Setting up new instances of WebSphere Portal can be a time consuming task, especially if you have to repeat that task many, many times to build out an entire infrastructure. Fortunately, the process can be dramatically sped up through the use of cloning or virtualization techniques.
Cloning, in this context, refers to taking a fully installed, configured, and customized portal and using it as a basis for many other instances. So, in this case, you incur the overhead of building out the very first instance, then reuse that as a template for new instances. At the moment, this process of copying portal instances only works for standalone portals, so they must still be separately federated and clustered. The process is described in my paper on Cloning a WebSphere Portal V6 installation. This paper will be updated soon to include WP 6.1.
Probably one of the first things you will note in the referenced paper above is that the cloning process requires the use of WebSphere Application Server Install Factory to mass-replicate WAS installations. The portal portion of the cloning process comes from simply ZIPping up the PortalServer directory. I certainly wish WAS would also support ZIPping up the AppServer directory and its profile, but they do not at the moment, or else my paper could be condensed down to probably 2 pages. We are working towards this, but for the time being, the cloning process is orchestrated through Install Factory.
The other way to speed up deployments is through the use of virtualized OS images. Most people think of VMware when they think of virtualization. VMware, and other OS-level virtualization techniques, brings not only ease of instantiation, but a much more flexible and efficient architecture. For instance, imagine having several VMware images representing different test permutations that can be recalled at will, or being able to litterally replace dated hardware with newer, faster servers and redeploy a current VMware instance to it without having to reinstall Portal. There is also, of course, the use of third party provisioning tools to balance virtual images across a farm of hardware, to ensure consistent and optimized resource utilization and power consumption, as part of a whole Green Lab strategy.
Portal has a limited support statement for VMware, mainly because we don't have enough experience deploying it ourselves, and can't guide our customers on effectively how to use VMware to meet their performance and capacity targets. Rest assured, though, that we are actively working to get this experience. At this time of this post's writing, we are testing various combinations of WP 6.0.1.x and WP 6.1 and will continue to leverage VMware and similar technologies in our test infrastructures.