A couple weeks ago, Liferay's marketing and communication folks sent me an email mentioning that Liferay was included as a "Leader" in Gartner's 2011 Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals. After my usual procrastination I finally got around to reading the report and what follows in this blog post are some impressions that jumped at me while reading the report. I'm not convinced the randomness of these personal thoughts make up a blog post (at least a well-written blog post) but I'm going for it since my public note taking often turns out better than a well polished article.
The report offers some fascinating insights regarding the state of portals. I want to respect Gartner's terms and copyrights so no graphics or direct link to the actual report will be available from this post. If you want to read the report, Liferay is providing access to the reprint of this report via a link provided on their Award and Recognition page (click on the "Read Magic Quadrant" link). The Magic Quadrant is Gartner's graphical representation of a marketplace at and for a specific time period. The graphic depicts Gartner’s analysis of how certain vendors measure against criteria for that marketplace. In this case, Garner is measuring the portals strength in "completeness of vision" as well as "ability to execute".
So now that you have an idea for how Gartner has laid out their Magic Quadrant, I must first confess my long standing ignorance. Until recently, I have always been confused by exactly what differentiates a portal from a content management system. I will usually often end up taking the cowardly path and just lump portals together with a very generic definition I use for CMSs. I'm not afraid to admit this lack of understanding of what defines a portal because I know I am not alone and have plenty of company. However, my time spent at Liferay's West Coast Symposium a few months ago did help me to better understand how companies utilize portals and how users differentiate portals from a CMS. Gartner probably defines the portal best in their report:
Portals are personalized points of access to relevant information, business processes and people.
Horizontal portals integrate and aggregate information from multiple cross-enterprise applications, as well as specific line-of-business tools and applications.
As Gartner's title for this report suggests, the report's focus is portals not content management systems. However, as with anything related to the Web there are functional overlaps between portals and CMSs so it should be no surprise for any of us to see four of the thirty content management systems we focus here at CMSReport.com make it into Gartner's analysis:
The Leaders in this Magic Quadrant (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Liferay, and SAP) 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". While not leaders, the Niche Players in the horizontal portal product market focus on a limited set of portal deployment scenarios but "have expansive user bases, but their portal use among large enterprises is only just emerging". There are two other quadrants of course, Challengers and Visionaries, but since their are no portals in these quadrants on my own personal radar I'm not going to mention them here further.
One of the reasons I think we are seeing Drupal, DotNetNuke, Sharepoint, and especially Liferay making it into Gartner's analysis has a lot to do with the Enterprise 2.0 features these platforms deliver (or at least try to deliver) to their customers. Gartner notes several trends in the market that are favorable and similar to the reasons I've covered these four CMSs on my blog.
After years of steady consolidation in the portal market, the field of potential providers is once again widening. The evolution toward a broader and more comprehensive user experience platform (UXP), the continuing development of portal cloud services and the increasing validation of the client-centric widget model are opening up new avenues for organizations looking to supply new portal solutions to IT organizations, business constituencies and end users....
...Gartner client discussions point to significantly altered portal emphases in recent years. Whereas portal initiatives often involve aggregating and delivering information sources and extending business applications and processes, new portal customers recognize that they must engage end users to ensure the success of their portal efforts
So this report is very encouraging to me that we see user experience, user centric content, and user engagement matter to Gartner and their clients. The same winning features identified for portals confirms what I and others have been seeing as positive trends on the content management side of the house. Delivering content and information to the user is no longer a one way street and whatever application you decide to use in today's market should provide a means of feedback from the user. Even at access points of relevant information the users' input into the information system remains important.
Both Drupal and DotNetNuke (as well as edge IPK and salesforce.com) are new to this year's Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals. Although I will always be a huge fan of Drupal, I am pleased to see DotNetNuke make Gartner's list. I've talked about DotNetNuke here at CMS Report for over six years and there have been some heated discussions during those times I've highlighted DotNetNuke as a leading open source CMS. I think too many people in the open source community dismiss DotNetNuke, SharePoint, and even mojoPortal because these CMSs are .Net based. That's a shame, because this oversight is the same reason why Java-based Liferay still remains unknown to many of those remaining focused solely on PHP applications. My point being that we would all do better in our understanding of open source by looking at CMSs that reside outside of our own comfort zones. I'm a LAMP guy and even though .Net based applications scare the heck out of me...it would be foolish of me to not look beyond PHP applications as possible open source solutions.
As you would expect, the report highlights the strengths and weaknesses seen in DotNetNuke, Drupal, Liferay, and Sharepoint (as well as the other portals that make Gartner's list). Suffice it to say, the strengths of DotNetNuke's "vibrant ecosystem of modules" and Drupal's "quick time to value" helped these two make the list. Liferay fans shouldn't be surprised that the platform is commended for its "easier to install and use and less expensive to acquire and maintain" experience as a leader in enterprise portals. SharePoint is highlighted for delivering a "comprehensive portal framework with a consistent and unified architecture" where many of its features work out of the box helping it remain a leader in portals too.
Just as there is no "best" CMS there is no best portal for everyone. You're going to have to look at the requirements of your project and decide which portal is best for you. Now that I've said that, I'm still willing to talk about which portal I would pick. Out of the four portals I've focused on in this post, I would suggest if you're looking for a new portal that you take a serious look at Liferay.
(I purposely limited my scope of consideration to the four products I know. Again, if you're interested in other portals not mentioned here please check out Gartner's report yourself.)
Liferay Portal 6.1, introduced in the fall of 2011, builds on the platform’s strengths with new collaboration, web content management and significant document management upgrades, plus an improved human interface design for publishing and site management. New non-developer features give power users tools to build web forms and web-based processes. I know that this comes straight out of the press release but it holds true. Liferay CEO Bryan Cheung's statement that Liferay's "mission [is] to enable customers to bring their people, applications, and information together to improve business performance" really is in the DNA of their products, employees, and community. I don't think you can go wrong getting to know Liferay better and seriously considering it for a portal or content management solution.
Now, if you're already happy with Drupal, DotNetNuke, or even SharePoint then stay where you are at and don't fall into the "greener on the other side" trap that many decision makers and executives often fall into. You're on the right track and until you have evidence that you need something different put your energy elsewhere. If you find your current portal or CMS just isn't taking you where you need to go then by all means do yourself a favor and take a look at Liferay. Finally, if you don't like any of the four I've talked about here on this post then feel free to consider the 26 additional Web applications that have impressed me in recent years.
Bryan Ruby is the owner and editor for CMS Report. He founded CMSReport.com in 2006 on the belief that information technologists, website owners, and web developers desired visiting sites where they could learn about content management systems without the sales pitch. Besides this site, you can follow Bryan at Google+ and Twitter.