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The Emergence and Potential of Enterprise Information Portals (EIPs)

by Clive Finkelstein
Published: September 1, 1999
Enterprise Information Portals are also called Corporate Portals or Enterprise Portals. They provide ready access to information from the Data Warehouse or Data Marts via the Intranet and Internet.

The Emergence

During 1998, Internet Portals became very popular. These provide consumers with personalized points of entry (or gateways) to a wide variety of information on the Internet. Examples include MyYahoo (Yahoo), NetCenter (Netscape), MSN (Microsoft) and AOL. A Merrill Lynch report (published on November 16, 1998) was the first time that "portal" was also used for enterprises ... coining the term: "Enterprise Information Portal" (EIP). The report indicated that Data Warehouses were expected to follow the trend of Internet Portals, evolving over the next 2 - 5 years into EIPs. They described them as follows:

"Enterprise Information Portals are applications that enable companies to unlock internally and externally stored information, and provide users a single gateway to personalized information needed to make informed business decisions."

"Enterprise Information Portals (EIP) are an emerging market opportunity; an amalgamation of software applications that consolidate, manage, analyze and distribute information across and outside of an enterprise - including Business Intelligence, Content Management, Data Warehouse and Mart, and Data Management applications."

They estimated the size and growth of the EIP market as follows:

"We have conservatively estimated the 1998 total market opportunity of the EIP market at $4.4 billion. We anticipate that revenues could top $14.8 billion by 2002, approximately 36% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) for this sector."

The Merrill Lynch report is on the SageMaker web site at - www.sagemaker.com. This was also widely reported in a front-page article by InfoWorld. This latter article is on the InfoWorld web site at - www.infoworld.com.

The Potential

Enterprise Information Portals are also called Corporate Portals or Enterprise Portals. They provide ready access to information from the Data Warehouse or Data Marts via the Intranet and Internet. But the attraction of Corporate Portals is that they can move beyond the delivery of information as discussed above. They also provide a way to integrate the many disparate systems and processes that are typically used within an enterprise.

Corporate Portals use XML to integrate previously separate legacy systems with previously discrete, non-integrated systems. They provide a single point of entry, or gateway, to these processes - as well as to information from the Data Warehouse - via a web page that is personalized to the needs of each staff member. This offers easy access to the workflow and other processes that staff require to carry out their jobs.

In discussing the move towards Corporate Portals over the coming years in "The Portal is the Desktop", Gerry Murray (Director of Knowledge Technologies research at IDC) says:

"Corporate portals must connect us not only with everything we need, but (also) with everyone we need, and provide all the tools we need to work together. This means that groupware, e-mail, workflow, and desktop applications - even critical business applications - must all be accessible through the portal. Thus, the portal is the desktop, and your commute (to work) is just a phone call away."

"This is a radical new way of computing. It's much more effective for companies than traditional approaches, since they can outsource the entire infrastructure as a monthly service." He makes the point that: "Corporate Portals will provide access to everything from infrastructure to the desktop, so portal vendors will be the Microsofts of the future."

He discusses four stages in the evolution of Corporate Portals:

  1. Enterprise information portals, which connect people with information
  2. Enterprise collaborative portals, which provide collaborative computing capabilities of all kinds
  3. Enterprise expertise portals, which connect people with other people based on their abilities, expertise, and interests
  4. Enterprise knowledge portals, which combine all of the above to deliver personalized content based on what each user is actually doing.

You can read Gerry Murray's article: "The Portal is the Desktop" at www.intraspect.com. He discusses products that are starting to appear in each of these Corporate Portal evolution stages. Another article on the Decision Processing web site: "The Enterprise Information Portal" discusses and categorizes a number of EIP products. This article can be found at www.decisionprocessing.com.

We are beginning to see the early moves into the portal environment described above by Gerry Murray, with the emergence of Application Service Providers (ASPs). Early ASPs will typically also be Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They will not only provide ready access to the Internet, but also offer access to much of the software that you need from your desktop, as well as to other products such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems from SAP and others.

This will be the true realization of Network Computing. Not by using Java as a portable language as promoted by Sun and Oracle. But by outsourcing hardware, servers, networks and network management, software and software management, help desk, maintenance and other Total Costs of Ownership (TCO) to ASPs. This is a radical move that will transform desktop computing as we know it. It will provide ubiquitous computing through the Internet and the Intranet. And with a move to wider bandwidths on the Internet - with higher data rates available also through wireless computing via PDAs or mobile phones that access the Internet for email and browsing - we will soon be able to work not just from the office, but from anywhere. In a few short years these ASPs will become Information Utilities for the future.

Seeing the potential threat to its desktop monopoly that is presented by Corporate Portals and by ASPs, Microsoft has decided that it will adopt a win - win strategy by also becoming part of this ultimate move to Network Computing. The release of Internet Explorer 5.0, followed in June by the release of Microsoft Office 2000, provide some support for this capability. With Office 2000, Microsoft Office Web Server extensions for Intranet web servers within the enterprise can support collaboration and other groupware applications. But Microsoft will also offer these extensions to ISPs to help them become ASPs. In the future, many of these ASPs will offer rental access to Microsoft and other applications, either for a fixed monthly fee, or on a pay-for-use basis. So Microsoft will benefit both ways: not just by new product sales and upgrade sales as we have today, but also by pay-as-you-go license fees that are paid by ASPs to Microsoft.

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Recent articles by Clive Finkelstein

Clive Finkelstein -

Clive is acknowledged worldwide as the "father" of information engineering, and is Managing Director of Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd in  Australia. He has more than 45 years of experience in the computer industry. Author of many books and papers, his latest book,  Enterprise Architecture for Integration: Rapid Delivery Methods and Technologies,  brings together the methods and technologies for rapid delivery of enterprise architecture in 3-month increments. Read the book review at http://www.ies.aust.com/ten/ten32.htm. Project references, project steps and descriptions are available from   http://www.ies.aust.com. Click on the  Projects link from any page. Clive may be contacted at cfink@ies.aust.com.