Ann Hamilton and David Rich a Question — the panel moderator will ask the panel the top question at Expo! Expo! in Atlanta in early December. The winner will also receive an autographed copy of Kawasaki’s book, Reality Check.

http://techcocktail.crowdcampaign.com — Enter a DC-area startup company and Frank Gruber and Eric Olson will give the top vote-getter a free Bronze Sponsorhip at the next TECH Cocktail DC event (a $999 value).

http://digitalmarketingmixer.crowdcampaign.com — Suggest an idea for MarketingProfs’ Digital Marketing Mixer: the winner of a random drawing will receive a free registration to MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2010 in Boston, MA (a $695 value).

Mike O’Neil, who launched a Crowd Campaign contest in support of his book, Rock the World with Your Online Presence, said:

“With just weeks from start to finish, we embarked on a partnership with the folks at Crowd Campaign to see how we could find and refine applications for [online contest] technology in social media.”

O’Neil launched a very successful contest centered around finding top LinkedIn profile pages and featuring the winners in his book, which is “something that money can’t buy.” O’Neil remarked on how powerful it was for CrowdCampaign to “create a following around the pop culture image we represent with social media, networking and music.”

About Crowd Campaign

Crowd Campaign is a social tool for building brands. It’s used by ad agencies, event managers, social media marketers – anyone who wants to leverage the power of the social web to build a brand. Easy to customize and manage, you can launch a Twitter-powered contest including a branded promotional site in minutes from your desktop. It’s FREE to get started and there’s no sign up or credit card required. Start a contest today by visiting http://crowdcampaign.com

For more information, contact Clinton Bonner at Social Collective, Inc., [email protected], 860-608-9074

Procrastinators Rejoice: OpenWorld’s Social Schedule Builder is Live!

If you’re attending Oracle OpenWorld and you’ve waited this long to build your event schedule, boy do we have some good news for you!

You can use your existing Oracle Mix credentials to access a brand new social schedule builder powered by our flagship product, The Social Collective.

Of course we did plan to launch this a bit earlier, but due to many factors outside of our control, we ended up launching it the day before the conference. Well, better late than never! Now you can build your schedule in a social context, seeing who in your Mix network is attending each event so that you can make more informed decisions about what content you want to see at OpenWorld.

Your Mix login and password will get you in and there’s no need to re-add anyone to your network — all the work you’ve spent building up your Mix profile and social network will carry right over in our product. In fact, unless you look carefully at the URL, it’s hard to tell that you’re even leaving Oracle Mix.

Many thanks to the peerless (and tireless) Oracle Mix team: Marius, Tim, Hassan and Phil and to Chirag, Eric and other dedicated folks who run the Oracle Single Sign On partner application registration team (among other things) for all their support, help, patience and dedication. We couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Now, if you’re one of the nearly 100,000 people attending Oracle OpenWorld, what are you waiting for? Come on in and get social with your conference schedule . . . you have 24 hours, so get moving!

My Oracle OpenWorld Sessions

I’m going to be speaking in two different Oracle OpenWorld sessions on Sunday. They are OOW-S312303 — Enterprise-Enable Dynamic PHP, Ruby, Python Apps: Oracle WebCenter Interaction and OOW-S312304 — Enterprise Ruby on Rails: Rolling with JRuby on Oracle WebLogic Suite.

The Social Collective to Provide Social Media Software for Experient’s e4 Conference

e4-sphere_bigger.gifToday we are pleased to announce that Experient, Inc., a full-service solution provider for conferences and events, has chosen The Social Collective as the social networking platform for Experient’s 2009 e4 Conference. Here at Social Collective, Inc., we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to help Experient fulfill their brand promise of “delivering the total event experience” by adding a social networking component to their wide range of pre-existing services. These services include everything from scalable registration to a suite of event logistics solutions, and on to amenities that make for much happier attendees and much more profitable exhibitors. Experient has been a trailblazer in the events world since its inception. In their quest to be recognized as a thought leader in the events space, Experient continues to seek out and provide its clients with the best event services in the industry.

The Social Collective is a white-label conference social networking suite and social media aggregator which will serve as the event-centric networking community for Experient’s 2009 e4 Conference. The e4 event is the annual gathering of Experient’s clients and select sponsors. The typical attendee of e4 is an association executive or an event management professional. Each year, Experient chooses an overarching theme that is most relevant to the times the industry is facing. This year’s theme is Networking and the Infusion of Social Media into live events and their surrounding communities.

According to Karen Watson, Director of Strategic Events at Experient:

“Our goal is to simplify the social media experience for our e4 attendees and by using the Social Collective white label platform, we should create more opportunity for interaction before, during and after e4. Our ultimate goal is to create a community for our attendees to connect and interact with their peers year-round.”

At Social Collective, Inc., we’re looking forward to this opportunity to serve Experient and their e4 2009 conference. We’re excited about ushering this vibrant community of attendees and sponsors into a new era of inter-connectivity and social networking. The e4 gathering — taking place between August 2nd and 5th in National Harbor, MD — will showcase how physical meetings are evolving through the use of new technologies and techniques. As a result, the meetings industry can continue to grow by enhancing attendees’, sponsors’, and exhibitors’ experiences leading up to, during, and well after the physical event has taken place.

Visit http://www.experient-inc.com for more on their suite of professional services. Visit http://thesocialcollective.com for more information on how to build a thriving year-round community for your next event or follow The Social Collective on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nowgetsocial.

Letter of Commendation from NAFSA

We received a letter of commendation from one of our newer customers, The National Arts Festival of South Africa. Tony agreed to allow us to post it here on our blog.

NAFSA_LetterheadChris Bucchere
Social Collective
13800 Coppermine Road
Herndon, VA 20171
USA

7 May 2009

Dear Chris,

Just a note of sincere thanks to you and your team at Social Collective for the highly professional way in which you’ve approached the implementation of your tool on our website.

Undeterred by the fact that his client is several thousand miles and timezones away, Mike has done a great and very patient job of attending to the implementation and the multitude of requests for tweaks and changes from us.

The end result is great and in the couple of days the site has been live the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

You’ve got a great product and a great team – we’re very glad to have encountered both!

Thank you.

Regards,

Tony Lankester
CEO: National Arts Festival, South Africa

The Ultimate Cool Factor: Social Media Ideas from SXSW

Continuing their efforts as fine purveyors of “awesomesauce,” those ebullient SocialFishes Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer interviewed Chris Bucchere of The Social Collective for an article in FORUM Magazine.

The interview touches on a lot of different topics from defining the word “automagic” to how to make effective use of SMS at your next association event. Check it out for yourself or download your own copy.