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Portals and portal software go a long way back: they were one of the hypes in the dot.com era, almost a decade ago. The term has many definitions (e.g. ‘a secure and personalized web-based access to content and applications’) and portals come in many different flavors: horizontal vs. vertical portals, public portals (like Yahoo.com), employee or intranet portals, extranet portals, self-service portals, e-commerce portals etc.
In the beginning of the millennium, when the ICT sector encountered a serious downturn, the interest in portals moved away: the promise of portal software as being a nice and easy ‘one-stop solution’ for providing content management, applications, personalization and much more, seemed further away than ever. Many ambitious portal projects failed due to complex integration efforts and difficult to use interfaces.
Recently, the portal software market saw some serious consolidation and only infrastructure players like IBM, BEA, Sun and Oracle seemed to maintain a valuable portal offering (and thus now only IBM and Oracle), albeit that these platforms are complex to change and expensive to acquire.
But in the enterprise, the search for efficiency is still a major driver towards portals: ready to digest information, access to applications and of course more and more self-service platforms are the most important rewards a portal can bring.
The introduction of Microsoft Sharepoint in the market gave portals a second chance in the enterprise market. Although Microsoft removed the word ‘portal’ from the product name in 2007, the portal aspect was definitely one of the 6 pillars of the offering. Hereby, the Sharepoint platform positioned itself rather as a framework than as an ‘out-of-box-solution’.
The open source portal Liferay is also a strong option for buyers, due to its focus on creating a core development framework and the emphasis on the user interface aspects of a portal. Liferay has gained significant momentum in the enterprise market: it brings you an integrated framework for content and applications, all this in a promising user interface.