Portal (IT)

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The term portal ( Latin porta “gate”) describes an application system in computer science that is characterized by the integration of applications , processes and services . A portal provides its user with various functions, such as personalization , navigation and user administration. It also coordinates the search and presentation of information and is intended to ensure security .

In common parlance, it is understood as the special case of web portal , which describes the web applications that Internet service providers , web directories , web browser manufacturers and search engine operators offered in the late 1990s as entry pages for users of the World Wide Web (e.g. Yahoo , AOL , Lycos ).


portals in the business environment according to Thorsten Riemke-Gurzki

“A portal is [...] an application that [...] provides central access to personalized content and processes as required. The linking and data exchange between heterogeneous applications via a portal platform is characteristic of portals. Manual logon to the applications integrated in the portal is no longer necessary thanks to single sign-on ; there is central access via a homogeneous user interface . Portals offer the opportunity to support processes and collaboration within heterogeneous groups. "

- Anja Kirchhof, Thorsten Gurzki, Henning Hinderer, Joannis Vlachakis : “What is a portal?” - Definition and use of company portals

In short: "The ideal portal opens up shared, personalized access to data, expertise and applications" (Dataquest).

Process portals are considered to be more sophisticated, i.e. H. second generation of portals to understand. You can:

"[Are] defined as web-based, customizable and integrated access systems to internal and external applications, which serve to support customer, supplier and employee processes and which implement the graphic or audio-visual front-end integration (also across different portals). In this way, they provide internal and external users with role-based, process-oriented access to a comprehensive set of coordinated value-added services. They enable this by providing comprehensive services such as security, personalization, etc. The benefit for the portal user is the backend integration of these services. "

- Puschmann : Process portals - architecture for networking with customers and suppliers
Process portal architecture


Company portals can be divided into two categories:

Portals enable a decoupling of internal company core processes from target group-specific internal and external processes. For example, different customer groups can be handled individually using their own portal processes on the basis of a single internal sales process. In the area of ​​employee portals, this form of target group-specific provision is used for task-oriented process provision.

The individual applications are often organized in sub-windows called portlets . In the portlets, content from different sources is summarized on one portal page. The individual portlets can be partially personalized by the user . The portlets can be minimized or removed and often have their own help and configuration menus.

Another functionality is the integration of web services . Since these were originally written for communication between applications, the presentation is not trivial, as input fields for the required values, for example, only have internal variable names. More recent developments like GUIDD try to remedy this problem.


The advantage of portal technology is that a basic infrastructure is made available that provides part of the standard functionality of web applications . Depending on the manufacturer, this basic functionality is more or less pronounced. With the large providers, the standard functionality includes collaboration management , personalization as well as document management and knowledge management . Additional functionalities extend to expert systems based on a portal.

A central aspect of the portal is now the integration of applications in a common portal. This has several advantages:

  • Uniform user interface, thus increased user acceptance and reduced training costs.
  • Common database, thus linking information across application boundaries.
  • Process platform based on uniform data, making processes transparent and more efficient.
  • One-time registration ("single sign-on"), ie the portal-wide transfer of a successful registration of the user; This means that multiple logins and multiple passwords can be dispensed with.

These advantages come into play above all if the view at the business process level is consistently maintained during the portal implementation . An enterprise portal is therefore a component of the concept of service-oriented architecture (SOA).


Disadvantages of portal technology come to light especially when it comes to transferring existing applications to a portal. The display and processing of pure data can usually be done via web services and integration environments such as Oracle Fusion Middleware , Microsoft BizTalk , SAP XI or IBM WebSphere MQ , but this also increases the complexity of the overall system.

Critical success factors are then the consistency of data between the portal and the original application and also the implementation of complex processes in the portal across application boundaries. The question also arises as to when the portal and when the original application should be used and how this fits into the process hierarchy. These tasks can be complex and costly and time-consuming.

Application developers are increasingly paying attention to the usability of the software in a portal context, which helps to partially avoid the disadvantages mentioned.

Disadvantages can also arise if the portal leads to a one-sided determination of a common programming language also for the existing applications to be integrated. Special applications that were written in another programming language and are only available in this language can then no longer be integrated. Instead, you should only agree on common, standardized interfaces for portals.


