IBM Opens WebSphere Portals To Google Gadgets

Starting in April, users of IBM's WebSphere portals will be able to import these consumer-oriented gadgets and apply WebSphere's security and management to them, said Larry Bowden, vice president of portals and Web interaction services at IBM.

Specifically, IBM has developed a portlet that will bring in Gadgets via an easy drag-and-drop action, and then the WebSphere user can save it. "We provide the security, the scaling and backup in an enterprise setting," Bowden said.

Such a capability could make Gadgets like Google Maps directions available to business users even when they're offline. "Today, if you want to use that, you have to be online or do a cut-and-paste," Bowden said. "With my portlet, I collect all the directions I need for a trip and store them to have access in disconnected mode."

One Google-savvy solution provider, who asked not to be named, said many business customers don't sanction the use of the Google Desktop, which is needed to run the Gadgets. "There is a certain amount of user tracking that the [Google] Desktop does that companies do not like," he said.

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In theory, Gadgets running in the portal will break that dependency and tracking.

Bowden said IBM and Mountain View, Calif.-based Google worked on the technology together. Their collaboration stands to give the thousands of Gadgets out there some street credibility in the enterprise. IBM enables the Gadgets to be audited and tracked, which is key because of all the compliance issues that businesses face.

"IT shops have to show your system won't go down because of some foreign entity someone brought in-house," Bowden said.

At Lotusphere 2007 last month, IBM kicked off a big push to make consumer-oriented, social-networking wares compatible with business use. With the Google collaboration, IBM is now "breaking down walls," Bowden said.

Industry observers noted that IBM and Google form two sides of what many see as an "anyone but Microsoft" coalition. It's unclear which of these two parties gains more from the IBM-Google alliance, however.

"This sounds like a play against Microsoft Vista and its Widgets," said Michael Cizmar, president of MC+A, a Chicago-based search and portal specialist. Microsoft's stack enables users to drag and drop applets into their SharePoint for sharing and reuse.

"People like the concept of Gadgets, and that concept integrates well with portals. This would let you have whatever specific business function you want at your disposal, even if it's from outside the company," Cizmar said.

Jim Deters, president of Ascendant Technology, an Austin, Texas-based IBM solution provider, said the idea sounds appealing. "It signifies the convergence of consumer apps hitting the enterprise, and we'll see an interesting mixture of those Google apps becoming pervasive, especially as new, young workers enter the workforce."

Ascendant is very involved in this convergence by assuring that Web 2.0 applications hitting the enterprise and service-oriented architectures work well, Deters added.

Google is trying to move its search appliances into corporate data centers and its new fee-based Google Apps for business use. IBM, once accused of ignoring "cool" consumer technologies, is now trying to envelop them in enterprise-savvy packaging. It has even gone so far as to host a Sam Palmisano press event in Second Life, which comes at a time when the IBM chairman and CEO rarely appears at big public events.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to steal Google's search thunder, using inside-the-firewall and domain-specific search as its wedge. On Tuesday, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie discussed how Google is impacting his company's business. He called Google's entry on the Internet search scene years ago a "wake-up call."