uPortal

In order to deliver valuable IT services to constituents, institutions and organizations need to adopt the latest in open source portal technology. uPortal, a project of the Apereo Foundation, meets this business challenge. uPortal aggregates the collection of back-end applications into a consolidated user experience. Leveraging the right portal technology can transform the online portal into an essential vehicle for achieving and driving the institution's or organization’s mission and critical initiatives. Selecting the appropriate framework is an exercise in determining which portal solution has the optimum fit for the campus or work environment and provides the level of control that the IT department requires.

What is uPortal?
uPortal is a secure, horizontal integration platform designed to integrate and aggregate information from multiple applications. uPortal provides three fundamental components: enterprise framework, portlets (rendered as small windows of content that appear on a portal page), and development tools. It is the leading open source enterprise portal framework built by and for the higher education community. uPortal continues to evolve through contributions from its global community and is supported by resources, grants, donations, and memberships fees from academic institutions, commercial affiliates, and non-profit foundations. uPortal is built on open standards-based technologies such as Java and XML, and enables easy, standards-based integration with authentication and security infrastructures, single sign-on secure access, campus applications, web-based content, and end user customization. It is one of the most widely deployed open source enterprise portal frameworks, having been adopted by hundreds of institutions and the eResearch community, worldwide.

Whatever the goal of the uPortal deployment, Unicon provides the expertise required to give the confidence that comes with a professional implementation. Please read about Unicon’s services for uPortal, in the tabs below.

 

Associated Services for uPortal

Consulting Services for uPortal

Unicon's consulting services help in advising institutions and organizations on how to take full advantage of uPortal to meet their business objectives. Unicon assigns an experienced Project Manager to oversee expert project teams as they work to deploy and support custom enterprise uPortal instances that solve business challenges. Unicon’s experienced portal development experts can meet aggressive deadlines, even when integrating uPortal with several different systems.

Evaluation
Whether an institution or organization is in the process of implementing, updating, or maintaining uPortal, assessing and evaluating options can impact the success of uPortal. Unicon understands the importance of documenting goals, needs, and wants, and offers an evaluation service to institutions and organizations.

This first-step service provides a snap-shot of where the institution or organization is or to help clarify a need for uPortal. An evaluation session can determine and prioritize the conditions and needs required for a new implementation, update, or customization to an existing uPortal instance. Unicon’s evaluation service includes surveys, reporting, and analysis, all helping institutions and organizations decide their business needs for the portal. Unicon also provides best practices for evaluation based on functionality, finances, support/maintenance, performance, usability, and security.

Mentoring
General uPortal mentorship affords institutions and organizations access to a Unicon developer/ consultant experienced in working with uPortal. Consultants are made available to assist and mentor staff.

Types of mentoring activities include: answering questions, helping staff execute on portal development, providing guidance on portal configuration tasks, and performing research and producing documentation as requested up to the agreed amount of hours. Mentorship assists in knowledge transfer to grow an institution’s or organization’s staff expertise in the development of the uPortal framework and for maintaining the uPortal instance.

Customization Services for uPortal

uPortal allows for customization of the elements within the enterprise, including content, applications, and services, to meet the growing and diverse needs of each institution and organization. Clients can enlist Unicon to create customized implementations with uPortal’s pluggable framework to meet specific business needs. Unicon can design and develop custom portlets for uPortal, and extend uPortal’s functionality through system integration.

Unicon offers software engineering expertise, to customize the flexible and extensible uPortal framework. Unicon's software engineering teams ensure timely delivery of projects using agile and scrum development methodologies. Unicon has designed and implemented highly scalable and high performance architecture to support over a hundred thousand users logging in every hour and several million total users.

Systems Integration for uPortal

uPortal is built on flexible, open standards-based technologies, with enterprise-grade APIs that allow for simple integration with other systems and customization for specific local needs. uPortal enables easy integration with authentication and security infrastructures, single sign-on secure access, campus or organizational applications, web-based content, and end user customization.

Unicon provides systems integration services to integrate many applications with uPortal. Among the most common systems integration is authentication technology. Ready support for popular authentication sources include: CAS, Shibboleth, PubCookie, Active Directory, OpenLDAP, Novell eDirectory, and JDBC.

Unicon can also integrate uPortal with group management technology. uPortal uses a highly extensible Group API allowing the portal to consume and combine group data from multiple sources, including LDAP, Active Directory, Grouper, and custom databases.

Unicon has integrated uPortal with content catalogs and multiple learning management system (LMS) instances to support course creation and delivery.

Portlet Development Services

Portals give institutions and organizations accessibility to the online applications and personalized information users demand, regardless of how many different systems and processes an institution or organization may have. In accommodating the aggregation and display of diverse content, applications, and services, an enterprise portal provides a framework that integrates several template component types. One of the more complex component types is the portlet, which functions as a pluggable user interface component providing a presentation layer in the portal for information systems. Unicon is skilled at developing JSR 168 or JSR 286 standards-compliant portlets or platform-specific portlets and offers full life-cycle portlet development services.

