Oracle Portal versus WebCenter

I have seen a bit of confusion in the industry about Oracle’s Portal offerings. Specifically, with thousands of Oracle Portal customers, people want to know what the introduction of WebCenter means to them.

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Here is my statement on the topic, that is both obvious and the most realistic one you will get:

Oracle Portal and Oracle WebCenter Suite are different products.

I said it would be obvious. But this is an important foundation for the rest of the discussion, since many people want to convince themselves that WebCenter is essentially an upgrade of Oracle Portal. I believe the WebCenter offering to be more like Oracle acquiring another company and then determining the path for convergence. It is true that WebCenter can, and will, address some of the same business use cases as Portal as well as some new ones that Portal does not handle particularly well. It is also true that both products come out of essentially the same group within Oracle. Oracle, like many software companies, can, should, and does reinvent itself continually.

Oracle Portal, however, will not go anywhere, anytime soon. Oracle has an interesting challenge in their Portal product strategy with Portal and WebCenter. I believe Oracle would like to sink all their time and energy into WebCenter because:

  1. WebCenter is their new, cool, reinvented product
  2. WebCenter addresses some of the new challenges that enterprises need to address
  3. WebCenter’s technology architecture is leading the industry, and lines up more closely with open standards than Portal
  4. WebCenter has the potential to earn much more direct licensing revenue for Oracle

However there are a few factors that prevent this from simply displacing Portal:

  1. Portal is used successfully by thousands of customers, many of whom have been using it for years
  2. Portal does not require an organization to have talent with the latest skills sets to develop and maintain
  3. Portal has become quite stable and understood over the years
  4. Portal has powerful and compelling features that really do make sense for enterprises, at the right price point
  5. Oracle provides prebuilt portlets for many of its products like Oracle Applications, Discoverer, and the BPEL Worklist

The lists for each side go on and on. However, the Oracle strategy is likely to simply see how customers and the industry embrace the products. We have all seen challenges Microsoft has faced (at least perceived) when rolling out new products, like Vista, and everyone scratches their heads wondering why those mistakes are made. Well, I think Oracle will be careful to manage perception as they have the unique ability to get existing and new customers very excited.

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