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Open Source Portlet Containers January 20, 2007

Posted by Andre Vellino in Java, Open Source, Portlet.
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I am looking for an open source portal platform that I can use for research purposes. For the moment, I am not especially concerned about scalability, performance, or enterprise-grade features (management, reporting, etc.) I just want a simple portal environment that works in a (portable) programming language that I understand (or care to understand which rules out Perl or PHP :-)) and that supports Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) or at least Web Services. I also want to be able to see how it works, so I prefer Open Source.

The following isn’t a software product review – just to note a few impressions following my quick survey of the portal landscape. I did something like this about 5 years ago but a lot has changed: we now have 2 portlet API specifications (the latest is JSR 286 to be finished in May 07) and will soon have a version 2 specification of Web Services for Remote Portlets.

So far, I have had a quick look at only four portlet implementations. The first two appear to be in the “small user community” category.

Jakarta Jetspeed-2 has been redesigned and looks like it could be quite useful in an experimental context. The installer jar deploys it with the embedded Derby java DB that IBM donated to Apache (see also this overview of open source DBs) Getting up and running with Jetspeed-2 was pretty straightforward. My biggest worry was the documentation (I tried a variant of the “hello world” portlet example, without success) and the fact that it doesn’t look like there is a lot of current development being done on it (the latest build was in Dec. 2005).

Jakarta Pluto is the reference implementation of JSR 186. If you want to test a portlet’s conformance this is probably the right tool, but I don’t think I would use it as the starting point for building something.

At the other end of the spectrum (lots of example portlets, substantial documentation, commercial support) we have LifeRay and JBoss Portal. These two portlet containers are compared to one another in an InfoWorld review and while the article favours LifeRay, my current preference would be for JBoss, based on its support for SOA.

There are several other candidates too, as I discovered from this blog (even though it hasn’t been updated since October 2006.) An overview paper entitled A Service Oriented Architecture for Portals Using Portlets, compares, among other things, Sakai uPortal GridShpere eXo Platform LifeRay and Stringbeans. I don’t want to spend any more time on this survey, but it looks like eXo and Liferay might pretty good choices as well.

Also noteworthy is that Sun is planning to release an open source version of the Sun Portal Server.

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