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Liferay Clustering

Liferay Portal is designed to serve everything from the smallest to the largest web sites. Out of the box, it’s configured optimally for a single server environment. If one server isn’t sufficient to serve the high traffic needs of your site, Liferay scales to the size you need.

enterprise-configuration.png

Liferay works well in clusters of multiple machines (horizontal cluster) or in clusters of multiple VMs on a single machine (vertical cluster), or any mixture of the two. Once you have Liferay installed in more than one application server node, there are several optimizations that need to be made. At a minimum, Liferay should be configured in the following way for a clustered environment:

  • All nodes should be pointing to the same Liferay database or database cluster.

  • Documents and Media repositories should be accessible to all nodes of the cluster.

  • Search should be configured for replication or should use a separate search server.

  • The cache should be replicating across all nodes of the cluster.

  • Hot deploy folders should be configured for each node if you’re not using server farms.

If you haven’t configured your application server to use farms for deployment, the hot deploy folder should be a separate folder for all the nodes, and plugins will have to be deployed to all of the nodes individually. This can be done via a script. If you do have farms configured, you can deploy normally to any node’s deploy folder, and your farm configuration should take care of syncing the deployment to all nodes.

Many of these configuration changes can be made by adding or modifying properties in your portal-ext.properties file. Remember that this file overrides the defaults in the portal.properties file. The original version of this file can be found in the Liferay source code or can be extracted from the portal-impl.jar file in your Liferay installation. You can also browse an online version of Liferay’s properties file: http://docs.liferay.com/portal/6.2/propertiesdoc/portal.properties.html. It’s a best practice to copy the relevant section you want to modify from portal.properties into your portal-ext.properties file, and then modify the values there.

We’ll discuss each of the points above one by one to present a clear picture of how to cluster Liferay.

All Nodes Should Point to the Same Liferay Database

This is pretty self-explanatory. Each node should be configured with a data source that points to one Liferay database (or a database cluster) that all the nodes will share. This ensures all the nodes operate from the same basic data set. This means, of course, Liferay cannot (and should not) use the embedded HSQL database that is shipped with the bundles (but you already knew that, right?). And, of course, it goes without saying that the database server is a separate physical box from the server which is running Liferay.

You can also use a read-writer database configuration to optimize your database configuration.

Read-Writer Database Configuration

Liferay allows you to use two different data sources for reading and writing. This enables you to split your database infrastructure into two sets: one that is optimized for reading and one that is optimized for writing. Since all major databases support replication in one form or another, you can then use your database vendor’s replication mechanism to keep the databases in sync in a much faster manner than if you had a single data source which handled everything.

Enabling a read-writer database is simple. In your portal-ext.properties file, configure two different data sources for Liferay to use, one for reading, and one for writing:

jdbc.read.driverClassName=com.mysql.jdbc.Driver
jdbc.read.url=jdbc:mysql://dbread.com/lportal?useUnicode=true&characterEncoding=UTF-8&useFastDateParsing=false
jdbc.read.username=**your user name**
jdbc.read.password=**your password**
jdbc.write.driverClassName=com.mysql.jdbc.Driver
jdbc.write.url=jdbc:mysql://dbwrite.com/lportal?useUnicode=true&characterEncoding=UTF-8&useFastDateParsing=false
jdbc.write.username=**your user name**
jdbc.write.password=**your password**

Of course, specify the user name and password to your database in the above configuration.

After this, enable the read-writer database configuration by uncommenting the Spring configuration file which enables it in your spring.configs property (line to uncomment is in bold):

spring.configs=\
META-INF/base-spring.xml,\
META-INF/hibernate-spring.xml,\
META-INF/infrastructure-spring.xml,\
META-INF/management-spring.xml,\
META-INF/util-spring.xml,\
META-INF/editor-spring.xml,\
META-INF/jcr-spring.xml,\
META-INF/messaging-spring.xml,\
META-INF/scheduler-spring.xml,\
META-INF/search-spring.xml,\
META-INF/counter-spring.xml,\
META-INF/document-library-spring.xml,\
META-INF/lock-spring.xml,\
META-INF/mail-spring.xml,\
META-INF/portal-spring.xml,\
META-INF/portlet-container-spring.xml,\
META-INF/wsrp-spring.xml,\
META-INF/mirage-spring.xml,\
**META-INF/dynamic-data-source-spring.xml,\**
#META-INF/shard-data-source-spring.xml,\
META-INF/ext-spring.xml

The next time you restart Liferay, it will now use the two data sources you have defined. Be sure you have correctly set up your two databases for replication before starting Liferay.

