Comment lines: Choosing the right web content management delivery solution

IBM Web Content Manager delivery solutions for your website

The IBM® Web Content Manager software offers different solutions for delivering web content to your users. This article explains all the solutions available and why you would chose each. This content is part of the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal.

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Stefan Hepper, WCM Architect, IBM

Stefan Hepper is a WCM / Portal product architect and working on making portal and WCM an integrated user experience. Previous roles included being chief programmer for WebSphere Portal 6.1.5. and leading the Java Portlet Specifications JSR 168 and JSR 286. He is working in the portal area since 2001. Stefan is based in the IBM Silicon Valley Lab, USA.


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25 January 2012

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Comparing delivery solutions

Portal and web content management systems have moved to more tightly integrated systems in the past few years in order to achieve the vision of an exceptional web experience for the users of a website. This level of integration is necessary in order to have a common search, navigation hierarchy, link integration, and access control integration. IBM WebSphere® Portal and IBM Web Content Manager provide this deep integration and is set up to make it easy for you to create an exceptional web experience for your users.

There are essentially three major types of web content delivery solutions:

Local versus remote portlet rendering

The default integration of web content into a portal uses a web content viewer portlet that runs locally on the portal server. This enables you to leverage the tight integration be-tween WebSphere Portal and Web Content Manager and get the best performance and maintainablity. However, in cases where some web content needs to be embedded into a portal page, the web content viewer portlet can also be accessed remotely via Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP). (See this article for more details.)

  • Pre-rendering is the process of traversing the website and rendering the content of each page into a static HTML file. You can automatically pre-render the website based on a timer or manually trigger the pre-render. The HTML files can then be served directly from a HTTP server. Pre-rendering is useful for pure “brochureware” sites that don't change that often and have a really high load. Pre-rendering has several limitations, such as no dynamic content, no access control checking, and it does not work together with portal pages (it works only with Web Content Manager content).
  • Servlet rendering is the delivery of the content via the Web Content Manager servlet. When using Web Content Manager servlet delivery, you are bound to the Web Content Manager features and cannot use any IBM WebSphere® Portal features in the website.
  • Portlet rendering is the delivery of the web content via the web content viewer portlet and through WebSphere Portal. This delivery mechanism provides a tightly integrated portal and web content management system that is fully dynamic and very flexible.

The table below compares the different delivery solutions to help you identify the best one for your use case.

Table 1. Web content delivery solutions
Pre-renderingServlet renderingPortlet rendering (local)
Authoring environmentWebSphere Application Server + WebSphere Portal + Web Content ManagerWebSphere Application Server + WebSphere Portal + Web Content ManagerWebSphere Application Server + WebSphere Portal + Web Content Manager
Rendering environmentHTTP serverWebSphere Application Server + Web Content ManagerWebSphere Application Server + WebSphere Portal + Web Content Manager
SecurityOnly via URLPortal Access ControlPortal Access Control
PersonalizationNoYesYes
SpeedFastNeeds to be configured or tuned to use caching proxies, then nearly as fast as pre-rendering.Needs to be configured or tuned to use caching proxies, then nearly as fast as pre-rendering.
Integration with other applicationsNoLink integration with Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) systems. Custom integrations with other applications.With portlets, widgets, other remote systems like IBM Lotus Connections or WSRP providers. Link integration with CMIS systems.
In-line editing of contentNoOnly via the authoring UI.In-line within context of the page.
Theme supportNoLimited to presentation templates. Need to write your own theme framework on top of presentation templates.Yes, has lot of out of the box theme modules that make it easy to add capbilities, like Dojo, drag and drop, tagging and rating, and so on,to the page. Provides a framework for easily changing the layout and look of the page.
AgilityLow
Updates occur seldom, requires re-rendering of the site and copy of the files.
Medium
Updates can be syndicated in minutes.
Single context per page.
High
Updates can be syndicated in minutes.
Portlets on page can be configured to different contexts and components and personalized.
MobileNo supportCustom solutionBuilt-in support for mobile, themes and presentation templates can be chosen based on device type. Mobile versions of the theme available.
Page and content templatesCan be used for generating the static content.Page templates cannot be used, only content templates.Full set of industry and content template catalog samples can be leveraged.
Recommended usagesSimple, static, public brochure sites.Pure content-based external web sites.Dynamic external or internal web sites that integrate web content with other applications, including social and mobile capabilities.

Conclusion

A website is only as good as its content — and the way the content is handled. To provide an exceptional web experience, the right information must be delivered to the right audience when it's needed. When choosing the best web content delivery solution, your starting point should always be the local rendering portlet solution. This solution provides the broadest set of capabilities and is the solution that is the most future proof. It enables you to grow the web site continuously over the next 5-10 years without any major restructuring or migrations. The local rendering solution provides you with a tightly integrated WebSphere Portal/Web Content Manager system that is aligned with the product strategy of WebSphere Portal and IBM Web Content Manager.

Sometimes, however, that solution is not possible to implement and another deliver solution needs to be chosen. Often this is done to save initial costs, only to discover three or five years down the road that new requirements — like supporting mobile users or adding social capabilities — will require a costly migration. Deviating from the default local rendering scenario needs to be a well documented decision.

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