Concept or Technology and the Emergence of Software as a Service
The term portal is widely used across the web today and means different things to different people. In general, however, there are two primary meanings for the term: portal as a software technology and portal as an abstract concept. As a concept portal refers to bringing together a wide range of tools, data, and applications into a single, personalized and interactive website. As a technology, it means a software product providing the infrastructure to create and manage an enterprise portal. To better understand why businesses purchase portal products, we need to understand what purpose a portal serves.
Businesses build portals to create a centralized knowledge center that their employees, customers or business partners can use to find information, talk to other people, share information with others, and interact with backend applications. Some of the key parts in portals include:
There are today no pure-play portal vendors in the market. Most software providers also sell an enterprise suite of technologies that includes content management, collaboration and single sign-on technologies. Some of the portal vendors today include:
These products and more are considered horizontal portal products because they pull together data and information across a business and not just a specific line of business.
Although not currently a direct threat to traditional portal software now, companies like Google, Microsoft (MSN) and Yahoo provide a version of portal to consumers called a personal start-up page. These start-up pages enable a user to add “mashups” which are similar to portlets that have a range of abilities including data, applications, and content. So even though few enterprises use open source portal software today, the interest is growing and these start-up page vendors have the ability to change the competitive landscape for portal software.
Software as a service means the ability to provide software to companies across the internet. Google does this with its word processing and spreadsheet applications. They could continue this trend by selling a version of its start-up page.
There are many portal products on the market today all providing similar services. But some are better at one service than another. It’s important to fully understand a businesses requirements and strategic direction before purchasing a product.