Unicon’s provides its full suite of services for the development of portlets, including custom and standards-based development.

Custom portlets Unicon has developed include:

  • Courses portlet to support course creation, course updates, and course listing across multiple learning management system (LMS) instances
  • Announcements portlet to support authoring and displaying general announcements as well as displaying course announcements from multiple learning management system (LMS) instances
  • Subscription portlet to display and provide access to all systems that a user has subscriptions to from an identity and access management system

Unicon can also develop enhancements to portlets, upgrades when necessary, and educate institutions’ staff through an exclusive Portlet Development Training. Once created, Unicon can assist institutions and organizations in contributing the portlet code back to the open source community. Contributing to the open source community requires a modest effort and is a rewarding endeavor.

Portlets created or enhanced by Unicon include:

  • Announcements Portlet
  • Budget Portlet
  • Calendar Portlet
  • Campus Map Portlet
  • Facebook Portlet
  • Featured Story Portlet
  • LMS Integration
  • Mail Portlet
  • RSS Portlet
  • SIS Integration
  • Tabbed Search Portlet
  • Weather Portlet

Solution Delivery Services for uPortal

Since uPortal is not an application, development effort is required to customize the framework. It takes skill and expertise to install the components in a well-defined, usable manner. Unicon has extensive experience deploying uPortal. Unicon has developed best practices to help facilitate a successful, stable implementation for clients. Unicon’s expert Project Managers guide clients through each phase of implementation, from brainstorming and planning to maintenance and support. While each of these services may be purchased separately, investing in the full package is ideal to avoid common pitfalls and ensure a seamless execution.

A successful deployment depends on taking advantage of the complete set of services listed below.

Support for Open Source uPortal

Protect the investment in uPortal and gain all of the advantages of this open source software designed specifically for institutions and organizations plus top-quality, professional support from a commercial vendor. Unicon’s Open Source Support program is SLA-driven and backed by an accountable team of open source experts. Take advantage of a flexible, customizable open source support service with direct access to dedicated developers, consultants, and system administrators each possessing deep experience within the select open source projects. Get the backing of technical expertise and professional service all at an affordable price.

Support for uPortal can also be found through the Apereo community resources, which include:

  • Free access to all maintenance releases and bug fixes
  • Free access to all security notifications
  • Free portal administration manual
  • Free access to portal and portlet user and development email lists
  • Free access to community calls, demonstrations, and roadmaps

Training Services for uPortal

One of the most attractive strengths of adopting open source software is the potential to become vendor independent. However, finding formalized training to educate system administrators and developers on uPortal's framework is a challenge. Unicon provides expert uPortal training through seasoned instructors. Each module is a 3-day, instructor led course designed for portal administrators and developers. They feature a blend of lecture and hands-on exercises to help technical teams achieve a comfort level with the uPortal environment.

Platform Training for uPortal
Platform Training provides an introduction and guide to portals, portlets, and uPortal. This course encompasses best practices for leveraging the open source uPortal software and its community.

Portlet Development Training
Portlet Development Training for uPortal serves as an introduction and guide to developing standards-compliant portlets. Lecture and hands-on exercises range from the building and deployment of portlets to techniques for organizing code in a clean, architecturally sound manner.

System Administration Training for uPortal
System Administration Training for uPortal is a four-hour overview of the technical architecture of uPortal. This course encompasses best practices for installing and configuring the open source uPortal software.

Other Services for uPortal

Hosting
Unicon can host an institution’s or organization’s instance of uPortal. Unicon’s hosting service is designed to maximize productivity, performance, and security, with a state-of-the-art data center and a team of experienced service delivery veterans.

Performance Testing
Enlist Unicon to optimize the performance of applications through on-going (iterative) application performance testing. Unicon’s proven methodology ensures applications will perform as expected to meet business needs.

Upgrades
As the open source community continues to make enhancements and adjustments to uPortal, new versions are released. These upgrades can be difficult for institutions or organizations to complete without a strong commercial vendor. Unicon’s services offer an ease of migration to the newest release of uPortal.

User Experience
Unicon offers a user experience service to help institutions and organizations deliver a polished, visually appealing application that follows the key principles of user experience design: useful, useable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, and valuable. Administrators can define content via a sophisticated layout management which also allows user-customized content.

History of uPortal

In 2001, a group of 20 institutions, including Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Brown, Delaware, University of British Columbia, Cal Poly, Columbia, Holy Cross, Georgetown, and Boston College, recognized the need to protect the institutional image, to exploit the potential of the portal, and to promote the use of Java technology.  Under the sponsorship of Sun Microsystems, these institutions formed the Java in Administration Special Interest Group (JASIG), now Jasig (no longer called Java in Administration Special Interest Group).  Securing a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, volunteers from Interactive Business Solutions (a company subsequently acquired by Unicon, Inc.) and the participating institutions developed a free and open source portal focused on the use cases of higher education.  The uPortal project has enjoyed considerable success with over 600 production deployments, and remains the most widely used open source portal in higher education.