Plone@Smeal: Three Years Later


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Smeal migrated its first site to Plone 2.0.5 in the Summer of 2006 - since then, we have migrated and created 10 production sites that combined receive on average over 100k visitors a month. I will talk about the challenges encountered and lessons learned through site migrations, hardware conversions, Plone upgrades, and redesigns. I will also be discussing where we stand today and our strategy for moving forward with special focus on administrative & maintenance functions and policies.

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  • Plone@Smeal: Three Years Later

    1. 1. Plone@Smeal Three Years Later
    2. 2. Guy C. Heckman Systems Design Specialist Research, Instruction, & Information Technology (RIIT) Group Smeal College of Business The Pennsylvania State University IRC: guy_heckman or gch10 Twitter: cyvaquero NOT a Keynote expert.
    3. 3. Smeal Web Team • Guy Heckman - Systems Design Specialist • Erin Weber - Web Designer • Beth Phillips - Web Developer • PHP Team - Arun Kapil, Lan Wei, Sudhanshu Thanedar • Currently all web apps are PHP after a long effort to consolidate from ColdFusion, Perl, & Java
    4. 4. Pre-Plone Environment • Top-down mandate that the web is the primary vehicle for marketing & information distribution • Two major websites - WWW (marketing) & Intranet (everything else). Several small one-off websites for various events and projects. • ~ 55 Content Contributors • ~ 6.5K pieces of content (pages, images, & pdf’s) • ~ 3K updates a year
    5. 5. Pre-Plone Architecture Load Balancer Apache Apache Contribute TSM DFS Clients Backup
    6. 6. Pre-Plone Workflow Web Team Contributors Performs Technical Marketing Create/Edit Review (Style, Content Published Performs Content Content on Test Layout, etc.) and to Production Site Review Site Makes Appropriate Changes
    7. 7. Existing Problems • Bottlenecks in the workflow. • Technical knowledge of HTML required of non-technical users. • Code clean-up by Web Team almost always required. • Dependency on external systems. Outage of PSU DFS = Site Outage. • No version control & lengthy data recovery times. • Structural changes were problematic, limiting redesign efforts. • Separate proprietary license required for each contributor = $$$ • Content maintenance overshadowed all development & innovation.
    8. 8. Why Plone? • Proposals from commercial CMS vendors for the desired features ranged from $90K - $200K for roll-out of initial production site. • Limitations/poor reviews of some of the commercial CMS’s in use at the University by developers who had to work with them. • Large feature set. Plone contained certain features we required out-of-box, these were typically only available on the higher end commercial solutions or as add-ons. • Flexibility and extensibility. We ‘own’ the code. Later development on commercial solutions typically involved renegotiation and additional costs. • The formation of WebLion from the PSU ZUG.
    9. 9. Initial Plone Deployment in Plone 2.0 • Content was already in a standard format facilitating the use of WebLion’s WebSlinger product to import content from files into Plone. • Several custom Products (developed with WebLion). • Chose to use ATContentTypes vs. built-in CMF types with an eye on the upcoming Plone 2.5 release. • Kept the current design. • Conversion Timeline • Started converting site May 2006. • Switchover completed mid-July 2006.
    10. 10. Site Redesign & Plone Upgrade to 2.5 • New features of Plone 2.5 solved most custom component requirements • Proposed design introduced new challenges. • Migration Timeline: • Late August 2006 - started development of custom components and content migration planning. • Late September 2006 - Started content migration. • Late October 2006 - New site design in Plone 2.5 launched.
    11. 11. Expansion in Plone 2.5 • Migrated: • Launched: Data Resources Program (DRP) Database of research resources for Business grad students. FTCAP Site Informational site for incoming students. RIIT Group Site Smeal IT/Facilities information site Student Exchange Site Student information site Technology In Business Schools (TBS) Roundtable Conference site for Business School CIO’s.
    12. 12. Plone Upgrade to 3.1 • Utilized zc.buildout for managing environment. • Minimized 3rd Party Product Dependencies. • Migrated sites in order of complexity starting with the TBS site. Finished with WWW. • DRP was left in place as it was to be rolled into an upcoming site (ISBM). • Much smoother - much less painful. • Migration Timeline • Started conversion in January 2008. • Switchover completed mid-July 2008.
    13. 13. Expansion in Plone 3.1 • Redesigned the Student Exchange • Launched Student Exchange sites for specific programs - Undergrad, MBA, & Executive MBA • Launched Institute for the Study of Business Markets (incorporated DRP) • Redesigned WWW • Switched backend architecture from IBM Virtualization to VMware Cluster on Dell PowerEdge 2970’s
    14. 14. Current Environment • Four major websites - WWW (marketing) & Three Student Exchanges. Eight smaller limited scope websites. • ~ 85 Content Contributors • ~ 14K pieces of content (pages, images, & pdf’s) • ~ 7K updates a year
    15. 15. Current Architecture nginx (http) apache (CoSign) Squid Squid Squid Zope/Plone Zope/Plone Zope/Plone (student (www) (all other) exchanges)
    16. 16. Current Workflow Contributors Create/Edit Content Published Content on Test to Production Site Site Marketing Performs Content Review
    17. 17. Lessons Learned • Chances are that your site is a lot more complicated than you realize - not everything will translate to the Plone environment smoothly. • Avoid simultaneous redesign and upgrade at all costs. If the higher ups demand it - threaten to quit (depending on the economy, of course). • Consider phased migration for large sites (section by section). • Some things are best solved through policy vs. programming. • See T. Kim Nguyen’s recommendations from his Rolling Out Plone to a Campus: a Grass Roots Effort • Third party products mean external limitations on migration and upgrades. Choose wisely.
    18. 18. Lessons Learned (continued) • KISS - Creative reuse of out-of-box features and content types can solve many challenges. • File-based themes are a double-edged sword. • Not a fan of the current viewlet manager implementation. • Utilize zc.buildout to create a standard Zope/Plone setup. • & rsync are your best friends. • Virtualization is too. • Keep a long view. • Flexibility is the key to happiness.
    19. 19. Questions? Birds of a Feather?
    20. 20. Guy C. Heckman Systems Design Specialist Research, Instruction, & Information Technology (RIIT) Group Smeal College of Business The Pennsylvania State University IRC: guy_heckman or gch10 Twitter: cyvaquero