I’m generally pretty sceptical about any product pitch that begins “all you have to do is…”. Usually, it skates over a whole bunch of set-up that the demonstrator has done beforehand. So, knowing that it’s hard to integrate existing applications into a portal, I’ve been left pretty cold by the hype around Portal Web Application Integrator.
Neither of these options excites me much, but we started off down the line of Web Application Integrator for a couple of reasons. Firstly, links generated to the application will work much better than they would with iFrames (see below). Secondly, load times will be better – browsers often have to finish loading a page before they start to load the contents of the iFrame. Finally, because we’re using Tivoli Access Manager, we wouldn’t have any problems with portal session time-out or presenting internal URLs to the user.
Here’s a screen shot of the integration we’re trying to achieve (in the pic it’s using iFrames, with the app customised to remove headers – from the user’s perspective it looks pretty seamless. Connections works the same way). As you can see the portal (v6) already has a custom theme, built in an earlier version of the project.
None of these problems looked insurmountable, but by this time we’d already invested about a week’s work and we figured that another week would be needed to get theme that would work with Web Application Integrator. At this point I decided to cut our losses and use an iFrame.
We’ll probably come back to Web Application Integrator in a future version. Our lives would certainly have been made easier had we designed the custom theme with it in mind from the start. Also, there’s a particular problem with the generation of links in iFrames that will bring me back to Web Application Integrator. Suppose I integrate Moodle with Connections Profiles, so that names in Moodle have a link to the user’s Profile. That’d be neat but with iFrames, Connections will appear in the Moodle iFrame. This will, clearly, confuse the poor user who will wonder why Moodle has just turned into Connections without the portal tabs updating themselves. With Web Application Integrator, we would avoid that.
Bottom line, an interesting tool, but be careful…