For those looking to develop and implement horizontal portals, Gartner has recently published its Magic Quadrant report, which amongst other things, shows that with a shift towards Web 2.0, cloud and consumer facing portals, the number of viable vendors has dropped from more than 50 in 2003 to less than a dozen in 2010.

According to Gartner (newssite), there is increased pressure on enterprises to improve employee productivity and collaboration, as well as extend business processes and applications to wider audiences.

There is also pressure to generally improve business visibility and responsiveness, which is driving demand for portals that can manage all the different channels and all the different information they contain.

Portals and UXP

Increasingly, they span both cloud and on-premise deployments pulling together disparate information sources, as well as offering the possibly of scaling-to-needs to ensure agility.

And already, Gartner says, horizontal portals are providing the foundation for user experience platforms (UXP) that provide integration of technologies used to deliver portals, mashups, RIAs, Ajax-enabled websites, web content management and mobile applications.

Furthermore, portals are evolving with new web 2.0 technologies and while they still contain ‘traditional’ portal technologies, they also include new capabilities including social computing, analytics and business process management.

All the portal products covered in this Magic Quadrant are inherently "cloud friendly," and most are able to produce and consume Web services through portlets, widgets and r(REST)ful approaches.

Magic Quadrant Portal Leaders

So who made it into the top five? Here they are in alphabetical order.

1. IBM

IBM (news, site) has an extensive presence across all regions and industry segments. It complements its primary product, WebSphere Portal Server, with a variety of related technologies, including Lotus Web Content Management, Lotus Connections, IBM Mashup Center and Tivoli Access Manager/Identity Manager.

Strengths

WebSphere Portal Server has the widest set of portal capabilities of all the product vendors with deployments across all verticals. It has a long list of complementary technologies so there is little that can’t be done with this.

Caution

It has a very heavy software footprint and needs WebSphere Application Server as its platform. Used with other complementary products it also has a substantial code set that needs to be deployed and integrated. It can also be quite pricey for some enterprises.

2. Liferay

According to Gartner, despite the fact that Liferay Portal (news, site) is very small it is the subject of a huge number of Gartner inquiries reflecting not just its positive attributes, but also the fact that many enterprises are not happy with other commercial products that come with high costs, complexity and less-than-hoped-for business value.

Strengths

Incorporates new features very easily because of its open source base including social networking and support for CMIS. Its standards-oriented, Java-based portal offers rapid time to value.

Cautions

It is competing in a well established market with big players while still only employing 200 people. It has limited enterprise experience and is self-funded, which also limits the company’s ability to grow. However, this also gives it independence to grow along its own lines.

3. Microsoft

What new can be said about SharePoint? SharePoint has a large and expanding range of capabilities across portal, collaboration, content management, enterprise search, business process management and business intelligence disciplines.

SharePoint 2010 promises numerous improvements that better equip it as an enterprise portal framework and as an environment for creating and delivering composite applications.

Strengths

Built on a unified and consistent architecture, it has found its way into enterprises through a wide range of business and IT initiatives, not all of which are identified as portals.

It is the only large portal vendor with a multitenant, elastic cloud portal with a focus on office productivity and collaboration.

Cautions

Using SharePoint as a portal framework means a long-term commitment to Microsoft's (news, site) agenda, with organizations employing SharePoint forced to invest in the .NET platform and the skills needed to support it.

It has also grown in many enterprises outside the scope of the reasons for its original deployment so there are also often governance concerns.

4. Oracle

Its portal products revolve around the WebCenter Suite with WebCenter Framework providing the base line technology for its portal software. While it provides a portal platform, it also includes social networking capabilities and content management. It also serves as the front end for Oracle BPM Suite, as well as a composite application platform.

Gartner says it is still receiving inquiries about portal-related offerings from Stellent and Siebel, but that as the products converge into a single platform they are all being marketed and sold as part of the WebCenter Suite.

Strengths

Oracle (news, site) is established as an application and infrastructure provider and has a strong motivation to provide a complete UXP.

Its portal technology is up and running in many companies and shares its base with Oracle's business applications (including PeopleSoft, Siebel and Oracle E-Business Suite). It can also serve as a unifying interface for its Middleware stable.

Cautions

Gartner says that queries indicate that many companies are confused as to Oracle’s strategy as they see anything between five and eight different approaches to addressing portal needs. Its ecosystem of system integrators is still in flux largely as a result of its acquisitions into many different spaces.

5. SAP

Mainly used as a web enabler and delivery mechanism for SAP (news, site) business apps, Gartner says SAP is looking to make SAP NetWeaver Portal a business workplace in itself.

The new Enterprise Workspaces will allow organizations to develop personal and team oriented sites, enabling users access to SAP and non-SAP information into the environment.

Strengths

SAP NetWeaver Portal has a strong foothold amongst businesses and is almost mandatory for users that rely on SAP applications for ERP, supplier relationship management (SRM), business intelligence, CRM, product life cycle management (PLM) and human capital management (HCM).

Recent developments in v7.3 are extending its usefulness, while SAP is looking to improve the user experience right across the board.

Cautions

NetWeaver Portal's role has become obscured as a growing number of user interaction technologies have been released including SAP GUI, the NetWeaver Business Client, Duet Enterprise for Microsoft SharePoint and SAP.

Many SAP customers limit SAP NetWeaver Portal's role relative to more-open, flexible and user-friendly portal frameworks.

There is a lot more in this report, including the top challengers in the market, and is well worth a look. If you want to read the report in full you can download it here.