Case study: One firm's choice of IBM Workplace over SharePoint

When Skaugen Petro-Trans had to design a portal so a customer could view key data, it opted for Workplace SE after finding Sharepoint immature and too tightly linked to Active Directory.

Skaugen Petro-Trans, an oil lightering company based in Houston, was primarily a Microsoft Windows shop when, in 2004, it began searching for a portal framework on which to build a customer information portal. The company, which uploads and transfers oil from supertankers into smaller lightering vessels for transport to refineries, employed Ixion, a consulting firm and IBM partner, to evaluate its options. Soon thereafter, Skaugen opted to implement IBM's Workplace Services Express, choosing it over the Microsoft option, SharePoint Portal.

The project for which Skaugen purchased Workplace Services Express involved the creation of a portal that would enable a customer to view key data and documents on ship activities. The customer, who owned a deep water port and offshore oil rig, was evaluating Skaugen as a possible contract management firm for the port. But the customer first wanted proof that it would be able to view key data, in real time, from a browser.

I didn't see SharePoint as being mature enough to do what we needed it to do.
Wilton Malone
IT managerSkaugen Petro-Trans

With a small, three-person IT staff, Skaugen didn't want a complex product that would take time to learn and implement. It also didn't want an expensive product, since the customer had not yet committed to signing a contract.

Being a Windows shop, Skaugen first looked at Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server before opting for Workplace SE, the single-server version of Workplace Collaboration Services. "I didn't see SharePoint as being mature enough to do what we needed it to," says Wilton Malone, IT manager for SPT.

Specifically, Malone wanted to have single-sign on for outside customers without having to register them on the internal directory. "I didn't want our customers or our vendors to be part of our Active Directory," he said, noting that SharePoint, at that time, appeared to require Active Directory in order to have single sign-on.

Malone also found Workplace SE, which retails at $39,900 per CPU, simpler to install and manage. "Workspace had pre-built portlets already there. It's pretty straightforward in terms of ease of use," he said.

Workplace Services Express also includes the WebSphere Portal engine as part of its implementation, thereby obviating the need to purchase and install a portal separately, according to Michael Loria, director of worldwide channel marketing for IBM Lotus

In fact, Workplace SE is aimed at non-Domino environments as well as pure Domino shops, Loria noted. Besides enabling users to create, edit and share information and documents, regardless of their client platform -- be it Windows, Linux or a Web browser -- it can use any POP3 mail server, whether Domino or Express or something else. "We assume most customers have an e-mail program," Loria said. "So it will work with any POP3 mail service. If they're using it as a document repository, it can be standalone."

Malone has no plans to replace his corporate Windows applications with Domino, noting that there's no advantage to doing so -- both platforms are working well in their respective niches. But he does plan to expand Workplace Services Express and use it in a second customer service Web portal, probably by the end of the coming year.

More on Workplace

IBM officially releases Workplace Designer 2.5 development tool

As Skaugen adds servers, Malone could upgrade from Workplace Services Express to the multi-server version, Workplace Collaboration Services. However, he says, the preference is to stick with the Express single-server version and just add more standalone servers, each running an instance of Express. "We like the pricing structure for Express," he notes.

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