Talking portal product futures at Oracle OpenWorld 2007

  • 12-Nov-2007

I lost my voice last week at cmf2007, and while I've almost fully recovered, seeing 43,000 delegates at Oracle's annual lovefest, Oracle OpenWorld 2007, gave me new appreciation for conference organizing on a massive scale. Today's sessions offered interesting insights into the future Oracle's two portal products, as well as a new related collaboration offering:

  • Oracle Portal: Together with the release of Oracle 11g in 1H 2008 quite a bit of back-end improvements are slated for Oracle Portal, including better content integration, support for custom languages, enhanced portlet standards support, and improved management and administration of the portal.
  • Oracle WebCenter Suite (WCS): Definitely still seems like Oracle's portal platform for the future. Even the morning keynote by Charles Philips, Oracle's President, showed a detailed and lengthy demo based on WebCenter. While the detailed product roadmap demonstration showed a few bugs and annoying user interface limitations, Oracle is very careful to position WebCenter suite as a composite application platform. In other words WCS is more than an enterprise portal.
  • Oracle Beehive: A brand new enterprise collaborative application and platform based on a desktop client for users. This new client will aim to merge the many existing apps used for collaboration (e.g. Outlook, Office, workspaces, instant messaging clients) into one consolidated interface. It is quite ambitiously positioned to replace Outlook and due out in early 2008.

During the Oracle Portal roadmap session a few interesting questions came up. First a delegate asked if the product was about to be discontinued. Later another delegate asked when the product would be replaced by WCS. Both questions were firmly answered by a slightly annoyed Rahul Patel, VP Server Technologies, who clearly stated that Oracle Portal is not going away. According to Oracle the two portal products are intended for different use cases.

While I've been advocating for a while that you may indeed need multiple products, I remain unconvinced that Oracle's strategy is very clear here. I've previously speculated that Oracle is switching portals. However, in the short-term clearly WCS will remain more a developer framework than anything else, and far from a real replacement to Oracle Portal. Even the WebCenter Quick Start carries quite a steep learning curve. Interestingly WCS has wiki functionality, but all you'll find on the Quick Start guide is a link to Wikipedia. Also for portlets you are taken to a Oracle Portal section and the page shows that to understand the tool and the services you need a primer on many different Oracle technologies and products. Finally the product is not in the Oracle Store, which means license info is hard to come by. It feels like a slow ramp-up to me, and product customers should recognize their early adopter status, with all that entails.

In the long-term Oracle may offer a smooth migration from Oracle Portal to OWS, or indeed both products could well survive. Judging from the questions at OpenWorld, Oracle still has some explaining to do. (Thanks to Sten Vesterli from Oracle partner Scott/Tiger for valuable input.)