Exo Platform 1.0 is the latest entry in the increasingly crowded and increasingly capable field of enterprise-class open-source portals and publishing systems. Released in February by The Exo Platform SARL, Exo Platform 1.0 provides extensive (and relatively low-cost) development and customization features for building corporate portals.
eWEEK Labs was impressed in many ways by Exo Platform 1.0, and we think it could be a good fit for many enterprise needs. However, Exo Platform 1.0 doesnt stack up well against more robust open-source options, such as Plone 2.0, because of its current immaturity.
Using the JavaServer-based Exo Platform 1.0, eWEEK Labs was able to quickly build a customized and extensible portal that could meet a variety of business needs. During tests, we were impressed with many of Exo Platform 1.0s features and capabilities. Others, however, had a distinct Version 1.0 feel, with some aspects of the product seeming somewhat incomplete.
Exo Platform 1.0 boasts strong developer-oriented features, including integration with Eclipse and a framework based on JavaServer Faces technology, which is more portlet-friendly than standard JavaServer Pages technology. Exo Platform 1.0 can also integrate with corporate directories, and it has surprisingly extensive workflow capabilities.
The main browser-based interface is attractive and intuitive, especially when it comes to customizing the layout and adding portlets. However, the interface has a tendency to become crowded and complex, depending on the tasks being performed. At times, this left us unsure about how to get out of certain view modes or how to carry out specific tasks.
The licensing issues around Exo Platform 1.0 can be similarly complex. The product is open-source and can be used under the standard GNU GPL (General Public License). However, The Exo Platform SARL also sells standard commercial licenses of the product, with the Enterprise version starting at 2,990 euros (approximately $3,854 U.S.) per CPU. Support costs an extra 20 percent of the total acquisition cost per year. (The Exo Platform SARL is based in Europe, but the organization works with integrators in many countries, including the United States.)
As a Java application, Exo Platform 1.0 can run on pretty much anything, and we quickly had it up and running on a Tomcat server. Once we were logged in to the portal as an administrator, we could carry out a wide range of management functions and had access to some very good monitoring and tracking features.
Exo Platform also has some good tools for creating and managing users and groups. More important, it can integrate with company directories through an OpenLDAP implementation (although this requires good LDAP familiarity).
During tests, eWEEK Labs was especially impressed with Exo Platform 1.0s workflow capabilities, which almost resemble BPM (business process management) in their ability to create and manage complex human work processes. Exo Platform 1.0 doesnt provide the type of visual process tool that BPM products typically have, but we could create processes using XML and other standard formats to handle the workflow of tasks as varied as vacation requests and purchase orders.
Exo Platform 1.0 has many of the portlets that one would expect in this type of product, including forums, RSS features and integrated Wiki support. Like many of its commercial rivals, Exo Platform 1.0 uses a community-based approach to organizing and managing the portal and its users, making it possible to arrange the portal in a way that best fits a companys structure and work style.
The rich interface proved attractive at first, but after we started doing serious work, we often had to backtrack or were unsure of where to make certain changes. Also, while every page showed a Help button, clicking on the buttons never delivered any integrated help information.
On the plus side, some very good documentation is provided in a Wiki at the Exo home page (www.exoplatform.com/portal/faces/public/exo). Between this documentation and the forums on the site, we were able to find answers to most of our problems.
We found Exo Platform 1.0s standards support to be universally good: In addition to its support for JavaServer Faces, Exo Platform 1.0 supports Web Services for Remote Portals and Java Content Repository specifications. And, like most open-source server products, Exo Platform 1.0 interfaces worked in every browser with which we tested, including the latest versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Mozilla and Safari.
Exo Platform 1.0s international features are among some of the best weve seen, making it very simple to move among languages in the portal (including Chinese, English and French, by default). We also liked the mode that made it simple to control the look and feel of our portal.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at email@example.com.
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