Vendors prepare for portal wars

While the concept of portals has been pioneered by the likes of Plumtree Software Inc. and Epicentric Inc., the prospect of gaining control of this lucrative market — coupled with wide-ranging customer requirements — have attracted a host of vendors, including application, software, and infrastructure players like IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc.

The pure play portal vendors’ view: Jay Simons, managing director, Asia Pacific, Plumtree Software.

“In a single word: experience. Many underestimate the complexities involved with an enterprise portal, assembling content from different repositories, different formats, and services from different types of applications, developed in any number of different environments and hosted on different platforms. We have more than four years of experience supporting ambitious portal deployments, improving our platform products over four years of successive releases.

The infrastructure players are all relative new-comers. Most of them see the portal as an afterthought, a way of either protecting their existing technology investments within the enterprise, or a way of offering (usually for free) an enticement to sway companies towards their underlying technology stack. Each of the infrastructure players you mentioned is focused first and foremost on their platform, their run-time environment or application server or back-office infrastructure. And for the most part their portals betray this focus, because they typically offer limited horizontal integration and aren’t dedicated to openness and independence in the way we are, in the way we can be.”

Simon Dale, director, mySAP Enterprise Portals, SAP Asia.

“Pure-play portal products have been specifically designed for the deployment of enterprise portals, and as such have some advantages over infrastructure-led products as they tend to have been designed as open platforms not tied to any particular proprietary infrastructure.”

The infrastructure player’s view: Sean Loiselle, business unit executive, Advanced Collaboration, Asia-Pacific, IBM Software Group.

“The traditional portal vendors such as Plumtree and Epicentric grew out of a need to integrate multiple published document-oriented intranets and later integrated links to applications. They typically have good interfaces, but are based on proprietary technologies and are only now rearchitecting their offerings to the new standards.

The infrastructure players have multiple advantages. First, because they make up the foundation infrastructure that portals are based on, they can reduce the overall TCO of a portal implementation through the reliability, scalability and security of their offerings. Second, most of the infrastructure players’ portal offerings are based on open standards already so no large migration will be required of customers later. Third, the infrastructure vendors are typically the major provider of or partner to the major e-business applications that customers are focused on now such as CRM, ERP and SCM making the total customer experience of implementing a portal a more comprehensive one.”

Hui Yoke Leng, regional marketing manager, BEA Systems.

“There are a few differences between the two types of players: – Viability. Infrastructure players having stable revenue stream from its other product pool are less reliant on the ups and downs of portal revenue and have longer staying power; – Platforms. Infrastructure players have an application server which is proven in many production sites to deal with scalability and performance needs; – Enterprise Application Integration (EAI). Web application servers have become the foundation for portal scalability and EAI demands.”