Documents and Media Library Clustering

Beginning with Liferay 6.1, Liferay’s Documents and Media Library is capable of mounting several repositories at a time while presenting a unified interface to the user. By default, users can use the Liferay repository, which is already mounted. This repository is built into Liferay Portal and can use one of several different store implementations as its back-end. In addition to this, many different kinds of third party repositories can be mounted. If you have a separate repository you’ve mounted, all nodes of the cluster will point to this repository. Your avenue for improving performance at this point is to cluster your third party repository, using the documentation for the repository you have chosen. If you don’t have a third party repository, you can configure the Liferay repository to perform well in a clustered configuration.

The main thing to keep in mind is you need to make sure that every node of the cluster has the same access to the file store as every other node. For this reason, you’ll need to take a look at your store configuration.

There are several options available for configuring how Liferay’s Documents and Media library stores files. Each option is a store which can be configured through the portal-ext.properties file by setting the dl.store.impl= property. Let’s consider the ramifications of the various store options.

Using the File System Store

This is the default store. It’s a simple file storage implementation that uses a local folder to store files. You can use the file system for your clustered configuration, but you’d have to make sure the folder to which you point the store can handle things like concurrent requests and file locking. For this reason, you need to use a Storage Area Network or a clustered file system.

The file system store was the first store created for Liferay and is heavily bound to the Liferay database. By default, documents are stored in a document_library subfolder of the data folder in a Liferay bundle. Of course, you can change this path to anything you want by using the dl.store.file.system.root.dir= property.

This store creates a folder structure based on primary keys in the Liferay database. If, for example, you upload a presentation with the file name workflow.odp into a folder called stuff, the file system store creates a folder structure which looks like the figure below.

enterprise-file-system-store.png

Figure 5.2: Liferay’s file system store creates a folder structure based on primary keys in Liferay’s database.

The actual folder path that is used by Liferay for storing documents is this:

/companyId/folderId/numericFileEntryName/versionNumber

The first folder name is the company ID to which the site belongs. The second folder name is the ID of the Documents and Media folder within which the document resides. The third folder name is the numeric file entry name of the document itself. Finally, the fourth name is a version number which is used for storing multiple versions of the document.

As you can see, the File System Store binds your documents very closely to Liferay, and may not be exactly what you want. But if you’ve been using the default settings for a while and need to migrate your documents, Liferay provides a migration utility in the Control Panel in Server AdministrationData Migration. Using this utility, you can move your documents very easily from one store implementation to another.

Speaking of other store implementations, let’s look at some others Liferay provides.

Using the Advanced File System Store

Liferay’s advanced file system store is similar to the default file system store. Like that store, it saves files to the local file system–which, of course, could be a remote file system mount. It uses a slightly different folder structure to store files, which is pictured below.

enterprise-adv-file-system-store.png

Figure 5.3: The advanced file system store creates a more nested folder structure than the file system store.

So what makes the advanced file system store advanced? Several operating systems have limitations on the number of files which can be stored in a particular folder. The advanced file system store overcomes this limitation by programmatically creating a structure that can expand to millions of files, by alphabetically nesting the files in folders. This not only allows for more files to be stored, but also improves performance as there are less files stored per folder.

The same rules apply to the advanced file system store as apply to the default file system store. To cluster this, you’ll need to point the store to a network mounted file system that all the nodes can access, and that networked file system needs to support concurrent requests and file locking. Otherwise, you may experience data corruption issues if two users attempt to write to the same file at the same time from two different nodes.

You may decide the advanced file system store for whatever reason doesn’t serve your needs. If this is the case, you can of course mount other file systems into the documents and media library. In addition to this, you can also redefine the Liferay store to use one of three other supported protocols. We’ll look at these next.

Using the CMIS Store

Though you can mount as many different CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) repositories as you like in the Documents and Media library, you may wish also to redefine the Liferay repository to point to a CMIS repository as well. Why? Users might want to create a folder or upload content to the Liferay repository. It would be nice if that Liferay repository was connected to a clustered CMIS repository by the administrator without having to mount it through the UI. The CMIS store allows you to do just that.

If you wish to use the CMIS store, all you need to do is set the following four directives in your portal-ext.properties file:

dl.store.cmis.credentials.username=yourusername
dl.store.cmis.credentials.password=yourpassword
dl.store.cmis.repository.url=http://localhost:8080/url/to/your/cmis/repository
dl.store.cmis.system.root.dir=Liferay Home

With the configuration above, the Liferay repository is connected to CMIS via the CMIS store. As long as all nodes are pointing to your CMIS repository, everything in your Liferay cluster should be fine, as the CMIS protocol prevents multiple simultaneous file access from causing data corruption.

