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August 9, 2006updated 19 Aug 2016 10:09am

Vendors add portals like Gillette adds blades

How many portals is enough? It's a good question, because BEA already has two, and in the fourth quarter when Oracle launches its new portal, news of which broke in this blog, it too will have two portals. What can BEA do except build or buy a

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How many portals is enough? It’s a good question, because BEA already has two, and in the fourth quarter when Oracle launches its new portal, news of which broke in this blog, it too will have two portals. What can BEA do except build or buy a third portal? Is the only thing better than having two portals to have three portals?

Today portals are like Jaguars: having one is fine, but having two is just much nicer. But I am also starting to see parallels between portals and razor blades. You know, the “what do we do to improve our twin-blade razor? I know, add another blade!” story.

After Gillette had come out with the Mach3 Turbo it must have thought that nobody could touch it. Until of course rival Schick came out with the four-blade Quattro. Gillette’s response? The Gillette Fusion (no relation to Oracle Fusion Middleware).

Guess what, the Gillette Fusion has five blades on the front and another for “precision trimming” on the back. Six blades! That means that Schick’s only hope is to come out with a seven-blade razor. Seven blades! Looks like we will have a 10-blade razor by 2010. But still no one will have more than one beard.

Anyway you would have thought that integration software vendor BEA knows a thing or two about integration. Heck, it even has a product line called WebLogic Integration for integrating disparate business systems.

But that doesn’t mean it likes to integrate all of its own products, as I learned to my surprise in a recent interview with BEA’s CEO Alfred Chuang. He told me that the company has no plans to integrate its two portals.

Since buying Plumtree BEA has had two very separate portal products: Its own WebLogic Portal, and the acquired Plumtree portal (since renamed AquaLogic User Interaction) which it placed within its AquaLogic suite of SOA applications.

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Chuang told me that WebLogic Portal and AquaLogic User Interaction (Plumtree) have different uses: “WebLogic Portal has been adopted by companies looking for highly scalable, transactional websites like BT.com, and Vodafone Live,” he said. “Plumtree has mostly been used as an internal corporate portal.”

“We could integrate them but some companies are buying both, and nobody’s bitching,” Chuang explained. “Yes, it would be much cleaner if we only had one product to support but at the moment I can sell some customers both – I’m trying to sell everyone who has one the other, and it’s going well.”

Confirmation that there are no integration plans comes hot on the heels of news that Oracle is gearing up to become a two-portal shop just like BEA. It seems to me that BEA has only one option – to build, buy or steal a third portal. Better still, buy two to give it a buffer zone in case Oracle adds a third.

Incidentally before you ask, I only have a vague idea how many portals IBM has. I suspect IBM only has a vague idea how many portals IBM has.

I know they have WebSphere Portal (in four editions), WebSphere Portal Express and WebSphere Everyplace Mobile Portal, but I also note that IBM Rational Application Developer includes “visual portal development tools” – does that count as another portal? After all what is portal software anyway if not tools to build a portal? So my tally is, er, seven IBM portals. We’re going to see a vendor with ten portals before 2010, I’m telling you.

You can read more about Oracle’s forthcoming second portal here, BEA’s User Interaction portal here, IBM WebSphere Portal(s) here and about the six-blade Gillette Fusion here.

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