WPS Portal project

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Portal pages syndication

I still continue to send my "message in the bottle" on the ideajam forum. There is also a place dedicated to WebSphere Portal, so I proposed this idea about portal pages "syndication": see

In our company, we are using WPS version 5.x and the existing tool - to export pages from one authoring server to the live environment - are really limited !
Using release builder is simply not an option for us, because it is not able to manage only the new pages creation or update. For any company that has a big intranet site, it is not really possible to built a release by analyzing the full page list of the entire site...it is probably feasible for small site, but this is not our case.

Moreover (a bigger problem), most of other portal administrator I have talked to, think that release builder is not really reliable, and it cannot be used as a basis for an automatic export/import process. This issue was also explicitely mention in one presentation in the 2007 WebSphere Conference (Munich): "do not use r-b without verifying the content of the xml file...because it might contain additional delete operation which are not wanted....". So basically, it is simply not usable to build an industrialized a process.

So we decided to build our own "transport process" mechanism, based on the xml-access tool, and custom XSL and ANT script...This works fine, but this require to fully understand the complexity of the xml page structure, so be carefull if you are thinking to develop a similar solution. The most difficult issue is to manage properly the delete operation on the source server and to propagate them to the target server...another problem is to avoid loosing the User Portlet preferences on the target server....so it can be tricky depending on what are your need.
In addition, we now provide a user interface (Portlet) to allow the end-user to select which part of the site he want to export, and to launch the process manually whenever he want.
If some of you are interested about such a tool, I can post more information about it.

Also, note that in the WPS V6.1 release, IBM will provide a new web interface (Portlet) called "Site Management" which will provide a similar feature for end-user. But it is still limited: by example, the user must specify the unique name of the page he wants to export, and also the location where to insert the page in the target site structure...No doubt IBM will improve this feature in the next release, but this is a quite good start for people which don't want to develop their own solution.
Just to finish on this topic, I think that the "Site Management" solution will use an RSS based mechanism to publish the pages on the target environment. This producer / consumer pair is similar to the syndicator/subscriber principle in WCM. I think using RSS (or any xml over http mechanism) is a good approach, and I hope IBM will be able provide more user-friendly and flexible tool in the futur....that's what our user want !


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