With an expected 350 percent increase in the enterprise information-portal market in the next three years, nobody wants to be left out.
A Merrill Lynch & Co. white paper on the portal market predicts that it will grow from the current estimated $US4.4 billion to $14.8 billion by 2002. Portals let employees, suppliers and customers access information from legacy systems, Web servers and unstructured data sources such as video or audio.
Each of the four major database manufacturers has developed a "portal-ready" database.
Informix offers Foundation 2000, an extensible database that merges the company's relational and object-relational database products. IBM has Universal DB2 and DB2 DataJoiner, variants of DB2 built for managing heterogeneous data sources. Sybase's product is Adaptive Server Enterprise 12.0, and Oracle offers its Oracle8i database.
Database vendors expect corporate users to demand access to Web data around the clock, just as consumers do. For example, multiple federal government agencies across different time zones have used Oracle8i's portal to share common documents, according to Jeremy Burton, vice president of Internet platform marketing at Oracle.
Portals make site management easier. Without them, if users can't get to the data or if the site is difficult to manage, they just create a new site, leading to the proliferation of sites inside some corporations, Burton said.
All the database manufacturers let application developers work with Java or Extensible Markup Language to develop portal sites.
Informix is adding its Visionary graphical development tool to enable nontechnical users to create, navigate and maintain portals. Visionary Release 2.0 will be available in the first quarter of next year and will be capable of accessing any database, not only Informix products, said Anne Douville, executive director of the chief technology office at Informix.
"We want users to be able to view data from lots of places and maintain it from one place," she said.