From here, we’ll move on to the JCR store.

Using the JCR Store

Liferay Portal supports as a store the Java Content Repository standard. Under the hood, Liferay uses Jackrabbit, a project from Apache, as its JSR-170 compliant document repository. By default, Jackrabbit is configured to store the documents on the local file system upon which Liferay is installed, in the [Liferay Home]/liferay/jackrabbit folder. Inside this folder is Jackrabbit’s configuration file, called repository.xml.

Using the default settings, the JCR store is not very different from the file system stores, except you can use any JCR client to access the files. You can, however, modify Jackrabbit’s configuration so it stores files in a database that can be accessed by all nodes, and so that it operates as a cluster within Liferay’s cluster.

To move the default repository location to a shared folder, you do not need to edit Jackrabbit’s configuration file. Instead, find the section in portal.properties labeled JCR and copy/paste that section into your portal-ext.properties file. One of the properties, by default, is the following:

jcr.jackrabbit.repository.root=${liferay.home}/data/jackrabbit

Change this property to point to a shared folder that all the nodes can see. A new Jackrabbit configuration file is then generated in that location, and you’ll have to edit that file to modify Jackrabbit’s configuration.

Note that because of file locking issues, this isn’t the best way to share Jackrabbit resources, unless you’re using a networked file system that can handle concurrency and file locking. If you have two people logged in at the same time uploading content, you could encounter data corruption using this method, and because of this, we don’t recommend it for a production system. Instead, if you want to use the Java Content Repository in a cluster, you should redirect Jackrabbit into your database of choice. You can use the Liferay database or another database for this purpose. This requires editing Jackrabbit’s configuration file.

The default Jackrabbit configuration file has sections commented out for moving the Jackrabbit configuration into the database. This has been done to make it as easy as possible to enable this configuration. To move the Jackrabbit configuration into the database, simply comment out the sections relating to the file system and comment in the sections relating to the database. These by default are configured for a MySQL database. If you are using another database, you will likely need to modify the configuration, as there are changes to the configuration file that are necessary for specific databases. For example, the default configuration uses Jackrabbit’s DbFileSystem class to mimic a file system in the database. While this works well in MySQL, it doesn’t work for all databases. For example, if you’re using an Oracle database, you’ll need to modify this to use OracleFileSystem.

Modify the JDBC database URLs so they point to your database. This, of course, must be done on all nodes of the cluster. Don’t forget to create the database first, and grant the user ID you are specifying in the configuration file access to create, modify, and drop tables. After this, be sure to uncomment the <Cluster/> section at the bottom of the file. For further information, it’s best to check out the Jackrabbit documentation. Please see the Jackrabbit documentation at http://jackrabbit.apache.org for further information.

Once you’ve configured Jackrabbit to store its repository in a database, the next time you bring up Liferay, the necessary database tables are created automatically. Jackrabbit, however, does not create indexes on these tables, and so over time this can be a performance penalty. To fix this, you’ll need to manually go into your database and index the primary key columns for all the Jackrabbit tables.

Note that this configuration doesn’t perform as well as the advanced file system store, because you’re storing documents in a database instead of on the file system. But it does have the benefit of clustering well. Next, we’ll look at Amazon’s S3 store.

Using Amazon Simple Storage Service

Amazon’s simple storage service (S3) is a cloud-based storage solution which you can use with Liferay. All you need is an account, and you can store your documents to the cloud from all nodes, seamlessly.

This is easy to set up. When you sign up for the service, Amazon assigns you some unique keys which link you to your account. In Amazon’s interface, you can create “buckets” of data optimized by region. Once you’ve created these to your specifications, all you need to do is declare them in portal-ext.properties:

dl.store.s3.access.key=
dl.store.s3.secret.key=
dl.store.s3.bucket.name=

Once you have these configured, set your store implementation to the S3Store:

dl.store.impl=com.liferay.portlet.documentlibrary.store.S3Store

Consult the Amazon Simple Storage documentation for additional details on using Amazon’s service.

We have one more store to go over: the Documentum store.

Using the Documentum Store

ee-feature-web.png

EE Only Feature

If you have a Liferay Portal EE activation key, you have access to the Documentum hook which adds support for Documentum to Liferay’s Documents and Media library. The Documentum hook is included in the Documentum Connector EE app which you can download and install from Liferay Marketplace.

This hook doesn’t add an option to make the Liferay repository into a Documentum repository, as the other store implementations do. Instead, it gives you the ability to mount Documentum repositories via the Documents and Media library UI.

