Gartner has released its latest magic quadrant (MQ) for horizontal portals. The market continues to evolve as platforms gain new features that increasingly blur the boundaries between the portal market and other sectors like content and experience management. The portal market may be changing, but Gartner’s vendor categorizations are very similar to last year’s incarnation of the report.

What Exactly Is a Horizontal Portal

Gartner defines a portal as

a Web software infrastructure that provides interaction with relevant information assets (for example, information/content, applications and business processes), knowledge assets and human assets by select targeted audiences, delivered in a highly personalized manner."


In layman’s terms, it means that portals are platforms that organizations can use to develop their own specific portal implementations.

As in other industries, trends like mobile, social, cloud and user experience management, are having a major impact. Vendors are adding new features and the line between portals and other types of platforms are blurring. Some vendors are using the evolution and opportunity to move away from the portal label and reinvent themselves in an attempt to disassociate themselves with the somewhat mixed history of the portal market -- project death marches, products that never live up to expectations and lackluster user adoption.

Gartner’s Vendor Ranking

This year, Gartner dropped Tibco from its MQ and added Adobe, eXo and United Planet, which resulted in an evaluation of sixteen vendors as compared to last year’s fourteen. There were no changes in Gartner’s vendor inclusion/exclusion criteria. As in 2011, the firm only evaluated vendors for the magic quadrant that had:

  • A container or framework and component model
  • Security administration
  • The ability to integrate with a wide range of technologies
  • Personalization
  • Content management
  • Business process management (BPM) and a mechanism for providing or integrating with workflow and BPM tools or platforms
  • Support for multichannel and multi-device delivery
  • Sales and support in at least two geographic regions (North America; Latin America; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Japan; and Asia/Pacific)
  • Clients in more than one industry vertical
  • US$ 4 million in portal-related revenue and at least 100 enterprise customers

Gartner evaluated the selected vendors based on their ability to execute and completeness of vision.

The Leaders

The leader’s quadrant is identical to previous rankings. Gartner still considers Microsoft SharePoint, IBM WebSphere PortalOracle WebCenter, SAP NetWeaver and Liferay market leaders that “have a full range of capabilities to support a variety of portal deployment scenarios, and have demonstrated consistent product delivery in meeting customer needs for a substantial period of time.” However, the leaders aren’t perfect. Gartner cautions that:

  • SharePoint 2013 design principles appear to be significantly different, with Web Parts shifting toward tile-based apps that support an off-box execution model that may be difficult for organizations to adapt to. Also, according to Gartner, the cloud-based version of SharePoint may not be a suitable platform for horizontal portals in the enterprise because of its limited support for multiple and external sites as will the challenges integrating the platform with other solutions.
  • Liferay is still struggling to gain the expertise to understand and solve enterprise scale business problems.
  • SAP Netweaver is still has problems with usability and flexibility and SAP architectural approach can result in vendor lock-in if organizations don’t exercise caution in implementation.

The Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players

The challengers’ quadrant remained sparsely populated. Last year, Red Hat’s JBoss was the only platform Garter considered a challenger. This year Red Hat shares its piece of the MQ with OpenText, which Gartner considered a visionary in 2011, but ranked in the challengers’ quadrant in 2010. Following the theme of the rest of the report, the visionary quadrant changed very little.  Covisint (Compuware), and Backbase returned joined by newcomer Adobe, Drupal, edge IPK, eXo, United Planet and DotNetNuke populated the final niche player’s quadrant.

Marketers almost always relish their appearance on Gartner’s list. However, organizations should not be quite so excited. A MQ isn’t a substitute for a RFP process. Do you agree with Gartner’s ranking this year? Is the portal label becoming obsolete given the recent changes in the market? We would love to hear your thoughts.