Participating in industry conferences provides me with an ideal opportunity to talk to a wide variety of customers and vendors and get the pulse of the marketplace. These events help me understand what vendors are marketing, what corporations are actually implementing and the problems facing organizations in using new technologies to solve business problems.
One major area of confusion facing conference attendees is the constantly changing terminology used by vendors and analysts. At the DCI Enterprise Portal Conference in Chicago in October, many conference attendees were still trying to understand the role of a portal in the application development and integration process. Several vendors, however, were beginning to use new terms to describe their products. These vendors believe the term "portal" is passé and no longer reflects what customers need or what vendors are providing. The message was that to justify new projects, organizations need more than the personalized Web-based enterprise business content that portals provide they need facilities such as content management and collaboration tools as well. The vendors claim that without these additional capabilities, a portal will lie dormant and will not provide a return on investment.
The use of new terms to describe a portal is not only confusing, but also raises questions about whether the portal in its current form is a dead technology and whether the term portal is about to join the buzzword scrapheap, or is this yet another ploy by vendors to create a marketing edge by using new terms to describe their products? The best way to answer these questions is by examining the current portal marketplace and the marketing and development strategy of different portal vendors.
Determining the size of the portal marketplace and the types of return on investment (ROI) achieved by organizations using portal products is difficult, especially given the range of different software products that incorporate portal technology. A recent report by Gartner, Inc. shows the portal marketplace growing at a healthy rate of 16.7 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from $749 million in 2002 to $1,618 million by 2007. Based on revenue, the report shows that in 2002, the portal market leaders were IBM (13.5%), SAP (9.7%), BEA (6.9%), Plumtree (6.6%) and Sun (5.9%). A recent survey of 356 companies jointly conducted by BI Research and DCI on the DCI Portal Community showed that the main portal products being deployed were IBM (34%), Oracle (24%), Microsoft (22%), Plumtree (18%), SAP (15%) and BEA (14%).
The Gartner report clearly demonstrates that the portal market is healthy and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. The joint BI Research and DCI study results indicate a set of market leaders similar to those of the Gartner report, except that it adds Microsoft and Oracle. It should be noted the latter study indicates license numbers, rather than revenue numbers as were included in the Gartner report. This would explain the presence of Microsoft in the BI Research/DCI results because the Microsoft SharePoint server product has a large number of licenses, but a low revenue per license. Oracle is not included in the Gartner report because the Oracle Portal is incorporated into Oracle9iAS and cannot be purchased separately from the application server.
Given the health of the portal market, why are some vendors using different names for this technology and predicting the demise of the portal in its current form? If we examine the market leaders, their products full into three main groups:
- Standalone, so-called "pure-play" portal vendors (Microsoft, Plumtree)
- Infrastructure products such as application servers and integration brokers (BEA, IBM, Oracle, Sun)
- Application package vendors (SAP)
The growing dominance of the infrastructure and application package vendors in the portal space is increasing pressure on the vendors of standalone portal products. This is why the move toward the use of new terminology is coming primarily from the vendors of standalone portal products, and specifically from those vendors whose main revenue is based on portal software. This not only includes market leaders in this space such as Plumtree, but also other companies such as OpenText and Vignette. These vendors are focusing on horizontal out-of-the-box solutions that include not only portal capabilities, but also content management and collaboration facilities. These solutions will be attractive to companies that do not want to be locked into a particular infrastructure or application package vendor, as will especially be the case in the mid-market. Of course, in this latter space, vendors will face heavy competition from Microsoft who is tightly coupling their SharePoint product set with Microsoft Office.
The portal marketplace is healthy, but also evolving. There is no question that collaboration and content management are key components of a portal strategy. Although some vendors would wish otherwise, the term "portal" will remain term favored by the industry to describe a personalized and secure Web interface for accessing enterprise business content.
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