Among the slew of announcements coming out of BEA Systems Inc’s last user conference for the year was a strategy statement on how it plans to converge its two portal product lines.
The strategy will involve three phases covering interoperability, common services, culminating with eventual unification.
The acquisition of Plumtree last spring gave BEA a parallel Microsoft-oriented product, alongside WebLogic Portal, a J2EE offering. Following the acquisition, the Plumtree portal was placed as part of the newly announced AquaLogic SOA family.
Obviously, it doesn’t make sense for BEA to have two portal products, but of course, with diverging architectures, they can’t be unified overnight. So the roadmap starts with interoperability.
Because the logical place to begin is through a web service, the common link will be the ability for both lines to consume WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portlets, an Oasis standard) portlets. This will become available during the first half of 2006.
The next stage involves developing common services including portal infrastructure services; activity services like collaboration, search, distributed publishing and usage analytics; higher-level portal features for creating communities, group pages, content aggregation and knowledge management; and developer and business user tools.
BES will develop separate products so these common services could be used by any web-based application and by its own two portals. Common portal services products are due by the last half of 2006.
Then in stage three comes, at long last, unification. It will be built using the common services as the foundation, supported naturally on .NET and Java platforms. BEA will develop portal tools, both for software developers and higher-level counterparts for business analysts. And it promises upgrade paths for AquaLogic and WebLogic Portal customers.
Admittedly, this probably reflects BEA’s own migration from a Java to a web services middleware vendor. In the long run, that might provide a shrewd end run around the WebSphere/JBoss squeeze.
But in so doing, prodding customers to migrate to a new architecture opens obvious invitations to rivals to poach. It’s one thing to do a version upgrade, but another matter altogether when the new product is a complete forklift rewrite.
The stakes get riskier when you consider that portals are becoming commodity. Naturally, that was the reason that Plumtree finally succumbed to acquisition, because today, portal is considered part of the middleware or application.
And as BEA embraces web services as its unification platform, there is little reason why any other web services compliant product couldn’t squeeze in just as seamlessly.