There’s not really a lot to this; it’s incredibly easy. Click AddRepository, and in the form that appears, choose Documentum as the repository type. After that, enter a name for the repository, specify the location of the Documentum repository and cabinet, and Liferay mounts the repository for you. That’s really all there is to it. If all your nodes are pointing to a Documentum repository, you can cluster Documentum to achieve higher performance.

Now that we’ve covered the available ways you can configure Documents and Media for clustering, let’s move on to configuring search.

Clustering Search

You can configure search for clustering in one of two ways: you can use pluggable enterprise search (recommended) or you can configure Lucene so indexes replicate across the individual file systems of the nodes in the cluster. We’ll look at both ways to do this.

Using Pluggable Enterprise Search

As an alternative to using Lucene, Liferay supports pluggable search engines. The first implementation of this uses the open source search engine Solr, but in the future there will be many such plugins for your search engine of choice. This allows you to use a completely separate product for search, and this product can be installed on another application server or cluster of servers. Your search engine then operates completely independently of your Liferay Portal nodes in a clustered environment, acting as a search service for all the nodes simultaneously.

This makes it much easier to deal with search indexes. You no longer have to maintain indexes on every node in your cluster, and you get to offload indexing activity to a separate server, so your nodes can concentrate their CPU power on serving pages. Each Liferay node sends requests to the search engine to update the search index when needed, and these updates are then queued and handled automatically by the search engine, independently. It’s kind of like having an army of robots ready and willing to do your bidding.

First, you’ll need to configure your Solr server, and then you need to install Liferay’s Solr plugin to redirect searches over to it.

Configuring the Solr Search Server

Since Solr is a standalone search engine, you’ll need to download it and install it first according to the instructions on the Solr web site (http://lucene.apache.org/solr). Of course, it’s best to use a server that is separate from your Liferay installation, as your Solr server becomes responsible for all indexing and searching for your entire cluster. You definitely don’t want both Solr and Liferay on the same box. Solr is distributed as a .war file with several .jar files which need to be available on your application server’s classpath. Once you have Solr up and running, integrating it with Liferay is easy, but it requires a restart of your application server.

The first thing you need to define on the Solr box is the location of your search index. Assuming you’re running a Linux server and you’ve mounted a file system for the index at /solr, create an environment variable that points to this folder. This environment variable needs to be called $SOLR_HOME. So for our example, we would define:

$SOLR_HOME=/solr

This environment variable can be defined anywhere you need: in your operating system’s start up sequence, in the environment for the user who is logged in, or in the start up script for your application server. If you’re using Tomcat to host Solr, modify setenv.sh or setenv.bat and add the environment variable there.

Once you’ve created the environment variable, you then can use it in your application server’s start up configuration as a parameter to your JVM. This is configured differently per application server, but again, if you’re using Tomcat, edit catalina.sh or catalina.bat and append the following to the $JAVA_OPTS variable:

-Dsolr.solr.home=$SOLR_HOME

This takes care of telling Solr where to store its search index. After you have Solr installed and the configuration finished, shut it down, as there is some more configuration to do.

Installing the Solr Liferay Plugin

Next, you have a choice. If you have installed Solr on the same system upon which Liferay is running (not recommended), you can simply go to the Liferay Marketplace and install the solr-web plugin. This, however, defeats much of the purpose of using Solr, because the goal is to offload search indexing to another box to free up processing for your installation of Liferay. For this reason, you really shouldn’t run Liferay and your search engine on the same box. Unfortunately, the configuration in the plugin is set exactly that way, presumably to allow you to experiment with different search configurations. To run them separately–as you would in a production environment–, you’ll have to make a change to a configuration file in the plugin before you install it so you can tell Liferay where to send indexing requests. In this case, go to the Liferay Marketplace and download the plugin to your system.

Open or extract the plugin. Inside the plugin, you’ll find a file called solr-spring.xml in the WEB-INF/classes/META-INF folder. Open this file in a text editor and you will see the entry which defines where the Solr server can be found by Liferay:

<bean class="com.liferay.portal.spring.context.PortletBeanFactoryPostProcessor" />

<!-- Solr search engine -->

<bean id="com.liferay.portal.search.solr.server.BasicAuthSolrServer" class="com.liferay.portal.search.solr.server.BasicAuthSolrServer">
    <constructor-arg type="java.lang.String" value="http://localhost:8080/solr" />

</bean>

Modify this value so it points to the server where Solr is running. Then save the file and put it back into the plugin archive in the same place it was before.

