Tibco, BEA push portals

Once neatly under the thumb of a few pure-play software vendors, the enterprise portal market is exploding, attracting offerings from infrastructure, services and software heavyweights. Heating up the application infrastructure pickings, Tibco Software Inc. this week will announce ActivePortal 3, a portal framework for integrating business information from internal and external resources. Meanwhile, BEA Systems Inc. and Divine Interventures Inc. are readying portal platforms for release later this month.

Tibco ActivePortal 3 aims to integrate disparate enterprise applications and other data sources, bringing the functionality of the back-end business systems into the hands of users, according to David Hickman, product manager at Tibco in Palo Alto, Calif.

“We are trying to take [the portal] to the next level, [creating] not just an application that presents information, but a platform so enterprises can build solutions on top [of the portal],” he said.

Rather than building custom adapters for individual applications, Tibco can leverage its integration history to tie back-end systems to the portal, Hickman said.

“This integrates users into the process in the enterprise workflow, so users can make the most informed decision possible,” Hickman said.

Tibco ActivePortal 3 includes a portal platform, dubbed PortalBuilder, that leverages standards – such as J2EE (Java2 Enterprise Edition), SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and WSDL (Web Services Description Language) – to integrate with Web server, application server, and database technology.

For its part, BEA Systems this month plans to release BEA WebLogic Portal 4.0. The portal will include a Web services Portlet Builder tool, according to the company, designed to stitch Web services into the portal framework. The portal framework will also feature configuration tools for assigning business rules and personalizing pages.

After gobbling up content-management players Open Market Inc. and Eprise Corp., Chicago-based divine later this month plans to roll out its Enterprise Content Solutions, which includes an updated version of its Enterprise Portal Suite. The new version will include usage-tracking features and packaged content and applications, according to divine.

Meanwhile, early market entrant Plumtree Software Inc. continues to keep a strong foothold with its Corporate Portal 4.5, released last month. Version 4.5 adds wireless functionality and boosts network searching.

Consolidation of the portal market is already well under way, as the space is crowded with many offerings from pure-play software, application server, and application integration vendors, according to Nate L. Root, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

“We’ll see continued consolidation. These vendors recognize that the convergence is happening and they are all struggling to partner up,” Root said.

In fact, numerous partnerships, acquisitions, and integration efforts have already altered the playing field.

Earlier this year SAP AG bought portal vendor TopTier Software Inc., while application server vendor Sybase Inc. pocketed integration server vendor Neon Systems Inc. More recently, Epicentric Inc. announced an integration partnership with BEA, allowing Epicentric to exit the portal framework arena to focus on portal applications, according to officials at the company.

The ideal portal platform bridges the portal software layer, the application server layer, and the integration server layer, according to Root.

“It is the convergence of these three camps, taking core strengths from each of them, that you develop your strongest enterprise portal,” he said.

Whereas pure-play software vendors have a lock on front-end features, such as personalization and customization of the GUI, EAI (enterprise application integration) players can exploit their heritage to reach into back-end systems, Root said.

“Tibco is in really good shape because where I see the portal market going is more toward heavy business process integration and automation, and that is Tibco’s bread and butter,” Root said.

Tibco Tidbits

The ActivePortal 3 platform is composed of three components:

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