Sunday, June 29, 2008

WebSphere Portlet Factory -- Introductions

I have been working in WebSphere Portlet Factory lately and I am beginning to get a feel for how it can make web development easier, especially when building portlet applications. Learning to use it involves a different way of thinking about building web applications. The process of building applications using it initially warped my mind the same way that learning LISP did after many years of C.

I have yet to find a good series of tutorials that teach portlet factory using the "hello world" style. Two starting points for the newbie are the wiki and the redbook. The wiki has some good content, but not a good starting from scratch set of tutorials. The redbook does do starting from scratch, but in a grandiose way that forces you to ignore errors that are displayed until you finish things later... It is a mammoth work, some 730 pages in all. It is a little intimidating when you are just starting out.

Another recommended area to get support is the forums (9 in all). The 4 most relevant to the beginner are:
The problem is that there are 9 of them and 4 are useful, and you are never really sure where to search for the answer to your question. I haven't found a way to search across only these 4 forums and frequently have to search across everything at IBM, which is not exactly helpful...

One thing to know is that the tool is far from free. If you own WebSphere Portal (6 and above) you are entitled to one seat of the designer, and Eclipse plugin that allows you to build portlet factory applications. You are also entitled to run those applications inside of the WebSphere Portal environment. Things get more complicated if you want to run outside of WebSphere Portal (more on that another day), and the pricing for the designer standalone is similar to that of IBM's Rational Application Developer product.

That being said, I think that the cost might be justified when stacked against the complexity of building applications in the J2EE, even with the support of frameworks like Spring. It really is remarkable how quickly you can put a web application together that displays data or does CRUD.

You can download the Portlet Factory 6.1 Beta from the WebSphere Portal 6.1 Beta Site.

If I can find my blog legs I will be doing more on this topic, and may even take a shot at the "hello world" style tutorials.

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