Has Gartner been pulling my leg for the last decade on Portal technology?

I keep reading how IBM’s WebSphere Portal technology has been the leader in Gartner’s Magic Quandrant for Portal technology for years. In fact, its the been the case ever since I can remember going back to WebSphere Portal 4.1.

Really can’t see how that can be the case. Its just not reflected in any of the markets I’ve engaged in.

In the early naughties I worked on telstra.com applications to build and provision online communities. All the development work, I was involved with was Java based using the early J2EE 1/1.1/1.2 speced application servers like ATG Dynamo, iPlanet, BEA WebLogic and IBM WebSphere. One of them, which I won’t name, would only start up with out crashing during its internal boot process every now and then. These were crazy times but enjoyable.

After these endeavours, I realised that there were clear patterns for frameworks to provide the plumbing and reduce delivery risk. In fact, as the Internet bubble had burst, most customers, 1) weren’t interested in funding framework building and 2) didn’t understand/weren’t willing to learn what was required in a framework (most of the effort was behind the scenes). Thus products should emerge to provide these frameworks. In essence, when a developer was going to be working on an application I wanted them to focus on the Use Cases (that add value to the paying customer) and not the plumbing.

So I went hunting for a product, that was Java enterprise based and found WebSphere Portal. I’d seen how Oracle had wrestled market share from its competitors and gained the number one spot and thought IBM would do the same in this genre. Gartner confirmed it that they were number one. iPlanet the Sun Netscape alliance didn’t last and BEA & Sun Microsystems have now been acquired by Oracle. Not sure about ATG Dynamo, but I never really heard of it again. So my decision back then based on the Gartner magic quadrants was correct, wasn’t it?

From my perspective, its been a resounding NO.

Outside of the larger organisations, both public and private, there are small pockets of WebSphere Portal. Everywhere you look there is Microsoft Sharepoint and if they use SAP, nearly without fail a SAP Portal.

In the larger organisations where integration between many disparate systems is an issue or they have had a large investment in other IBM middleware/technology there are significant deployments. The organisation demographics between the US and Australia is also interesting. I understand per capital we have more SMEs and less larger organisations here.

So from a Worldwide perspective the Gartner Magic Quandrant data may well be correct, if and only if its used in context of large multinational organisations. So have Gartner been pulling my leg or was I just naive to trust their magic quadrants?

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