Microsoft SharePoint is a consideration in more Gartner portal inquiries — over 70% — than any other vendor.
Five vendors dominated portal selections during the latter part of 2009 and into 2010: Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Liferay. Open-source Liferay has made the strongest move toward the forefront of portal decisions for Gartner's customers. IBM has retained its position as a strategic provider of portals for enterprises with complex and widespread needs. Oracle's acquisitions have brought it an enormous portal installed base and, accordingly, enormous attention on the direction of its various portal products.
Open source for portals is hitting its stride. During this prolonged period of economic uncertainty, many companies first looked at open-source products from Liferay, Red Hat JBoss and others as a pure cost consideration. However, these products are also winning deals as they prove themselves at larger organizations. They're relatively easy to acquire, test and implement; their open architectures strike a chord for interoperability and vendor independence; and they provide basic portal functions without the bulk of the megavendors' offerings. Products that come with enterprise content management (ECM), collaboration or social platforms can more easily conflict with other installed products.
The field of viable portal vendors has narrowed considerably, dropping from more than 50 vendors in 2003 to fewer than a dozen in 2010. However, the consolidation of traditional portal vendors doesn't necessarily mean the commoditization of the market. In light of pressing business needs to improve the user experience across channels, and amidst the innovations of Web 2.0 and the cloud, making the right portal choice is more important than ever.
The major technology shifts toward Web 2.0, the cloud and business versus the IT influence are galvanizing the portal market. Portals provide a single, personalized point of access to relevant information, processes and people. They appeal to business leaders as a means to improve employee productivity and collaboration, extend business processes and applications to broader audiences, improve business visibility and responsiveness, engage and serve customers, and improve relationships and efficiency among value chain partners. More importantly than ever, portals appeal to end users overwrought with too many systems to log into and too much information. Enterprise portals unify the user experience, and provide relevancy and context across disparate applications. They provide a unified user experience by spanning across on-premises and cloud boundaries, as well as business and social boundaries. IT organizations need them more than ever to pull together and aggregate disparate information, exert control and ensure compliance, and scale their ability to agilely deliver these applications to the business and users.
Looking forward, the horizontal portal market will serve as an important foundation for the emerging user experience platform (UXP). Organizations are focusing on business-level issues, requiring better engagement of users across a widening range of devices and channels, and new vendors are entering the market with alternative approaches to accomplishing the portal proposition. As portals, user interfaces, and user interaction technologies and practices have proliferated, they have evolved into disconnected stovepipes. Portal products, mashup tools, rich Internet application (RIA) tools, Ajax solutions, Web content management and mobile application development tools all target their respective platforms effectively, but they require enterprise developers to create separate user interaction models and code bases — with few, if any, cross-platform capabilities. Vendors have started to address enterprise concerns with the convergence of these related technologies. The UXP provides integration of technologies used to deliver portals, mashups, RIAs, Ajax-enabled websites, Web content management and mobile applications. This integration can take the form of a set of separate, yet integrated, products (that may or may not be delivered as a suite) or a single product. Early examples of the UXP are largely derived from portal technology, and include Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle WebCenter along with Universal Content Management (UCM), and IBM's broadening WebSphere Portal with its related collaboration and content management portfolio, which is developing toward a more cohesive user experience platform.
The importance of portals and the future of UXP are not lost on vendors; enterprise vendors are using portals to promote their most-sweeping and most-critical agendas. Many of the vendors are using the portal to promote a far broader and deeper agenda, whether it's their developer platforms and tools, content management capabilities, databases and middleware, or enterprise applications. As an inherently cloud-friendly aspect of middleware, portals are also a fundamental vehicle for transitioning customers to the cloud. The portal choice is, therefore, critical to ensure that organizations can accomplish their business goals, while ensuring vendor independence and agility.
Organizations tend to make portal decisions based on a wide range of factors, including functionality, familiarity, price, interoperability, usability, momentum among customers and the IT ecosystem at large. As portals have evolved, basic portal functions, such as user management, personalization, content management and integration, have been extended and enhanced, and new capabilities, such as social computing, analytics and business process management, have been added to respond to subsequent customer demands.
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