Vendors try to cash in on EIP’s popularity

Novell and Sybase join race for local enterprise information portal market share

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  April 23, 2002

Introduction|~||~||~|Over recent months, an increasing number of local companies have begun to turn towards enterprise information portal (EIP) solutions to ease business pain and extend information access throughout the organisation. In an attempt to cash in on this current trend, two more big name vendors have entered the Middle East’s EIP market.

Novell intends to use its recently unveiled Portal Services 1.5 as the cornerstone of its ZENworks Synergy sales strategy in the region. Sybase on the other hand, is looking to sell its Enterprise Portal (EP) offering to its financial services customers.

Both vendors agree that there is a real need for EIPs in the region as the Internet plays an increasingly important role in local business practices.

“The Internet is going to be the main vehicle for delivering solutions, services and applications. Therefore portal solutions are going to become the framework that other products snap onto,” says Hazem Bayado, technical director for the Middle East at Novell.

Martin Timmann, Sybase’s director for EMEA, identifies integration pain as a key driving factor in the local market. Without integrated systems, organisations will not be able to make informed business decisions.

“[Businesses] need a portal so that their employees and partners have an easy interface with the company. Only then can they benefit from having integrated access into the enterprise’s information,” he says.

The fragmented nature of many organisations in the Middle East also makes EIP solutions a sound business proposition. Manesh Peiris, regional chief operating officer at Novell Middle East, explains that the local market is currently experiencing a trend of organisational consolidation, where specific business functions are being concentrated in particular offices.

“Companies are looking to consolidate their regional offices and move particular departments to certain areas. However, users across the region still have to access information and a portal solution allows them to do this in cheap but secure way,” he says.

To begin with, both vendors are targeting their EIP solutions at their installed bases. Timmann freely admits that Sybase’s financial customers are first on its list as it looks to establish one or two reference sites this year.

Novell, though keen to push its solution to non-NetWare users and evangelise its open architecture, will leverage the strength of eDirectory in its installed base to win early sales.

“Some of our existing clients are already interested and we are in the process of preparing demonstrations for them. In the coming calendar year we are looking to have somewhere between three and five sites up and running,” explains Andrew Lamb, country manager for Novell Middle East.

||**||II|~||~||~|Gartner Group implies that this could be a successful strategy for Novell as it recommends existing customers “examine Novell Portal Services 1.5 as a viable alternative for deployment of a basic portal infrastructure.”

However, it also states that “enterprises requiring a robust portal infrastructure with sophisticated personalisation and integration features should evaluate other vendors.”
Both vendors are bullish about the their prospects, but outside of their existing customer bases both Sybase and Novell will face tough competition. Oracle currently dominates the local market in terms of reference sites and marketing noise, while Computer Associates is in the process of ramping up efforts around its CleverPath offering. Microsoft also continues to plug away with SharePoint Server.

Local Novell consultant, Veena Dorairajan, believes that the company’s superior technology will help it win through in competitive pitches. Timmann hopes to leverage Sybase’s relationships with leading systems integrators.

“We hope to gain the competitive advantage by being more accessible to large system integrators, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Anderson Consulting,” he says.
The EMEA director also believes that Sybase will benefit from a clarification of what actually constitutes a portal solution. When this happens, he says, many potential customers will realise that other vendors, like Oracle, do not have a serious portal offering.

“In the IT industry we live for buzz words and inventing new kinds of technology... [Currently] everyone wants to be in the enterprise portal market but it takes a lot to build a product that addresses the customer needs. Oracle is making a lot of marketing hype. The same is true for Microsoft. But they have no enterprise connectivity,” he says.

Ayman Abouseif, marketing manager at Oracle Middle East, believes that such a view holds little water in the local market as a number of local organisations, such as Kuwait University and Dubai Prosecution, are already operating on Oracle 9iAS Portal. “At the end of the day, what matters is whether customers are willing to vote for the product with their dollars. It is clear to me who is winning in this market, it is Oracle,” he says.||**||

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