My meeting with a celebrity

Last week, a colleage and myself were fortunate to participate at a one day GSE Nordic WebSphere User Group conference held at Bouvet’s offices in Oslo. One of the conference speakers was Stefan Hepper from IBM Germany. Stefan works as the WebSphere Portal Programming Model Architect and leads the programming model part of IBM’s flagship portal product, IBM WebSphere Portal Server. However, more importantly (at least to me), he had the honorable task of working as specification lead for the JSR-168 Portlet version 1.0 specification, and is currently working as specification lead on the new JSR-286 Portlet version 2.0 specification. Naturally, Stefan spoke primarily of the new features in the upcoming WebSphere Portal Server version 6.1 product in the context of JSR-286, but the two aforementioned portlet specifications influence every serious Java based portal server like IBM’s WebSphere Portal Server, SAP Enterprise Portal, Oracle Portal Server, Liferay and JBoss Portal Server, just to name but a few.

Stefan Hepper and the site authorHowever, although Stefan answered a lot of question during his talks, oddly enough, for me the highlight was sharing a taxi and a 20 minute train ride from the conference back to Gardermoen airport (main Oslo airport) where we loosely discussed portlets and portals in depth, and Stefan willingly shared his knowledge with us indiscriminately. It goes without saying that this guy really knows his “stuff”, but it was also quite fascinating to hear how a Java Community Process expert group works in practice. I admit that I knew little of how the JCP works behind the scenes before our conversation, but I got the impression that Stefan is responsible for a whole lot of the final specification work and seems to carry a “heavy burden” by leading the group. However, you won’t find a nicer guy willing to help you with anything related to Java portlet/portal development should you need to call upon him for help.

As you may know, the JSR-168 specification is implemented and supported on almost every Java based portal server. The JSR-286 specification is expected to be finished in april 2008 and introduces quite a lot of new features. If memory serves me correctly, Stefan mentioned that the specifcation API has grown by over 100% since version 1.0. IBM WebSphere Portal Server 6.1 is scheduled for release sometime in the second quarter of 2008 and will support portlets complying with either of the portlet standards. It is also possible to communicate between portlets developed on either standard something that was not possible before between the proprietary IBM Portal API and the JSR-168 implementation.

I also mentioned to Stefan that I thought it was odd that there were so few JSR-168 or porlet related books available on the market. It just so happens that he has co-written and almost finalized a Manning book that was never published. It happens to be available for free download from the Manning web site, but requires registration (free). The book is titled “Portlets and Apache Portals” and it looks good. It also seems to cover WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portlets, version 1.0) and also portlet development using JSR-127 (Java Server Faces).