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News: Liferay proves that the death of the portal server is highly over-stated

  1. If attendance at this year's Liferay West Coast Symposium proves nothing else, it proves that the death of the portal server is highly overstated.

    For anyone that's done a round or two in this space with an IBM or Sun product, the mere mention of portal technology will trigger involuntary squinting of the eyes and a corresponding tensing of the facial muscles. Horrors that start with installation, follow through to configuration, and die a slow and painful death with development and deployment have historically been too numerous to count. But Liferay is putting an end to that lingering impression.

    "On our website we have a 'What is a Portal?' link that describes the basic functions of a portal." says Paul Hinz, CMO of Liferay. "We've often wondered if we should move away from the term 'Portal' or even redefine the term."

    Indeed, for many in the industry, portal is a four-letter word. But Liferay executives should realize that redefining the term portal is unnecessary, as the Liferay 6.1 release does a pretty good job of reframing what developers can expect from a modern, lightweight, fully functional portal server.

    First off, Liferay 6.1 is sleek and small. It's a few hundred megs to download, and you can have a base installation up and running within minutes. Compare that with this humble editor's experience teaching a WebSphere Portal Server course a few years back, where it wasn't uncommon for a classroom of thirty people to spend a day doing a basic installation, with a typical success rate being twenty-five to thirty percent.

    But what is so amazing is what you get out of a basic, out of the box installation. All the mind-numbing JSR-168 and JSR-286 support is there, there is support for skins and themes and all of the standard means of managing users and controlling access, but Liferay goes far beyond that.

    The social media support is amazing. Log into that local Liferay instance as one user using Chrome, and then log in as a different user using Firefox, and you can start instant messaging between the two users instantly. Furthermore, a Facebook like experience is at your fingertips, with the ability to make friends, share stories and write on each other’s walls. Similar functionality from Big Blue would require installation of various add on products and the compulsory cost and configuration that goes along with it. With Liferay, it's open source and it's out of the box.

    Add on things like workflow, content management and multi-device support for all of your micro-devices, and you can't help be impressed with what Liferay has to offer. 'Portal' no longer needs to be thought of as a dirty word.

    Threaded Messages (5)

  2. We've been using liferay for a while now and the experience is kind of a mixed bag.

     

    It's mostly ok as a portlet container

    It's social interaction tools (blog, forum, wiki, chat) are ok'ish and reasonably complete

    Workflow support is ok

    It fails as a cms for any site who's content does not exclusively consist of static pages

    It's weak in productivity apps (calendar, mail, document library etc) compared to competing solutions 

    There are many portlets installed by default that would be best left out (loan calculator i am looking at you)

     

    What kills it though, is the buggyness of the product, poor quality codebase (scriptlets in the jsps !!!)  and it's poorly designed brittle and undocumented api's.

  3. version[ Go to top ]

    what version are you on for Liferay.

    thanks

  4. version[ Go to top ]

    we're using version 6

    6.1 does have a number of improvements. it does improve the cms situation a bit, the document library and calndar have been improved a bit but it's still in beta. Though in liferay terms that means that it can be released any second :) They're not big believers in long beta / rc cycles. What we saw when they released version 6 was that they did i think 3 rc's a few weeks apart and then released the opensource "community edition" which was riddled with bugs and is unsupported. Bug fixes are only done on the for pay, enterprise branch of the product

  5. Mix Bag[ Go to top ]

    We're on the Entreprise Version of the product. 6.0.6. I'm glad to hear that 6.1 is superb because we've done a number of projects for clients from 5 -> 6.0.6 and it is a bit of a trial to be honest. The learning curve is steep and you can end up banging your head against a brick wall with Liferay issues.

    Liferay has a lot of bugs... but then so do most CMS. As the poster above says the API is largely undocumented, not even Javadocs, which for me is a signal of a poor product. You really need to download the source code to find out how some stuff works. We had to do major work to get the LDAP importer functioning, to give an example although many bugs were fixed with the Entreprise release. You end up writing quite a lot of EXT code to work around stuff that doesn't function in the core product.

    The Wiki has some code examples which don't even compile! I mean c'mon guys, cut 'n' paste.

    Liferay is really middle manager bait. The "drag and drop" of portlets plus the huge number of supplied portlets convinces managers that they can have a fully functioning website up in a matter of days. The reality is different when they find out that portlets are often not entreprise ready or take a lot of work to adapt to the corporate color scheme. I'll give you a minor "for example", if the currency convertor can't contact the remote quote server it gives 1:1 exchange rate rather than signalling that it couldn't get a quote.

    I dunno, using Liferay you really do wonder whether it would be quicker to develop applications from scratch!

    To sum up, don't waste too much time trying to do things the liferay way if you have a workaround and do not neglect the source code to understand how liferay works. Expect a steep learning curve for new hires and don't be fooled by the initial ease of configuring portlets especially if you have customizations to do.

  6. Yep - It's Liferay[ Go to top ]

    Thanks for input.  A few comments. 

    Liferay 6.0 and Liferay 6.1 were designed in a series to not only better enable the community to be a part of Liferay but also to solve issues the community was identifying.  Liferay has refused to take any VC funding (there are many requests by outside firms) so that we can stay independent and be a true open community without outside influences by those more concerned with immediate financial strategies.   We're not perfect, but we as a community can become better than anyone else.   

    Liferay is a web platform and is very flexible.  Some people have used it for applications where it was perfectly suited and they have done very well, while there have been others who have used Liferay where it is capable but not an exact match or a scenario where it isn't refined yet, and they've had a longer time getting to where they want to go.  Sharepoint has similar issues, while Websphere Portal and WebCenter are just always difficult :-).

    Liferay 6.0 and 6.1 led to many things like simplifying Liferay.org, creating LESA (our support application), Liferay Hooks, Liferay Fix Packs, Liferay IDE, Security Alert process, as well as a focus on WCM, collab, Identity, etc.  We also increased the participation by the community with translation teams, bug squad, beta testers and more. 

    Documentation has been important and there is a great post here as to what's happening for 6.1: http://www.liferay.com/web/jorge.ferrer/blog/-/blogs/documentation-revamp:-status-and-future-plans

     

    The new Liferay Projects area is intended to allow community members to build things as open source and solicit others in the community to participate with them, we additionally hope the Liferay Marketplace to be not only a way for companies but independent developers to build useful applications and make them available (and eventually sell them) to the Liferay community.  This last aspect too should increase the number of out-of-the-box functions users have available - and may drive the pricing of enterprise apps down similar to what was seen in mobile application software marketplaces. 

    If you or others would like to be part of our community teams we would really value the support.  James dot Falkner at Liferay dot com is leading the community and is even looking for a security team.  Participation on that team will be fairly confidential so we can manage alerts and bugs as we make updates available.