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4 great Java-based CMS options

Open source Java CMS tools come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Explore these four platforms to see if they would be a match for your enterprise.

If you're a Java developer who also needs to run a website, dozens of Java-based content management system tools are available to help you.

Each of the Java-based CMS options on the market comes with various features that can help your back end. Let's explore four Java-based CMS tools, both open source and proprietary.

OpenCms: The original open source Java CMS

OpenCms has been around since 1999, and it's been an open source Java CMS platform since 2001. Not only is it one of the oldest Java-based CMS platforms, it's one of the oldest CMS tools, predating the popular PHP-based WordPress, which debuted in 2003.

From a developer's perspective, OpenCms is simple to set up and maintain. It runs as a Java servlet, which makes installation easy. It works with most major databases; whether you prefer MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, MariaDB or another popular database, you can likely run OpenCms without much hassle.

OpenCms probably won't win awards as the most elegant or attractive Java-based CMS. The interface was overhauled in 2019, but OpenCms doesn't exactly feel modern. It works, but it's a little clunky.

However, OpenCms does enjoy the distinction as a truly cost-free open source Java CMS. There is no freemium pricing model for the product, and there are no licensing fees.

Alfresco Content Services: Java-based CMS for the enterprise

One enterprise-focused, Java-based CMS to consider is Alfresco Content Services. Alfresco can be extended with other Java-based frameworks for business process management (BPM) and information governance features.

One of this tool's strengths is that it provides not just a CMS, but a broader information management framework for the enterprise. For some, this will be valuable. Organizations in need of a simple Java CMS, though, will probably find the complex BPM and information governance integrations to be overkill.

Developers should also note that most of Alfresco's advanced functionality requires a commercial license. While there is a free and open source version of the platform, it offers only a taste of the features of the commercial edition and isn't a practical open source Java CMS for many real-world deployments.

Magnolia: An open source and enterprise-friendly Java CMS

Magnolia is another Java-based CMS designed primarily for the enterprise, although it doesn't offer the extra information management features of Alfresco. It comes in two editions: an open source, cost-free community version that is comprehensive enough for production deployments and a commercial edition that requires a paid license.

Magnolia has been around since 2003 and has one big downside when it comes to deployment architecture: It requires two separate applications to run.

One is a behind-the-firewall author instance application where users create content. The other is a public-facing application -- which is often run as multiple instances to maximize availability -- that hosts and serves content. As a result, Magnolia creates a bifurcated deployment model that creates some security issues.

If you deploy Magnolia on premises, it blocks off some applications components from the public cloud. However, this model is less effective in the current age of the cloud. If you deploy Magnolia on the cloud, you miss out on a lot of the benefits of an on-premises deployment because almost everything in the cloud is reachable from the public internet.

Magnolia's deployment architecture also creates complexity. The bifurcated deployment model adds extra layers that you need to manage without the tradeoff of any real security benefits. Developers and admins also need to maintain multiple application instances and ensure that loads are properly balanced between the author instance and public instances.

Enonic XP: The all-in-one Java-based CMS

Another option to consider is Enonic, which was first released in 2015.

From a technical perspective, Enonic provides different features than the aforementioned options. It comes with its own built-in search engine and data management framework, which means developers won't need to set up their own database. Enonic supports not only web content creation, but also can host stand-alone web applications designed to run within its framework. You can create these applications yourself or download public ones from Enonic's marketplace.

If you just want a CMS to manage a basic website, Enonic is more than you need. But, as a holistic web hosting management platform designed with modern deployment strategies in mind, Enonic is a good fit for organizations that need to manage multiple websites and apps.

Enonic is free to use if you run and manage it on your own infrastructure. There are paid options for fully hosted Enonic instances and for professional support.

This article by no means provides an exhaustive list of content management tools. However, the four Java CMS tools described are well-established options that cover a range of use cases. Whether you are searching for a fully open source Java CMS, a simple-to-deploy Java CMS for the enterprise or a CMS that lets you write and deploy custom applications as well as website content, the platforms described above will suit your needs.

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What features are most important to you when you look for an open source Java CMS tool?
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What about Liferay CMS, JBoss Portal (GateIn) and Oracle Portal?
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