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

my.SXSW Goes Mobile

South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals has launched the official mobile social networking and scheduling tool for their 23rd annual event, which begins Friday, March 13th. Powered by the industry-leading whitelabel conference software application, The Social Collective, the mobile site integrates seamlessly with my.SXSW’s networking, messaging and calendaring features. Open to registrants of the film, music or interactive events, the site can be accessed by loading http://my.SXSW.com in most mobile phone web browsers, including Blackberry, iPhone, Andriod, Treo and other handsets with modern web-browsing capabilities.

SXSW teamed up with The Social Collective to provide anywhere/anytime access to all the official films, music showcases, parties, interactive panels and other events via my.SXSW.

People who have phones with web-browsing capabilities can use my.SXSW’s lightweight and highly optomized mobile web experience. People who do not can still build their personal schedules using my.SXSW via a full-blown web browser and then use the provided iCal synchronization to push events to Apple’s iCal, the Google Calendar, or any other iCal-compliant software, which can then be synchronized with virtually any mobile device. my.SXSW also supports personal schedule export into Microsoft Outlook, which can be synchronized with many other types of phones including Blackberry and Treo devices. Finally, in leiu of (or in addition to) using a mobile phone calendar, registrants can use my.SXSW to sign up for SXSW Alerts, which provide realtime schedule updates via SMS.

“We didn’t want people to feel that they needed to lug their laptops around at SXSW,” said founder and CEO of The Social Collective, Chris Bucchere.

“Nearly everyone is already going to be carrying some sort of mobile device and we didn’t want to leave anyone in the dark.”

“So if you have an overacheiving ‘smartphone,’ you can use my.SXSW through your phone’s web browser. If your phone is more of a C-student, you can probably still synchronize your calendar using iCal, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook. If your phone is more of the ‘beauty school dropout’ variety, at least you can still use SMS.”

The launch of my.SXSW’s mobile experience will make finding contacts, finding great events, and finding the locations of the different venues dead-simple, quick and portable. With The Social Collective’s modular design, enabling the mobile version of the hosted software was easy and painless. The resulting mobile web application carries the SXSW trademark and brand, just like the rest of the integrated social networking, messaging and scheduling features of my.SXSW.

“Our goals were simple: provide SXSW-branded social networking and scheduling capabilities to the greatest number and variety of mobile devices possible,” said Scott Wilcox, CTO of SXSW.

“Between The Social Collective and SXSW Alerts, we can easily reach nearly all of our registrants and provide a great user experience.”

SXSW opens Friday, March 13th with the concurrent film and interactive festivals. The music festival starts Wednesday, March 18th. Find out more about SXSW at http://my.sxsw.com

The Social Collective provides whitelabeled social networking, messaging and calendaring for events of all shapes and sizes. Visit http://thesocialcollective.com to find out how they can help you grow and serve the community around your next event.

You Are What You Eat

twittersheepI’ve never really understood the phrase, “You are what you eat.” If it were true, I’d probably be an In-N-Out burger (double double animal style) or something far worse for you and/or better tasting.

Recently, I overheard someone on Twitter saying something to the effect of:

“You are the sum of the five people you hang out with the most.”

My immediate reaction was to disagree vehemently. I’m totally not like that! I’m exactly who I want to be! I don’t subject myself to the influence of others like that! Etc.

Not only am I completely wrong about this, but it may be that — in some strange cosmic way — I’m actually the sum of ALL the people around me, good, bad and everything else under the sun.

Today I discovered TwitterSheep. (No, this has nothing to do with sheep, fraternity rituals or anything else of a sexual nature, I assure you.) TwitterSheep simply looks at your followers and constructs a tag cloud based on keywords in their bios. That’s not really remarkable, but what is remarkable is that when I ran my Twitter account through the application, the resulting tag cloud literally read like my own bio. Seriously. It’s a visual representation of terms that — when you sum them all together — equal me. The largest words are what I do and care about most.

Am I right about this? Are you the sum of your followers?

Try TwitterSheep and let me know how it worked for you!

bdg welcomes Michael Buckbee!

mike_buckbeeWe’re very pleased to announce that industry veteran, entrepreneur and Rails developer Michael Buckbee joined the bdg team today as CTO and Lead Developer on The Social Collective!

Mike’s career path is surprisingly similar to my own — in multiple ways. Fresh out of college, he joined a health industry startup called Aristar in 1999. They were acquired by SoftMed, which was then acquired by 3M HIS. (Recall that I worked at Plumtree, which was bought by BEA, which was bought by Oracle.) Unlike yours truly, who left Plumtree in 2002, Mike stayed on at 3M. As someone who just doesn’t know what it means to get bored, he also started several side projects. The most successful of these was Fabjectory, which could best be described as a 3D printshop that allows people to take their avatars (or other objects from the virtual world) offline and reincarnate them as real life figurines.

Again, our paths resemble one another, in an almost uncanny way. As I was toiling away on Feedhaus, Mike was building FeedMail, which essentially tried to allow people to read and respond to email from inside a feed reader. Like Feedhaus, the idea never really took off. However, some of Mike’s other projects — like Fabjectory — generated an amazing amount of buzz, including articles in the New York Times and WIRED. Prior to starting Fabjectory, Mike had yet another side project called Second411 which allowed people to search for virtual items both in-world and on the web. Second411 was purchased by ESC in October of 2006.

Never one to settle for just a few side-projects, Mike also worked on FoxyMelody, Watchlister, OneToFive, FeedSpeaker and an open source HTTP queue that runs on Google’s Application Engine. Here at bdg, we’ve long been in the business of throwing lots of spaghetti at the fridge and seeing what sticks, so obviously Mike will fit right in. Visit Mike’s blog and project page for more about his amazing career.

As Lead Developer on The Social Collective, Mike is already busy getting the site prepped for SXSW 2009, which will launch early in Q1.

Please join me and the rest of the bdg team in extending a warm welcome to Mike!

Sneak Preview of Chris Bucchere’s SXSW RSS Preso at the Oracle Open World Unconference

oow(2)For anyone attending Oracle Open World, I’m planning to give a preview of my SXSW 2009 talk entitled “Not So Simple Any More: RSS’s Bleeding Edge” in the unconference track at OOW. (This will happen regardless of whether or not SXSW selects my talk for inclusion in the 2009 agenda.)

The talk is scheduled for Monday, 22 September 2008 at 2 PM Pacific in Moscone Overlook II. BTW, I’ll probably be spending most of my time in the unconference track at OOW, because I’m just that kind of guy.