Where do portals fit in?

While enterprise content management (ECM) vendors have been bulking up their records management and workflow capabilities, many see portals as another synergistic technology. All the ECM vendors are 'talking about interfacing with portals and a portal standard; that's a positive course,' said Ann-Marie Horcher, senior app engineer at Dow Corning. Horcher said her company would like to see its vendor, Documentum, offer more portlets to integrate ECM with portals. 'We've done a chewing gum and baling wire version of that, but it would be simpler to plug in a vendor version. We're finding portals very popular,' she said.

Lubor Ptacek, director of product marketing at Pleasanton, Calif.-based Documentum, said the company plans to do just that and has embraced Java Specification Request (JSR) 168. JSR 168 is a standard that enables interoperability among portlets and portals.

But do not look for Documentum to offer a portal product itself, though. 'We want to be the Switzerland of portals; we don't feel threatened by the content initiatives portal vendors have. Portals have the means to come out of the box with a repository for keeping files, but that's not necessarily ECM. We provide services to portals; we treat them like any application,' said Ptacek.

Some ECM vendors, such as Hummingbird Ltd. and Vignette Corp., offer portal products themselves. Austin, Texas-based Vignette offers Vignette Application Portal 7.0, part of Vignette V7. And in Hummingbird Enterprise 2004, a portal framework integrates all components to deliver content within dynamic views or virtual workspaces. Hummingbird also supports JSR 168.

'The portal market has gone through significant repositioning,' said Hummingbird's Andrew Perry, senior vice president of marketing at Toronto-based Hummingbird. 'Portals [are] more like applications than just a framework for application integration. We recognize that customers may already have a portal infrastructure but want access to Hummingbird as portlets.'

Unstructured data management coming together with ECM makes sense, said Dan Ryan, executive vice president, marketing and business development at Stellent Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn. 'It's a broader app than portals. We see portals adding degrees of content management but we don't know if ultimately that's an area that has to get put together with ECM. A portal framework often resides with an app. But unstructured data management is enterprise-wide. Content management is broader than portals in that regard. Clearly, they need to operate together, but I don't know if the markets need to merge.'

David Glazer, vice president of product management at Open Text Corp., Waterloo, Ontario, said 'customers are looking for guidance' in the portal area. 'The market is not speaking with one voice today.' Open Text did acquire portal vendor Corechange about a year ago and 'we're incorporating that into the suite, but we'll work well with all the big portal guys,' he noted. 'Portals are not a place where you can be dogmatic. Being open is the right strategy.'

Please see the following related story: 'Content explosion forces bundling of diverse ECM tools' by Colleen Frye

About the Author

Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.


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