A Tale of Two Portals - Part 2

GateIn -- the collaborative Portal project from Red Hat JBoss and eXo -- has been making decent progress. A beta 4 was released recently the current timeline proposes final release in March, 2010. GateIn is jointly owned by eXo and Red Hat and is hosted on JBoss Community infrastructure.

Both Red Hat and eXo will use GateIn in their respective offerings.  Just to clear some confusion, Red Hat's commercially supported Portal product is called JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform (EPP). EPP has many other components like the Portal CMS module, Enterprise Application Platform (EAP), Identity Module, and the JBoss Portal Project. It is this last Portal Project component that will get replaced by a version of GateIn project in the next version of EPP (version 5). EPP 5, which is slated to be released by May 2010, will also use eXo JCR (an implementation of JSR 170 by eXo), and will also later integrate eXo's Web Content Management.

Similarly, eXo Platform will replace eXo Portal with GateIn project and will eventually certify all their other components to work with GateIn (and EPP).  This means that all their applications like eXo Social, eXo Collaboration, and so forth will use GateIn as the Portal runtime instead of the existing eXo Portal.

So what's the big deal?

There are a couple of reasons that make this interesting. GateIn is not just a low-level framework like Struts or even a simple Portlet container, but a complete portal runtime, complete with bells and whistles getting reused across two platforms. The portal is now slowly becoming one component of an overall platform and in that sense getting "commoditized."  The partnership between Sun and Liferay under which Sun was planning to use Liferay's Portal Server for their own version of Portal was another example. With Oracle acquiring Sun though, the future of that initiative is not clear.

If base portal functionality is becoming a commodity, how do vendors differentiate? (That's a question many people ask when talking about standards as well.) Well, one way they differentiate is by building around the common component (or standard in case of discussion around that). In this case, JBoss differentiates by bringing in its middleware expertise and tighter integration with JBoss infrastructure, whereas eXo differentiates by building applications on top of this platform.

Finally, as I mentioned on twitter, this is a rather unique situation that has an impact on both vendors (and hence their customers). Red Hat for its part has committed to support its existing platform for five years (four more to go now) but the fact remains that they will not be doing any new development (apart from upgrading the Portlet Bridge) on JBoss Portal (the project) as Red Hat focuses on GateIn. Remember, GateIn is quite different from JBoss Portal and so for existing JBoss Portal customers its means a migration effort or committing to a legacy platform that will not see any new advancement.

So if you are evaluating Portal platforms, keep this in mind and make sure you understand clearly the respective vendors' road maps and how they align with your requirements. We cover more details in our Portals evaluation research.

From multiple vendors using the same portal as a component to one vendor offering multiple different portals, these are interesting times for the portal marketplace...

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