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Enterprises Sailing Towards Portals

Portal framework technology, which allows enterprises to integrate collaborative services, applications and Web services, is still evolving, but is not far from mainstream adoption, according to a report released today by Stamford, Conn.-based META Group.

According to the firm's Enterprise Portal Frameworks METAspectrum market summary, 85 percent of Global 2000 companies will have selected an enterprise portal framework by 2004. Despite a significant industry buzz, adoption rates for portal technology is only about 20 percent currently.

Unlike portal interfaces tied to specific applications, META Group defines portal frameworks as products that provide a complete set of services and a programming interface for plugging in portal components. Enterprises use the framework to build portals that allow its employees, partners, suppliers and customers to access business information and enterprise applications.

The METAspectrum report evaluates 19 vendors, divided into three categories:

Leaders: Vendors in this category represent the three segments of the market, according to META Group. IBM represents platform players offering a complete e-business infrastructure stack. SAP represents enterprise application vendors. Plumtree represents standalone vendors.

Challengers: Most of the 19 products fall into this category. Vendors include PeopleSoft, Oracle, BEA, CA, Epicentric, Hummingbird, Sun, Tibco, Vignette, Corechange, BroadVision, Sybase, Netegrity and Art Technology Group. Products in the Challenger category, META Group reports, have gaps in terms of technology, B2B/B2C capabilities and vision. However, each offers a viable portal framework for appropriate enterprise customers.

Followers: Microsoft and Novell fall into this category. Followers, META Group reports, have major gaps such as small market share, inadequate technology or questionable viability and should be limited to tactical and workgroup solutions until their products mature. Microsoft, META Group notes, will move into the Challenger category if it releases scheduled enhancements to SharePoint Portal Server V.2.

The report, which rates the 19 vendors using seven criteria (vision/strategy, channels/partners, awareness/reputation, geographic coverage, business drives, industry focus and share) offers the following observations:

  • Products that enable personalized Web interfaces and dashboards for customers, partners and employees will become more prevalent, less risky and less expensive during the next 18 months.
  • Technology is currently the main decision criterion, but viability will become increasingly important as portal frameworks become the foundation for various strategic initiatives.
  • Most vendors in the challenger category will remain viable, because they are generally anchored by other products, though sales channels and professional services are likely to be inhibitors in the long run.
  • The number of organizations that treat portals as core systems will increase from less than 5 percent currently to 15 percent by 2004, and will reach 35 percent by 2007.

"The market leaders have proven their capabilities with strong technology, a distinct marketplace vision and fair pricing," said Craig Roth, vice president with META Group's Web & Collaboration Strategies service. "However, the portal market is still segmented, so organizations should carefully select a viable product that meets their specific needs rather than blindly picking one of the leaders."

The META Group predicts a continuing migration from portals as all-in-one applications to portal frameworks that unite existing infrastructure and add value through context management. The research firms says that while the portal shakeout is not over, viable products are currently available and warns that organizations that wait for the market to settle are likely lose a competitive advantage.


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