There have been a lot of questions about when to use WebCenter Portal and when to use WebCenter Spaces. There are specific use cases for each and you can ask yourself a few simple questions that can help you decide what to use. In general WebCenter Spaces is intended for intranet collaboration portals. In previous versions, Spaces has been used because there was no easy way of building a portal with the WebCenter framework. Spaces was just easy because it was there and that's why it has been misused a lot! Since PS3, all good feature are out of the box available in a WebCenter Portal application so you should really look at the correct reason to use Spaces or Portal. In this post you can find a few questions that you can use to help your client or company make the correct decision.:
One of the features in WebCenter Spaces is the personal space. In this space, each user can create their own pages and put whatever components they want on it. As an administrator, you can also create business role pages which can be propagated to the personal space of specific users. When you want this type of functionality, WebCenter Spaces is required. These features are not available in a WebCenter portal. If you want to build them in portal, it will require a lots of work.
One of the biggest features of Spaces is the ability to create group spaces. Each group space have different pages. All the resource you create (documents, discussions, events, lists,...) are bound to the group space. You typically create a group space for a department, project, ... to group the information into a coherent unit. If this is the functionality you're after, you definitely need Spaces. These features are the most important features of Spaces so these are typically one of the first you should look for.
WebCenter allows you to customize almost all of the out of the box taskflows. You can rearrange components or add your own components. The way Portal and Spaces work with these customizations are a little bit different. For portal it can be easier. Customizing taskflows in portal is just editing some jsff and xml pages with the customizer role. They are automatically added to your portal so no additional steps required. With Spaces you need to create a separate project and import the contents of a generates MAR file into the MDS by using WLST scripts. This can be somewhat cumbersome when you are working with large projects and not as easy to maintain as customizing portal.
When you need to build a portal that requires a lot custom development. if the amount of taskflows that you require to build is big and you need to divide this into several teams, than it's a good idea to think about using WebCenter Portal instead of Spaces. The reason for this is that Portal can be extended more easily. It is easy to separate the development of the core portal and the different taskflows. When working with spaces it is quite a hassle to work in team on the DesignwebCenterSpaces project which is required to extend spaces with additional taskflows.
For proof of concept, WebCenter Spaces is the way to go because you won't lose time on building the core portal features. With a PoC, the core template is not the most important past. A PoC is all about proving that a technology or idea works. This can be easily done in Spaces. Also notice that once the PoC is done, make sure you make the right decision for using Spaces or Portal based upon the previous questions. Not one of my favourite arguments for using Spaces but it happens more often than you want... When your deadline is very close and you build a real working environment than it's best to go for Spaces because you won't have to build the Portal core. You can focus on integrating your own custom functionalities. This can still be hassle as explained in question 4.
These questions will help you to decide whether or not to use WebCenter Spaces. Of course, it happens a lot that you need to have the best of both worlds. What to do in such cases? Suppose you need build a large intranet portal for a multinational. The requirements requires for each user to have a personal space so they can build their own dashboards. The company also has custom application that require presence in the portal so there are quite some taskflows to be developed. Basically it is very easy. When you need to answer YES on both question 1 and 2 you should go for Spaces no matter what the outcome of the other questions are. The reason for this is that implementing these features in a custom WebCenter Portal requires such a big effort that you will save time by going for spaces. You will lose time in extending spaces with your own custom taskflows but this is nothing compared with the effort required to build your own framework for personalized dashboard or group spaces. If both question 1 and 2 are NO there is basically no real reason why you should go for Spaces.