Next, extract the file schema.xml from the plugin. It should be in the docroot/WEB-INF/conf folder. This file tells Solr how to index the data coming from Liferay, and can be customized for your installation. Copy this file to $SOLR_HOME/conf on your Solr box (you may have to create the conf directory).

Before you start Solr, you should provide Solr with a list of synonyms and stop words. Synonyms are words that should be equivalent in search. For example, if a user searches for important information, you may want to show results for required information or critical information. You can define these in synonyms.txt. Stop words are defined in stopwords.txt and are words that should not be indexed: articles, pronouns, and other words that have little value in a search. Place these files in your $SOLR_HOME/conf folder. Examples for both of these files are found in the Solr archive in the solr-4.1.0/example/solr/collection1/conf folder. Additional Solr configuration options, most importantly solrconfig.xml and elevate.xml, are in the $SOLR_HOME/conf folder. Now you can start Solr. After Solr has started, hot deploy the solr-web plugin to all your nodes. See the next section for instructions on hot deploying to a cluster.

Once the plugin is hot deployed, your Liferay server’s search is automatically upgraded to use Solr. It’s likely, however, that initial searches will come up with nothing: this is because you need to reindex everything using Solr.

Navigate to the Control Panel. Under the Configuration heading, click on Server Administration. On the Resources tab, click the Execute button next to Reindex all search indexes. When you click this button, Liferay begins sending indexing requests to Solr for execution. Once Solr has indexed all your data, you’ll have a search server running independently of all your Liferay nodes.

Installing the plugin to your nodes has the effect of overriding any calls to Lucene for searching. All Liferay’s search boxes will now use Solr as the search index. This is ideal for a clustered environment, as it allows all your nodes to share one search server and one search index, and this search server operates independently of all your nodes. If, however, you don’t have the server hardware upon which to install a separate search server, you can sync the search indexes between all your nodes, as is described next.

Clustering Lucene Indexes on All Nodes

Lucene, the search indexer which Liferay uses, can be configured to sync indexes across each cluster node. This is the easiest configuration to implement, though of course, it’s not as “clean” a configuration as using pluggable enterprise search. Sometimes, however, you just don’t have another server to use for search indexing, so you need a way to keep all your nodes in sync. By default, Liferay provides a method called Cluster Link which can send indexing requests to all nodes in the cluster to keep them in sync. This configuration doesn’t require any additional hardware, and it performs very well. It may increase network traffic when an individual server reboots, since a full reindex will be needed. But this should rarely happen, making it a good tradeoff if you don’t have the extra hardware to implement a Solr search server.

You can enable Cluster Link by setting the following property in your portal-ext.properties file:

cluster.link.enabled=true

To cluster your search indexes, you also need to set the following property:

lucene.replicate.write=true

If you have cluster.link.enabled=true but lucene.replicate.write=false, you’ll enable cache replication but not index replication.

Of course, cluster.link.enabled=true and lucene.replicate.write=true need to be set on all your nodes. That’s all you need to do to sync your indexes. Pretty easy, right? Of course, if you have existing indexes, you’ll want to reindex as described in the previous section once you have Cluster Link enabled on all your nodes.

Distributed Caching

Enabling Cluster Link automatically activates distributed caching. Distributed caching enables some RMI (Remote Method Invocation) cache listeners that are designed to replicate the cache across a cluster.

Liferay uses Ehcache, which has robust distributed caching support. This means that the cache can be distributed across multiple Liferay nodes running concurrently. Enabling this cache can increase performance dramatically. For example, suppose that two users are browsing the message boards. The first user clicks a thread to read it. Liferay must look up that thread from the database and format it for display in the browser. With a distributed Ehcache running, this thread is stored in a cache for quick retrieval, and that cache is then replicated to the other nodes in the cluster. Suppose then that the second user who is being served by another node in the cluster wants to read the same forum thread and clicks on it. This time, the data is retrieved more quickly. Because the thread is in the cache, no trip to the database is necessary.

This is much more powerful than having a cache running separately on each node. The power of distributed caching allows for common portal destinations to be cached for multiple users. The first user can post a message to the thread he or she was reading, and the cache is updated across all the nodes, making the new post available immediately from the local cache. Without that, the second user would need to wait until the cache was invalidated on the node he or she connected to before he or she could see the updated forum post.

Once you enable distributed caching, of course, you should do some due diligence and test your system under a load that best simulates the kind of traffic your system needs to handle. If you’ll be serving up a lot of message board messages, your script should reflect that. If web content is the core of your site, your script should reflect that too.

