Portal Roundtable

May 25, 2007 at 3:26 pm | Posted in BEA, BPM/Workflow, IBM, Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle, portals, SOA | Leave a comment

I ran a breakfast roundtable here at the SharedInsights Portal, Collaboration, and Content conference this morning and found it to be quite enjoyable and enlightening (despite the hotel dragging away the coffee and tea service too quickly…). The table had about a dozen attendees, mostly architects, and was a good cross section of portal implementations. A large food franchise, a few large government agencies, a major retailer, a vendor (not a portal vendor), a real estate firm, and an international utility were represented.

The primary issue they were all faced turned out to be integrating service oriented architecture (SOA) concepts into their portal environments. Point goes to Plumtree a few years ago who dedicated themselves to the “enterprise service bus” concept. Portals were originally created as “Swiss army knives” that could connect and adapt to all sorts of identity management, security, content management, and application products. It seems that need is still prevalent. Unfortunately, the vendors have been slipping into the mode of integrating the portals into their infrastructure stacks and playing favorites by connecting to their own infrastructure first and then allowing a standards based connector to everything else (blaming it on the other vendors if they can’t take advantage of JSR 170, JSR 168, LDAP, etc.).

It was interesting that while the momentum is certainly in favor of Microsoft and IBM right now, none of the people at the table reported using them as their main portal. Instead it was BEA, Vignette, and a few Oracle. One was interested in open source as well. The table felt that the reason is that legacy environments are not going away, particularly for content management and portal. While many vendors can show a nice, unified stack now, that doesn’t help the practical reality that organizations face with the large amount of built up legacy infrastructure. Governance is a key success factor then in getting each part of the organization to agree to corporate standards even if it is a little less useful for them. Optimizing enterprise-wide sometimes means a sub-optimal environment for those that heavily use another app that offers a portal.

Workflow was also important to the attendees. A few had workflow/BPM tools they wanted to hook up to the portal such as TIBCO and Ultimus, while others were interested in the more simple capabilities you get out of a portal itself.

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