Backbase: A Rich Portal-Building Framework

4 minute read
Dee-Ann LeBlanc avatar

Have a ton of content in many places that you want to pull into a single user or customer experience? You might be interested in Backbase.

What is Backbase?

Backbase considers Backbase Rich Portal a "portal-less portal." The company's product is a Java-based Web-Oriented Architecture (WOA) framework for building and deploying enterprise portals by pulling content from previously existing portals, document management and content management implementations along with RSS and other sources.

Rather than using portlets where the mashup code lives mostly on the server side, Backbase focuses on the widget model, where much of the mashup happens on the client side. In their Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals report, Gartner predicts that widgets will surpass portlets in portal architecture by 2015.

Speaking of the Magic Quadrant, Backbase made it into the Niche Player section of the Horizontal Portal Magic Quadrant for the first time, making them the only new entrant this year and the only vendor in that portion of the quadrant.

Backbase runs on Windows, Linux and Unix servers and can exist within a variety of stacks such as Apache (news, site), Sun (news, site) GlassFish, SAP NetWeaver, JBoss, IBM WebSphere, Oracle WebLogic and others. Supported databases run the gamut from MySQL to SQL Server, Oracle and IBM DB2. All major browsers are also supported (IE 6, 7 and 8, Firefox 2 and 3, Chrome 1, Safari 3 and 4, and Opera 9 and 10).

How Backbase Works

Backbase is essentially a rich presentation layer, where widgets are fed to the browser and laid out there. Right now Backbase widgets are based in HTML4 and AJAX but the company sees them evolving into HTML 5. Widgets might be as simple as pulling in an RSS feed or be miniature web applications in their own right. Architecture for the widgets is the same across devices, such as on PCs, mobile and TV. Any page can be driven by both metadata and user behavior, with the display logic living in the widget container.

Once a widget is fed to the browser through around a 40KB chunk of JavaScript code, there's no need to send anything specially-formatted. Content can be pulled from multiple sources and fed to the widget in standard HTML or any other standard that works in a browser.

The company's goal is to eliminate the need to wait on webmasters to manage everything. They want marketing and other departments to be able to manage their portions of the "customer journey." To that end, each department gets their own portal interface, which consists of a dashboard with analytics, widget managers and groups.

Learning Opportunities


Backbase lets you pull content from different locations to create a single seamless experience.

Included in Backbase are:

  • Content services including a CMIS-compliant content repository (Backbase Content Hub) that aggregates content from multiple sources into a central tool.
  • Mash-up services letting you aggregate content and data from multiple sources using an architecture of Proxy, Cache and an XSL Transformation engine.
  • Personalization services to manage page configuration per individual user sessions, including obtaining user credentials and storing preferences in the User Profile database.
  • Portal services which consist of clients and servers transferring resources, where "you can consume the application directly as a finished resource rather than as an API that still needs to be handled".
  • Presentation services through HTML and AJAX as discussed earlier.
  • Search services through Apache Lucene (news, site) along with faceted results browsing and filtering to provide related content and personalization through dynamic content targeting.
  • Security services using Spring to connect to existing authentication providers such as LDAP and handle Single Sign-On.

Other features of interest fall into the content management aspect, which include:

  • Configurable content types
  • Workflow and versioning
  • Multi-site and multi-channel support
  • Non-western language support
  • High performance caching

Still having trouble wrapping your head around Backbase? Their site's Portal Software section offers quite a bit of information to help, plus pointers to demonstration sites where you can try the product yourself.