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Ben Collins
Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 6:12 AM
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Ben Collins

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Join Date: October 19, 2012

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I’ve a question about the use of multiple portal instances on a single installation of Liferay. I’ve put together a plan/idea below and I would appreciate and opinions and feedback.

My company runs as a collection of smaller companies. Each company is independent of the other, and each company runs its own multiple websites (brochureware sites, client extranet-like apps and intranet apps). We’re migrating to Liferay and I’m trying to come up with the best plan for the infrastructure and organisation of Liferay.

So my current thoughts are this:
- To set up an architecture of separate web, app, db and filestore servers
- To have 2-4 instances of the web and app servers running, with load balancing between them.
- To centralise the documents and media items to the filestore server(s)
- To have a single instance of Liferay running on each app server, each as a mirror of the other, not as independent instances (hence the load balancing)
- To run multiple portal instances within Liferay, one per company, and then multiple sites within each for the various websites each company has
- In my case we’d probably need somewhere between 5-10 portals, and then have 5 sites per portal. None of these sites would expect a huge load – we’re not amazon or ebay – we’d be talking hits/transactions in the thousands per day, not millions.

I have some points that I would like people’s views on:
- Is anyone else doing this?
- Does running multiple portal instances have any effect on the load on the server? Would I be better looking at having each portal on its own infrastructure?
- Should I be looking at database sharding for separating the db content?
- Any gotchas I should focus on?

Any feedback is appreciated!
David H Nebinger
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 7:10 AM
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David H Nebinger

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The typical architecture would include a cluster of Liferay nodes handling all of the sites, and use virtual hosts within the cluster to provide separate sites.

Since your separate smaller companies have their own domain names, setting up virtual hosts within Liferay will be quite easy.
Ben Collins
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 7:41 AM
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Ben Collins

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Hi David,

Thanks for this! A follow-up if I may. Running a cluster of nodes (whether they be VMs or physical servers I guess doesn't matter here) is exactly what I have in mind. This gives me resilience and load balancing, etc etc.

The main thrust of my question was more around whether there is any performance impact with using multiple portal instances within a Liferay installation.

I want to have some separation between my companies (sites) which I get from having separate portals. However I don't really want to have to have an independent installation of Liferay for each portal - that's multiple servers for each to get resilience, etc, and the number of servers will then quickly increase.

Does that make sense?
David H Nebinger
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 8:49 AM
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David H Nebinger

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Sure. But that's why we use a single cluster and have all of the virtual hosts defined in the cluster. A single cluster is easier to administer and maintain than using separate clusters.

I understand your desire to keep them separate, however. Sometimes this separation is just a whimsical desire (not really necessary, somebody just asks for it) while in other cases there can be hard requirements to keep them separate (i.e. due to federal, state, or local regulation, etc.).

A single cluster should be more than capable of handling all of your sites given the amount of traffic you're talking about. In the end, Liferay is just serving up a web page and that performance should be the same whether it is generating a page for 1 site out of 20 or if it's all separated out and serving 1 page for the 1 site the instance/cluster is hosting.

I think the biggest consideration for you would be the administration/maintenance aspect. A single cluster is a lot easier (sic) than multiple clusters. But if you have a need to do some separation, then it is what it is. Given a choice whether to do one or multiple clusters, I'd definitely stick with the one.
Ben Collins
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 9:02 AM
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Ben Collins

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I wonder if we're talking cross purposes, and that we are already in agreement!

A single cluster = a set of servers running a Liferay installation, giving resilience and load balancing, yes? And you are saying that I should use the capabilities of Liferay to run multiple sites on this one installation and not one site per cluster. I wholeheartedly agree! I certainly don't want multiple clusters to look after.

What I plan on doing is leveraging the ability in Liferay 6.1 to run multiple portals in the one installation as this would allow me to clearly deliniate my businesses - my question was does this introduce any performance penalties or other nasty gotchas, over just running all these sites under the one portal?

Again, really big thanks for taking the time to answer my query. One day I'll get the hang of Liferay and hope I can do the same for you.
David H Nebinger
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 10:53 AM
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David H Nebinger

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Ben Collins:
What I plan on doing is leveraging the ability in Liferay 6.1 to run multiple portals in the one installation as this would allow me to clearly deliniate my businesses - my question was does this introduce any performance penalties or other nasty gotchas, over just running all these sites under the one portal?


Ah, my mistake. I was thinking just along the lines of the multiple virtual hosts per single instance of the portal (even in a cluster).

Haven't had any experience setting up the multiple portals in a single installation, so I'm sorry I can't help you there. Have done the multiple virtual hosts, though, and that's worked out fine...
Ben Collins
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 1:45 PM
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Ben Collins

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Well the multiple virtual hosts we'll need too so that's great to know! I'm hoping your earlier comment that Liferay is simply serving up pages still applies to the multiple instances... we'll just have to see.

I appreciate all your time!
Hitoshi Ozawa
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 30, 2013 2:04 PM
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Hitoshi Ozawa

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We haven't yet used database sharding because it increases database maintenance but you've stated a typical corporate group portal. We have some using VMware if security is needed - it's better then trying to sharding database if security is the issue.
Ben Collins
RE: Suggested Liferay server architecture
January 31, 2013 1:46 AM
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Ben Collins

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Posts: 21

Join Date: October 19, 2012

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So have you done much with multiple portal instances on the one Liferay installation, or stuck to using the one Portal and using the sites/organisations to make the distinction between the different lines of business?

I like the "global context" each portal instance has, which means that the business can easily share their content across their multiple sites. If i use one portal though this global context becomes corporate wide, which isnt as useful - hence my leaning towards multiple portal instances.