On the World Wide Web portals have proven that they are a major aggregator of information and data that visitors require. One only need to look at the success of Yahoo's My Yahoo to understand the power and usefulness of portals.
The architecture of a good portal is rather sophisiticated, since the portal essentially becomes the visitors desk-top or first point of contact when firing up a web-browser, it needs to be sufficiently flexible enough for the visitor to customise. Everything from the colour scheme, layout, language, news sources, weather prospects, calendaring and email must be configurable to the user if he is to make a portal part of his information space.
On the invisible server side are processes that need to be kept running searching the internet for more up-to-date news, fresher share prices, better bargains, or whatever the visitor has deemed interesting or required reading for him. The portal becomes a 24-hour a day grapevine, where all the leading minds of the plane (cereberal or electronic) pass their snippets of knowledge.
The portal has become as iconclastic as the newspaper of broadsheets became in the previous century. If you didn't have a paper, you weren't up-to-scratch on world happenings, and unable to take advantage of the situation. The same has happened with portals, except that they are updated every second of every day, non-stop, unlike the daily or weekly paper.
Products like BowStreet have taken the J2EE platform and added portal technology allied with parametric models to such an extent its possible to run multiple applications each in their separate portal windows. The complexity of such a feat is astounding, but to pull it off required a degree of talent. But to make it customisable too is pure genius.