App Servers

When it comes time to install Liferay Portal on your server, you’ll find it’s easiest to do this by starting with a bundle. But many enterprises can’t do that. There may be an existing infrastructure into which you’re installing Liferay or you may have standardized on a particular application server. You’ll be happy to know that Liferay Portal has been designed to work well with all the leading application servers and that it’s easy and straightforward to install. But before we get started, we need to go over a few concepts; namely, the Liferay Home folder, databases and Liferay’s main configuration file. These were touched on in the section on bundles above but we’ll look at them in more detail now.

Liferay Home

Liferay Portal uses a special folder defined as Liferay Home. This folder is one folder higher than the location of the application server itself. This is why the bundles place the application server one folder in from the bundle’s root folder.

If Liferay is unable to create the resources it needs in this folder or if it finds itself running on certain application servers, it creates a folder called liferay in the home folder of the user ID that is running Liferay and that becomes Liferay Home.

As described above in the Bundles section, the home folder is very important to the operation of Liferay. The aforementioned folders (data and deploy) are created there and you can also put a special configuration file called there. This file is fully documented in chapter 20, a reference for Liferay properties.

Let’s move on to examining the database.

Liferay’s Database

As stated above, if you create your database and grant a user ID full access to it, Liferay can use that user ID to create its indexes and tables automatically. This is the recommended way to set up Liferay, as it allows you to take advantage of Liferay’s ability to automatically maintain its database during upgrades or through various plugin installs which may create tables of their own. It is by far the best way to set up your Liferay installation.

If you’ll be setting up Liferay’s database with the recommended permissions, you can skip to the next section.

Even though Liferay can create its database automatically, some enterprises prefer not to allow the user ID configured in an application server to have the permissions over the database necessary for Liferay and its plugins to maintain their tables. For these organizations, Select, Insert, Update and Delete are the only permissions allowed so we will go over how to set up the database manually. If your organization is willing to grant the Liferay user ID permissions to create and drop tables in the database – and this is the recommended configuration – by all means, use the recommended configuration.

Creating the database is simple: grant the ID Liferay uses to access the database full rights to do anything to the database. Then install Liferay and have it create the database. Once the database is created, remove the permissions for creating tables and dropping tables from the user ID.

There are some caveats to running Liferay like this. Many Liferay plugins create new tables when they’re deployed. In addition to this, Liferay has an automatic database upgrade function which runs when the version of Liferay is upgraded to a new release. If the user ID that accesses the database doesn’t have enough rights to create/modify/drop tables in the database, you must grant those rights to the ID before you deploy one of these plugins or start your upgraded Liferay for the first time. Once the tables are created or the upgrade is complete, you can remove those rights until the next deploy or upgrade. Additionally, your developers may create plugins that need to create their own tables. These are just like Liferay’s plugins that do the same thing and they cannot be installed if Liferay can’t create these tables automatically. If you wish to install these plugins, you will need to grant rights to create tables in the database before you attempt to install them.

Once you have your database ready, you can install Liferay on your server.

Liferay Installation Overview

Before we begin, it’s important to go over the various facets of the installation. They are:

  1. Create your database (see above).

  2. Determine whether you want to use the Liferay managed data source or a data source managed by your application server. The Liferay managed data source is recommended.

  3. Gather credentials for sending email notifications to users. Liferay supports a JNDI mail session as well as its built-in mail session.

  4. Install Liferay according to the instructions for your application server (see below).

  5. Create a file in the Liferay Home folder. This is a simple text properties file that you’ll use to override Liferay’s default properties (see below). This is where you’ll place the mail session configuration credentials you collected in step 3.

The easiest way to install Liferay is to set up your database and then follow the instructions for your application server. This method uses the setup wizard to create a working configuration. We’ll go through the steps in order, so first we’ll look at the options for data sources.

Using Data Sources

Liferay comes bundled with its own built-in data source. It’s configured by a number of properties which are set in a properties file. By default, the setup wizard asks you for the necessary values and creates a configuration file that uses the built-in data source to connect to the database.

Liferay always recommends that you use the built-in data source. Sometimes, however, organizations prefer to use the data source provided by their application server of choice. In this instance, a JNDI lookup provides a handle to the data source and the application server manages the connection pools. Liferay supports using your application server’s data source if you wish to do that.

To do this, you’ll need to create your own configuration file and skip the setup wizard. Since you’d be creating this file after the wizard anyway, this isn’t such a big deal.

Since mail sessions are configured in a similar way to data sources, we’ll look at them next.

Using Mail Sessions

Liferay’s default configuration looks for a mail server on the same machine on which Liferay’s running and it tries to send mail via SMTP to this server. If this is not your configuration, you’ll need to modify Liferay’s defaults. To do this, you’ll use a file (see below).

In a similar fashion to databases, you have two ways to configure your mail server:

  • Use your application server’s mail session.

  • Use the built-in mail session.

To use your application server’s mail session, you must create it in your application server and it should point to your mail server. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to point Liferay to it. You can do this through the configuration file or through Liferay’s control panel after it’s been installed.

Let’s look next at this configuration file and, if you’re choosing not to use the setup wizard, show you how to get Liferay connected to your database and your mail server.

The File

Liferay’s properties files differ from the configuration files of most other products in that changing the default configuration file is discouraged. In fact, the file that contains all the defaults is stored inside of a .jar file, making it more difficult to customize. Why is it set up this way? Because Liferay uses the concept of overriding the defaults in a separate file, rather than going in and customizing the default configuration file. You put only the settings you want to customize in your own configuration file and then you have a file that contains only the settings you need. This makes it far easier to determine whether a particular setting has been customized and it makes the settings more portable across different installations of Liferay.

The default configuration file is called and it resides inside of the portal-impl.jar file. This .jar file is in Liferay Portal’s WEB-INF/lib folder. The file used to override the configuration manually is

Complicating matters, the setup wizard creates a file called This file performs the same function as, and you can use it in place of that file if you wish. The file is read before the file, so if you have both files in your configuration, note that the settings in the setup wizard file override the ones in

This file should be created in your Liferay Home folder. You’ll use this file throughout this book to change many of Liferay’s settings. An exhaustive list of the configurable properties is provided in chapter 20.

You now have all the background information you need. Next you need to make your decision: will you use Liferay’s built-in data source, or the one provided by your application server? If you’re planning to use the one provided by your server, you can’t use Liferay’s installation wizard, and you’ll have to follow the instructions in the section below titled Manual Configuration.

In either case, your next step is to install Liferay onto your application server. Once this is done, if you’re using the recommended built-in data source, you can use the setup wizard, which we’ll cover next.

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