iAvans Portal in Liferay

Avans' goal is to create a community to share knowledge with and among students. Liferay and Proteon are the perfect partners in this case.

iAvans PortalAvans is innovative in sharing knowledge with and among their students and wants to remain that way now and in the future. To achieve this goal Avans has contacted Proteon and asked us to create a Liferay Portal to facilitates herein.

"Next to the fact that Proteon's quote was plain and easy, they also understood what we wanted and took us seriously. The price of their services was also attractive, making the choice easy.” – Corien Ortonio, project manager ICT at Avans Hogeschool

Students, teachers and the management of Avans make use of Blackboard, Groupwise and other applications. For all these parties it is important that all services they make use of are easily accessible through a single Portal. After researching the Portal market Avans was convinced that Liferay together with Open Social was the way to go.

"We had made a selection of products and the top three products had very similar functionality. We have chosen for Liferay based on the fact that it's Open Source, has low annual costs (no licenses) and modern looks. Overall it has exactly the functionality that we needed in a Portal.” – Corien Ortonio, project manager ICT at Avans Hogeschool

Gadgets and Single Sign-On

Creating and using Open Social Gadgets in Liferay makes it possible not only to use those portlets in Liferay but also on other Portals (like iGoogle). It is also possible to use Liferay as an Open Social Container to embed gadgets from other Portals in Liferay. This way users can create their own dashboards showing only the gadgets of their interest.

Proteon has created portlets based on XSL, RSS and iFrames to let Avans embed external content in Liferay. Also two portlets that interface with back end systems to fetch properties of students and teachers were created by Proteon. These portlets make use of AJAX-based techniques to refresh their contents automatically without reloading the entire page.

By using Single Sign-On all connected systems know when a user is logged on to the system and to which groups this user belongs. Therefore users have to log in only once to make use of all connected systems.

Clustered setup, replication and caching

For students and teachers that make use of the Avans portal it is important that it is available all the time. Stability is a must! Infrastructures like these usually have regular increases in the load, especially in the period that students take their exams.

That is why Proteon has chosen a clustered Tomcat setup in which user sessions are handled by multiple servers. Proteon installed a centralized Oracle database that is replicated using multi casting that makes it possible to hand over user sessions seamlessly in case a front end server might fail.  We also implemented a smart caching strategy that signals and updates all servers in the cluster in case of changes.

The resulting system meets the requirement set by Avans that it should be able to withstand a failure of 50% of its servers and still perform within the specifications.

Design and Liferay consultancy and training

Next to the development of the Liferay portal and its underlying  infrastructure, Proteon also implemented Avans' corporate identity in a Liferay theme. Because it was important for advance to have its own employees also develop Liferay-based gadgets, Proteon provided Avans' developers with Liferay consultancy and Liferay training.

"The result is fine. Avans' students and employees are pleased with the system.” – Corien Ortonio, project manager ICT at Avans Hogeschool

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