Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server and Other Alternatives

Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server and Other Alternatives

The products for the application access portal environment that have been described so far in this chapter represent the most common solutions available on the market for the Web-based and personalized provision of application icons. However, when compared with the desired features of an ideal portal from the very top, it becomes clear that these common solutions do not meet all of the requirements. This is why there are also alternative solutions, although it must be said that the specific conditions these require put them in a niche market for terminal server projects.

One particularly prominent example is the Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server. This product was initially developed and marketed as a means of managing documents and information in a corporate environment. It is not difficult to imagine that the links to terminal server applications—as well as the links to Web applications— could be integrated into the pages of a SharePoint Portal Server. This would be an easy way of expanding the functionality of the SharePoint Portal Server, especially in terms of providing programs for viewing various document types.

However, the lack of possibilities for managing published applications and seamless windows with an unmodified RDP client had soon pushed such approaches to the limits of their capabilities. At several conferences recently, Microsoft has declared that it will realize this functionality by the time it releases the next version of Windows XP (codename Longhorn) and will also allow the integration of such functionality in the new version of the SharePoint Portal Server.

Producer and system integrator, visionapp (, takes another approach, which emerged as a result of a terminal server project for a major European bank. To meet the requirements of this internationally operating key account with more than 10,000 workstations, the system had to satisfy the highest standards of security, be able to switch between languages while the system is running, and integrate the corporate design of several organizational units in a single environment. The solution visionapp came up with was based on Citrix MetaFrame XP on the application servers and the Java component of Citrix NFuse Classic (now Citrix’s Web Interface for MetaFrame XP) on load-balancing Web servers. Through the application servers, the Java component supplied all information to an application access portal that had been completely developed using ASP.NET. An abstraction model maps the published applications to the relevant organizational units and user groups.

The system integration business was also the origin of the software named Panther (, whose functions make it more of an alternative to Citrix’s products. Similar to New Moon’s Canaveral iQ, Panther’s administration tools for terminal servers, proprietary solutions for load balancing, and the support of seamless windows in RDP sessions play a dominant role.

As these few examples show, the possibilities for terminal servers are not nearly exhausted. The integration of remote applications into a personalized Web environment opens up a completely new perspective, hinting at the development of further high-performance solutions in the future.