Portals and SOA are a mutual admiration society and they will be really taking off in 2006. Why? It will happen simply because of the emergence of portals as an effective means of delivering content to customers for a wide range of enterprise vendors from BI-Business Intelligence (the pioneers in portal usage) through Enterprise Content Management to Project Portfolio Management and everywhere in between.
Portals deliver now 4 effective services to users:
1)A user customizable one page Window with portlets into their most important info needs and concerns;
2)Increasingly the ability to drilldown into a specific portlet and get the underlying facts and analysis;
3)A place to present a common set of facts and events to a group of collaborating workers and users;
4)a place to direct events, alerts, and queries on what is happening for analysis, debate, and decisions.
And now these business portals are expanding with a vengeance as Software as a Service(SaaS) takes off. The new rush of user Web 2.0 customizable personal home pages from Google, Goowy, Microsoft, NetVibes, Protopage among others, just confirms the Portal-as-Web-viewer trend.
But even more important, the availability of easily built and customized personal web home pages like these lights a fire under any business applications that cannot deliver equivalent convenience and service.
The SOA Side of the Equation.
Now SaaS implementations with AJAX, Flash, and Java Portals, do not have to use Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Its just that SOA using SOAP and Web Services are attractive for just such applications. First, the security problems are reduced because many of the services are read-only and informational. But the cutting edge will be the collaboration and transactional portals. But here again, even with the security burden, SOA based systems deliver 3 key benefits:
1)they are open, cross platform, and cross browser reducing proprietary system risks;
2)they are designed to be highly integrated and interoperable and thus more manageable and customizable;
3)they are promiscuous and often reuse or more readily interface to legacy/existing apps – renewing and adding utility.
The net result is as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo fight for the best desktop portals and services, enterprise users are going to be saying why not the same Web interface and ease of use for their business applications – and companies as diverse as BEA, Cognos, Documentum, Lotus, Oracle, SalesForce.com, SAS among many many others are going to be saying why not indeed!