Portals arm distributed and on-the-go employees

In the aftermath of 2001’s budgetary and staffing cutbacks, employee work forces and enterprise resources continue to become increasingly distributed. The need for instant access to relevant information and applications has become a critical factor driving productivity. Portals have become significant devices for bridging the gap between where an employee is and where the employee needs to be.

Originally designed to bring order to the deluge of information flooding the enterprise, portals have grown during the past several years to embody more than mere data aggregation. Now maturing at a steady pace, portals have strengthened to provide a centralized middleware platform on which businesses can capitalize to shore up inefficiencies.

Moving into 2002 and beyond, portals will remain a hotbed for enterprise efficiency. With the continued push toward Web services, portal vendors are bolstering their support for standards such as XML, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration). Portlets, prebuilt plug-and-play integration components for portals, will be wrapped in services envelopes to take advantage of these standards, employing Web services to make it easier and faster for companies to find and fuse new content and capabilities into their front-end offerings.

Portals will advance beyond a thin Web veneer as they become more closely integrated into application server products, improving the architecture for more robust, scalable interaction. They also will thrive in areas such as collaboration, peer-to-peer workgroup tools, as well as advanced personalization. Beyond simple ID-based access, portals will become smarter, utilizing context-, location-, and device-specific cues to deliver the right data, in the right format, at the right time without user intervention.

One of the most important future focuses for portals must be to resolve interoperability issues among competing solutions. For large global companies with different point-solution portals in place across various departments, interoperability will be integral to eking out maximum value.

Portals have become the evolutionary answer to an increasingly chaotic corporate computing environment. Thus far, portal vendors are doing a very good job at adapting to keep pace with changes necessary for ensuring their survival.

Award winner: BEA Systems WebLogic Portal