JBoss and Liferay provide open portals to SOA
Broad standard support boost open source portals' appeal
Enterprise portals will be the first major application of SOA concepts for more than 50 percent of enterprises through 2007, according to Gartner. It’s easy to agree with this projection, as the composite, extensible nature of portals -- plus established standards for portlet design and intercommunication -- fit the SOA definition perfectly.
There’s been plenty of activity among portal vendors; many open source portal projects are thriving as well. I tested two of these offerings, JBoss Portal 2.2.1 and Liferay Portal 4.0. Their standards compliance, ease of installation, and functionality match up well with commercial portals. With active community support and professional services available, JBoss and Liferay are legitimate portal solutions worth considering.
JBoss Portal 2.2.1
JBoss Portal employs several JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS) components, including JBoss Cache, Clustering, and Application Server. This architecture provides scalability and reliability -- and your IT staff doesn’t have to worry about configuring other comparable open source products. You’re free to use any database supported by Hibernate or run a JBoss Portal distribution that bundles the Hypersonic database.
JBoss Portal 2.2.1 enhances standards support with a CMS (content management system) based on the JSR 170 content repository and authentication that uses JAAS (Java Authentication and Authorization Service). There’s portlet clustering, which provides high availability in critical applications. And administration is improved; most portal management can be done from a GUI rather than editing XML files.
Setting up JBoss is a straightforward, three-step process of editing a configuration file, creating the database, and starting the portal.
Although the Management Portlet has a graphical interface, I discovered that it takes time to understand all the pieces and to wend your way to the right area. Compared with Liferay, it also requires more effort to perform common tasks. To arrange portlets and configure them on a page with JBoss, for example, you must use somewhat obscure commands and controls rather than a more convenient drag-and-drop process.
JBoss offers several authentication methods. I used an existing LDAP server. Next, I turned to the Role and User Portlets to create roles and assign them to each user. Afterward, I assigned actions (such as view or create) to each portlet based on my custom roles.
Larger enterprises can create multiple portal instances running inside one JBoss portal container. I found, however, that Liferay’s organization structure gave me easier control over the tasks that users could perform. This illustrates a fundamental distinction between the products: JBoss is a very good general publishing platform, but it won’t let users create and customize private spaces, as is possible with Liferay.