Powering up one-stop portals

Corporate customers looking for ways to create a single point of information access can soon turn to a San Francisco-based IT services provider for industry-specific portals.Cotelligent Inc.

Corporate customers looking for ways to create a single point of information access can soon turn to a San Francisco-based IT services provider for industry-specific portals.

Cotelligent Inc. is launching an ePortals Group, hoping to develop repeatable portal services for customers in health care, automotive/transportation, consumer packaged goods/manufacturing, financial services/insurance and utilities.

About 100 employees are dedicated to ePortals, according to Richard Hirsh, vice president of Cotelligent's technology solutions unit.

"This is where we're starting; we'll broaden from here," Hirsh said. "Within the vertical markets, we're going to be very opportunistic."

Cotelligent is building upon its successful deployment of a series of automotive portals launched in conjunction with Market Drive Interactive Inc. Those portals, which go by a number of different names, have already been deployed to more than 30 car dealerships for First America Automotive Inc., based in San Francisco.

The portals give car buyers access to a personalized Web site with relevant information about vehicles, maintenance schedules and repair histories. The portals also contain discussion areas and bulletin boards to sell parts online. Cotelligent is now marketing the portals to automakers and other car dealerships.

Hirsh said that while the automotive portals are up and running, the company is still working on prototypes for other industries.

Portals appeal to both e-commerce and traditional companies trying to attract customers by providing large amounts of content that can be updated frequently. Gartner Group Inc., of Stamford, Conn., predicts that about 500 vertical marketplaces will be established by the end of the year.

"There's no secret that there is a trend toward verticalization, or personalization," MarketDrive President Rob MacNaughton said of portals. "I think this is a manifestation of that. It's just not enough to be a technology provider."

The automotive portals, as with all of Cotelligent's portals, are built on a Microsoft Corp. platform, using SQL Server 7.0, eCommerce Server and Site Server on the back end. Cotelligent and Microsoft are longtime partners.

MacNaughton acknowledged that "we made a bet early on" that Microsoft products could provide the necessary infrastructure over Unix or even Linux platforms. "Our due diligence led us to believe that Microsoft was the way to go," he said.

MacNaughton said other high-traffic sites have used a Windows NT platform without a problem.

At the time the portals were being developed, "Unix [seemed] to take a lot more to maintain, [and] Linux didn't seem to be a viable option," he said.

Steven Lane, an analyst with Aberdeen Group, in Boston, said the creation of a portals group is a "specialized move" for Cotelligent, one that should gain attention from its installed client base.

Cotelligent also has extensive experience building a reliable product on Micro soft's platform in the enterprise space, Lane said.

Cotelligent can be reached at (888) 683-6400 or www.cotelligent.com.

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