As a result of a load test, you may find that the default distributed cache settings aren’t optimized for your site. In this case, you’ll need to tweak the settings yourself. You can modify the Liferay installation directly or you can use a plugin to do it. Either way, the settings you change are the same. Next, we’ll discuss a special EE-only optimization that can be made to the cache. After that, we’ll explain how to configure Liferay’s caching settings.

Enhanced Distributed Cache Algorithm

ee-feature-web.png

EE Only Feature

By default, Liferay’s distributed cache uses the RMI replication mechanism, which uses a point to point communication topology. As you can guess, this kind of structure doesn’t scale well for a large cluster with many nodes. Because each node has to send the same event to other nodes N - 1 times, network traffic becomes a bottleneck when N is too large. Ehcache also has a performance issue of its own, in that it creates a replication thread for each cache entity. In a large system like Liferay Portal, it’s very common to have more than 100 cached entities. This translates to 100+ cache replication threads. Threads are expensive, because they take resources (memory and CPU power). Most of the time, these threads are sleeping, because they only need to work when a cached entity has to talk to remote peers.

19-ehcache-inefficient-algorithm.png

Figure 5.4: The default algorithm requires each node to create massive amounts of dispatch threads to update the cache for each node in the cluster.

Putting heap memory aside (because the amount of memory on the heap depends on the application(s) running), consider the stack memory footprint of those 100+ threads. By default on most platforms, the thread stack size is 2 MB; for 100 threads, that’s more than 200 MB. If you include the heap memory size, this number can become as high as 500 MB for just one node. And that massive amount of threads can also cause frequent context switch overhead, which translates to increased CPU cycles.

For large installations containing many nodes, Liferay has developed an enhanced algorithm for handling cache replication that can can fix both the 1 to N - 1 network communication bottleneck, as well as the massive threads bottleneck. The default implementation uses JGroups’ UDP multicast to communicate.

19-ehcache-efficient-algorithm.png

Figure 5.5: Liferay’s algorithm uses a single UDP multicast channel, so that nodes don’t have to create a thread for each other node in the cluster.

To reduce the number of replication threads, we provide a small pool of dispatching threads. These deliver cache cluster events to remote peers. Since all cache entities’ cluster events must go through our pool of dispatching threads to communicate, this gives us a chance to coalesce events: if two modifications to the same cache object happen at almost the same time, we can combine the changes into one, and then we only need to notify remote peers once. This reduces traffic on the network. We should also note that newer versions of Ehcache support the JGroups replicator and can also fix the 1 to N - 1 network communication; however, they cannot fix the massive threads issue and they cannot coalesce cache events.

For EE customers who are interested in this feature, all you have to do to enable the enhanced algorithm is to install a plugin from the Liferay Marketplace and set the following property in the portal-ext.properties files of each of your nodes:

ehcache.cluster.link.replication.enabled=true

Search Liferay Marketplace for the Ehcache Cluster EE plugin, which is free to all EE customers, and install it on each of your nodes. The new algorithm is immediately activated and you can reap the benefits right away.

Next, let’s discuss how to modify your Ehache settings. As we’ve seen, it’s easy to use the default Ehcache settings just by enabling Cluster Link. If you need to tweak the cache for your site, you have two options: you can modify Ehcache settings with a plugin or you can modify them directly.

Modifying the Ehcache Settings With a Plugin

A benefit of working with plugins is that you can quickly install a plugin on each node of your cluster without taking down the cluster. Modifying the Ehcache settings with a plugin is recommended over modifying Liferay’s Ehcache settings directly. We’ll discuss this method first. If you’re not a developer, don’t worry–even though you’ll create a plugin, you won’t have to write any code.

Since we’re assuming you’re an administrator and not a developer, we’ll take the easiest route, and use Liferay’s graphical development tools, rather than the command line Plugins SDK by itself. If you’re a Liferay EE customer, download Liferay Developer Studio from the Customer Portal. Set it up with all the defaults from the first start wizard, and you’re good to go (skip the next paragraph).

If you’re not a Liferay EE customer, download Eclipse and install Liferay IDE from the Eclipse Marketplace. Download the Plugins SDK for your edition of Liferay from either the Customer Portal (EE) or the Downloads page on liferay.com. Connect Liferay IDE to your Plugins SDK using the instructions found in the Liferay Developer’s Guide.

Next, create a hook plugin by selecting FileNewLiferay Project. Select Hook as the project type and give your project a name. Click Finish and your project is created.