The general architecture of a portal provides for a server that receives user requests and forwards them to the "Portlet Engine". This manages the life cycle of the portlets and forwards the action and render requests to the individual portlets that are to be displayed on the requested page. The portlets look for their content from the associated data sources. It should be noted here that data sources can be classic databases, but "web services" and applications can also be used here as sources. The portlets are not restricted to using one data source, but can instead compile their content from several data pots.

Communication using the example of JSR-168 or JSR-286-based portals

Internal communication between the "Portlet Engine" and the portlets is as follows. In response to a request made to the portal, the portlet container identifies the required portlets. If the request is an action request, the method is performAction() executed on the corresponding portlet . Once this is completed, the rendering methods doView(), doEdit()or doHelp()to be displayed portlets running. The state of the portlet that is managed by the container determines which of these methods is executed. These states can be extended to include application and portal-specific states. Beans or other processing classes or functions can now be addressed within the processing of the rendering methods . The rendering can also be supported by JSPs , which are called via a dispatcher .


Presentation and layout

The standards for the design of a web-based portal are basically the same as for any website :


Standards for the integration of existing systems are:

Portal technology

The relevant specifications for portal technology are:

Portal content

Several XML- based file formats form a family of standards for storing articles and their brief descriptions ( web feed ) :

Content management

Standards for the program-based management of content ( content management ) are:

Portal software

With a portal, the provision of cross-application services and thus the integration aspect are in the foreground. It is therefore obvious when setting up a portal either to use an infrastructure that includes Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) or to use standard portal software that uses the EAI.

Many portal solutions are programmed in Java in order to achieve the greatest possible system independence.

A portal can, but need not, be based on web protocols.

Portal standard software

Portal standard software, often also referred to as an enterprise portal , is generally understood to mean software that allows companies to set up a portal. In addition, such software offers functions such as:


According to the Gartner Group , the (commercial) portal software market can be divided into four quadrants depending on market presence ("Ability of Execute") and degree of coverage ("Completeness of Vision", German "Completeness of Vision") organize:

Market presence

"Challengers" ( "Challenger")

Manufacturer with a high market presence, but with insufficient coverage of their portal system.

"Leaders" ( "leader")

Manufacturer with a high market presence and highly integrated and scalable products.

"Niche Players" ( "niche players")

Niche manufacturer with a focus on smaller markets and specialization in a few functional or application areas.

"Visionaries" ("visionaries")

Manufacturers without a large market presence, but with great visions.

Market division according to Gartner (2011) Degree of coverage

Other well-known portal software systems are, for example, Intrexx , Apache Portals and Apache Cocoon from the Apache Software Foundation . A newer software is OpenSAGA .

See also


  • Thorsten Riemke-Gurzki: Company portals and intranet: design, implement, operate BoD Norderstedt, 2014, ISBN 978-3-7322-9241-7
  • Thomas Puschmann: Process portals - architecture for networking with customers and suppliers . Springer Verlag, Berlin etc., 2004, ISBN 978-3-540-20715-3 .
  • Martina Großmann, Holger Koschek: Company portals . Springer Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, 2005, ISBN 3-540-22287-1 .
  • Sue Lee, Peter Gentsch: Practical Guide Portal Management. Profitable strategies for internet portals . Gabler, 2004, ISBN 3-409-12454-3 .
  • Joannis Vlachakis, Thorsten Gurzki, Anja Kirchhof: Market overview portal software 2005 . Fraunhofer IRB Verlag, Stuttgart, 2005, ISBN 3-8167-6752-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. Anja Kirchhof, Thorsten Gurzki, Henning Hinderer, Joannis Vlachakis: "What is a portal?" - Definition and use of company portals (PDF; 214 KB) ( Memento of the original from February 5, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and not yet tested. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / pub-379.bi.fraunhofer.de
  2. Puschmann: Process portals - architecture for networking with customers and suppliers
  3. Patrick Höfer: Company portals - a brief overview of the classification, characteristics and function of company portals (PDF; 137 kB)
  4. Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals