Portals are in danger of being shown the door in the enterprise.
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With the advent of Web-enabled enterprise applications, the need for portals to act as a gateway to the Web has diminished. During the dot-com boom, portals developed at light speed with innovation at the integration and presentation layers coming at the expense of management and interoperability considerations.
A recent Burton Group report examining new portal standards and development explains that the portal market has matured and consolidated as vendors desperate to maintain their relevance have begun to retune what portals can do in the enterprise.
Specifically, report author Gary Hein points to emerging standards such as Java Specification Request (JSR) 168 and Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP) as drivers in the evolution of portals. Hein said the two specifications will facilitate code portability and reuse and keep enterprises from potential lock-in scenarios with a particular vendor.
"Enterprises need to keep JSR 168 and WSRP at the top of the list for evaluations of new portal products or developing portals," said Hein, vice president for application platform strategies at Burton Group. "They are very important standards with the industry consolidating."
As more enterprises adopt service-oriented architectures (SOA) as their development strategy, and develop Web services applications, portals must reflect these trends, Hein said. JSR 168 and WSRP will facilitate code and content reuse.
JSR 168 is a standard component model for portlets in Java portal servers. By adopting this standard, Hein said, enterprises will be able to run code on more than one platform and free themselves from vendor lock-in. "Developers need to learn only one portlet programming model, which will work with all Java portal servers," Hein wrote.
JSR 168, however does not directly enable code reuse.
WSRP tackles presentation-oriented Web services. It defines the interfaces and semantics for enterprises wanting to expose portlets or applications as a Web service via a portal to other portals or aggregation engines. It also enables portal servers to consume presentation-oriented Web services from other applications and portals.
Hein identifies portals' next "sweet spot" as the aggregation, personalization and presentation of content for everything from browsers to mobile phones. He also identifies three types of portals: information, application and enterprise.
Information portals will eventually merge with collaboration, content management systems and customer relationship management services. Application portals, meanwhile, will provide a development environment tightly coupling presentation, business process, application logic and data access. Hein cautions that this evolution isn't conducive to service-oriented architecture, despite their appeal to developers.
Enterprise portals, meanwhile, will evolve into an interface enabling remote user productivity. Hein writes that enterprise portals may have the biggest struggle for relevance because most applications are Web-enabled, companies have better remote desktop support and information and application portals offer more value.
Enterprise portals are suited to address the content aggregation and authentication issues that accompany Web-enabled applications. Portals can integrate easily with single sign-on and identity management infrastructures. They're also a preferred means to accessing applications than are remote desktops, Hein wrote.
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