In your project, create a text file called portlet.properties in the docroot/WEB-INF/src folder. This file can override properties in your portal just like portal-ext.properties. Into this file, add the following three properties:

net.sf.ehcache.configurationResourceName=
ehcache.single.vm.config.location=
ehcache.multi.vm.config.location=

Liferay’s configuration files are, of course, used by default. If you’re overriding these properties, it’s because you want to customize the configuration for your own site. A good way to start with this is to extract Liferay’s configuration files and then customize them. If you’re running an application server (such as Tomcat) that allows you to browse to the running instance of Liferay, you can extract Liferay’s configuration files from Liferay itself. If you’re not, you can extract them from Liferay’s .war file or Liferay’s source code. In either place, you’ll find the files in the portal-impl.jar file, which is in Liferay’s WEB-INF/lib folder. The files you want are hibernate-clustered.xml, liferay-single-vm.xml, and liferay-multi-vm-clustered.xml, and they’ll be in the /ehcache folder in this .jar. Once you have these, make a subfolder of the docroot/WEB-INF/src folder in your project. Place the files you extracted into this folder and then specify this folder in the properties above.

For example, if you created a folder called custom_cache in your project’s docroot/WEB-INF/src folder, you’d copy the three XML configuration files (hibernate-clustered.xml, liferay-single-vm.xml, and liferay-multi-vm-clustered.xml) there. Then you’d edit your portlet.properties and specify your configuration files in the three properties above:

net.sf.ehcache.configurationResourceName=/custom_cache/hibernate-clustered.xml
ehcache.single.vm.config.location=/custom_cache/liferay-single-vm.xml
ehcache.multi.vm.config.location=/custom_cache/liferay-multi-vm-clustered.xml

Save the file and deploy the plugin (deploying plugins is covered in the Liferay Development Guide), and the settings you’ve placed in those files will override the default Liferay settings. In this way, you can tweak your cache settings so that your cache performs optimally for the type of traffic generated by your site. The strength of doing it this way is that you don’t have restart your server to change the cache settings. This is a great benefit, but beware: since Ehcache doesn’t allow for changes to cache settings while the cache is alive, reconfiguring a cache while the server is running will flush the cache.

There is, of course, another way to do this if you don’t want to create a plugin. It requires you to restart the server to enable the new cache settings, but you don’t have to work with any developer tools to do it.

Modifying the Ehcache Settings Directly

This method is pretty similar to the plugin method, except that you have to modify the Liferay installation directly. You’ll still need to extract Liferay’s configuration files as described in the previous section. Next, shut down your server and find the location in the server where Liferay is installed (this may not be possible on all application servers, and if this is the case, you’ll need to use the plugin method described above). For example, suppose you’re running Liferay on Tomcat. Tomcat stores the deployed version of Liferay in [Tomcat Home]/webapps/ROOT. Inside this folder is the folder structure WEB-INF/classes. You can create a new folder in here called custom_cache to store the custom versions of the cache configuration files. Copy the files you extracted from Liferay into this folder.

You then need to modify the properties in portal-ext.properties that point to these files. Copy/paste the Hibernate section of portal.properties into your portal-ext.properties file and then modify the net.sf.ehcache.configurationResourceName property to point to the clustered version of the configuration file that is now in your custom folder:

net.sf.ehcache.configurationResourceName=/custom_cache/hibernate-clustered.xml

Now that Liferay is pointing to your custom file, you can modify the settings in this file to change the cache configuration for Hibernate.

Next, copy/paste the Ehcache section from the portal.properties file into your portal-ext.properties file. Modify the properties so they point to the files in your custom folder. For example:

ehcache.multi.vm.config.location=/custom_cache/liferay-multi-vm-clustered.xml

You can now take a look at the settings in these files and tune them to fit your environment and application. Let’s examine how to do that next.

Customizing Hibernate Cache Settings

By default, Hibernate (Liferay’s database persistence layer) is configured to use Ehcache as its cache provider. This is the recommended setting. If you’re using the default settings using Cluster Link, you already have this enabled. If, however, you need to customize the settings, you’ll have to customize it in one of the ways described above: either in a plugin or in the deployed instance of Liferay. The first thing, of course, is to start off with the clustered version of the file. Copy the hibernate-clustered.xml configuration file to your plugin or to a place in Liferay’s classpath (as described above) where you can refer to it. Then change the following property to point to the file:

net.sf.ehcache.configurationResourceName=/path/to/hibernate-clustered.xml

Next, open this file in a text editor. You’ll notice that the configuration is already set up to perform distributed caching through a multi-cast connection. The configuration, however, might not be set up optimally for your particular application. Notice that by default, the only object cached in the Hibernate cache is the User object (com.liferay.``portal``.model.impl.UserImpl). This means that when a user logs in, his or her User object will go in the cache so that any portal operation that requires access to it (such as permission checking) can retrieve that object very quickly from the cache.

