Enterprising Portals

Forrester adds portal server rankings to its lineup

Cambridge, MA  September 18, 2001  To help companies select the best enterprise portal server products to suit their needs, Forrester Research has introduced Enterprise Portal Server TechRankings, the seventh category in Forrester's eBusiness TechRankings. Forrester invited all major companies in this market to take part in the product testing and evaluation process, in which six vendors have participated to date.

For this TechRankings category, Forrester defines enterprise portal servers as software that gives employees a single customized interface to the online resources they need by integrating and organizing applications and data. Forrester and its partner, Doculabs Inc. evaluated offerings from six participating vendors for this initial research release: BroadVision's InfoExchange Portal, Epicentric's Foundation Server, iPlanet's Portal Server, Oracle's Oracle9iAS Portal, Plumtree's Corporate Portal, and TIBCO's ActivePortal.

TechRankings evaluates enterprise software products through laboratory-based product testing, in-depth research and user interviews, and objective analysis of global vendor offerings. Since every enterprise information portal deployment is unique, TechRankings lets clients use online tools to customize the research  and product evaluation rankings  to focus on the most important criteria and vendors for their particular projects.

The portal market's veteran pure plays, such as Epicentric and Plumtree, are facing a maturing market validated by new entries from application server vendors, such as iPlanet and Oracle, integration experts such as TIBCO, content management players like BroadVision and several enterprise application builders.

"The portal server market is broad and confused," said Nate L. Root, analyst at Forrester and principal researcher for this TechRankings category. "But all these products are still maturing, and no single offering is free of shortcomings. The recent spate of acquisitions, partnerships and product rewrites will give rise to better products in the long run but is simply confusing companies now."

Vendors with very different software experience have entered this market by tweaking existing products, resulting in a very diverse product landscape. After assessing more than 900 unique product evaluation criteria, Forrester believes that those products that offer integration with back-end applications, followed by search and performance capabilities, are the strongest positioned in the marketplace.

Before evaluating portal servers in the lab, Forrester interviewed IT executives at 49 Global 3,500 companies to find out what their portal needs are. Forrester found that firms want portal servers that help employees use the applications and information they need to do their jobs. Most firms want a portal that focuses on employees and takes a year or less to launch. While the majority of firms rely on their IT groups as the sole source of portal funding, many companies said they find it difficult to build consensus on portal features and funding across the entire organization.

Based on these interviews, Forrester created a list of the top 10 factors to consider when choosing an enterprise portal. These include: Will the portal handle complex business transactions? How will portal users interact with each other? What development expertise does IT have?

Since the eBusiness TechRankings launched in October 2000, Forrester has released seven TechRankings categories: Enterprise Portal Server, Marketing Automation Application, Integration Server, Customer Service Application, Application Server, Content Management and Commerce Platform. Existing TechRankings categories are updated regularly with new information, new vendors, and new releases.