Companies Pump Up Their Portal Strategies

Something's got to shake out with Java 2 Enterprise Edition

Somethings got to shake out with Java 2 Enterprise Edition. It seems everyone is moving toward the sun-drenched J2EE standard for enterprise computing. Its already generated feverish interest with tool developers and applications companies alike. The downside is that the standard itself has already helped to decimate the application server market, leaving behind just a few powerhouse players.

BEA took the market by storm by capitalizing on J2EE early on. The laggards tried to use marketing muscle and previously arranged relationships to play catch-up. Theyre still catching up. Oracle is probably the company perceived to be the furthest behind, though it recently has gotten extremely aggressive about conquering the market.

Since J2EE is quickly becoming commoditized, the application server market needs to evolve quickly or die. Oracle officials are betting that this evolution will include extended application services, such as portal technology and security, to ignite interest in its application server.

BEA, meanwhile, in October will ship WebLogic Portal 4.0, so BEA officials obviously agree with the Oracle assessment. If Gartner analysts are to be believed, its a good bet: Gartner said the enterprise portal market will triple in size in two years—from an estimated $4.4 billion last year. Thats a lot of billions of dollars floating around that very few of us will see. (Look for eWeeks eValuation of enterprise information portals in the Sept. 17 issue.)

Sybase has been pumping up its portal strategy for two years. And Hewlett-Packard, with its acquisition of Bluestone, has been working on the portal-plus-application-integration-plus-application-server strategy for at least a year.

Im sure portals are great and necessary, but its still hard to get hyped up over them—portals are just another thing that will quickly become a commodity.

Development tools, however, are a different story. The shift from client/server to Web services and Internet computing blew apart the tools market. A number of vendors went out of business, and the rest amalgamated into one or two companies. But no company has successfully shown rich Web development tools for the enterprise.

Its a difficult market in difficult times, but Oracle is going whole hog on its Web development efforts. That will really be interesting because Oracles tools ... well, how many people actually used them?