System News
Princeton University Meta Portal Strategy
Using Sun Open Net Environment
February 25, 2002,
Volume 48, Issue 4

Princeton University is increasingly conducting its business and communicating with its students, faculty, staff and alumni through the Web. Based on this realization, the university is in the process of developing a comprehensive strategy to improve and expand the institution's use of the Web.

The Web strategy builds on a prior initiative called the Partnership 2000 Plan. This plan, initiated in 1997, was developed to address the Y2K problem and migrate the administrative systems from the complex mainframe environment to a three-tier, client/server model. Several initiatives--financial reporting, receivables and human resources--have been proposed as part of the plan. The next phase is Web-enabling these client/server applications.

In parallel, several other campus projects have moved forward with their own Web portal implementations. These include a blackboard course portal, an alumni portal and an Oracle portal. Other portal projects are underway too, each with its own data, look-and-feel and security models. As part of the Web strategy, the university is looking to unify the portals into a single meta-portal with single sign-on capability.

The technology initiatives are aligning to drive Princeton in a technological direction that is consistent with the one envisioned by the SunTM Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) architecture for higher education.

This case study illustrates the forces that are shaping Princeton's mission in the 21st century. The case study then illustrates how the Web strategy is being molded to support the mission. Translating the Web strategy into a robust portal architecture is the natural next step. This sets the university on a migration path where a Services on Demand architecture will be the foundation for creating value.

The role of the various building blocks of the Sun ONE architecture in making the emerging portal architecture a reality is also presented in the case study.

In Princeton's current environment, resources are scattered and students and others need to visit multiple Web sites to locate the information they require. To deliver integrated access to these different constituents, a series of institutional portals are being implemented to remedy the existing fragmentation of user experience. Princeton is moving toward one central meta portal that would provide easy access to all key information, including course materials, student records and financial information.

Princeton has chosen uPortal, a free, sharable university portal based on JavaTM technology and developed by the Java in Administration Special Interest Group (JA-SIG). The rationale for uPortal is open architecture, no vendor lock-in, no purchased code and specifications that ensure scalability, platform independence and open standards. It is based on a publish-and-subscribe model in which users both provide and consume content of interest to the community and themselves.

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