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.