You may wish to add other objects to the cache. For example, a large part of your application may be document management using the Documents and Media portlet. In this case, you may want to cache media objects, such as DLFileEntryImpl to improve performance as users access documents. To do that, add another block to the configuration file with the class you want to cache:

<cache
    eternal="false"
    maxElementsInMemory="10000"
    name="com.liferay.portlet.documentlibrary.model.impl.DLFileEntryImpl"
    overflowToDisk="false"
    timeToIdleSeconds="600"
>
    <cacheEventListenerFactory
       class="com.liferay.portal.cache.ehcache.LiferayCacheEventListenerFactory"
       properties="replicatePuts=false,replicateUpdatesViaCopy=false"
       propertySeparator=","
    />
    <bootstrapCacheLoaderFactory class="com.liferay.portal.cache.ehcache.LiferayBootstrapCacheLoaderFactory" />
</cache>

Your site may use the message boards portlet, and those message boards may get a lot of traffic. To cache the threads on the message boards, configure a block with the MBMessageImpl class:

<cache
    eternal="false"
    maxElementsInMemory="10000"
    name="com.liferay.portlet.messageboards.model.impl.MBMessageImpl"
    overflowToDisk="false"
    timeToIdleSeconds="600"
>
    <cacheEventListenerFactory
       class="com.liferay.portal.cache.ehcache.LiferayCacheEventListenerFactory"
       properties="replicatePuts=false,replicateUpdatesViaCopy=false"
       propertySeparator=","
    />
    <bootstrapCacheLoaderFactory class="com.liferay.portal.cache.ehcache.LiferayBootstrapCacheLoaderFactory" />
</cache>

Note that if your developers have overridden any of these classes in an Ext plugin, you’ll have to specify the overridden versions rather than the stock ones that come with Liferay Portal. You can customize the other ehcache configuration files in exactly the same way. Refer to Ehcache’s documentation for information on how to do this.

As you can see, it’s easy to add specific data to be cached. Be careful, however, as too much caching can actually reduce performance if the JVM runs out of memory and starts garbage collecting too frequently. You’ll likely need to experiment with the memory settings on your JVM as well as the cache settings above. You can find the specifics about these settings in the documentation for Ehcache.

Configuring Liferay’s Caching Settings

To understand how Liferay behaves with various cache configurations, let’s consider five different scenarios.

  • Scenario 1: The portal administrator does not override the default cache configuration files (i.e., does not override ehcache.single.vm.config.location, ehcache.multi.vm.config.location, or net.sf.ehcache.configurationResourceName) but does set cluster.link.enabled=true and ehcache.cluster.link.replication.enabled=true. This is the recommended configuration for a Liferay cluster, as long as the Ehcache Cluster EE app, available from Liferay Marketplace, has been installed. Important: The Ehcache Cluster EE app must be installed or cache replication will not work with this configuration. In this scenario, Liferay automatically resets cache peer and cache event listers and replaces them with Cluster Link based listeners. This basically activates Cluster Link based cache replication. The configured LiferayCacheManagerPeerProviderFactory, RMICacheManagerPeerListenerFactory, and LiferayCacheEventListenerFactory classes are replaced with Cluster Link based implementations.

  • Scenario 2: The portal administrator does not override the default cache configuration files, does set cluster.link.enabled=true, but does not set ehcache.cluster.link.replication.enabled=true. In this case, Liferay utilizes Ehcache’s out-of-the-box replication mechanisms (Multicast for discovery and RMI for replication). Lots of replicator threads appear in the log with this configuration.

  • Scenario 3: The portal administrator does not override the default cache configuration files and does not set cluster.link.enabled=true. In this case, Liferay does not activate any replication and operates with the assumption that there’s no cluster.

  • Scenario 4: The portal administrator overrides the default cache configuration files and sets cluster.link.enabled=true and ehcache.cluster.link.replication.enabled=true. In this case, Liferay uses Cluster Link based replication for any caches configured with the LiferayCacheEventListenerFactory class. If the portal administrator configured a different CacheEventListener class for a specific cache (e.g., JGroups), then Liferay uses that listener class. This a basically a hybrid mode that was useful prior to Liferay 6.1 before Liferay supported cached object replication (and only supported cached event replication). This is not a recommended configuration for Liferay 6.1 or later.

  • Scenario 5: The portal administrator overrides the default cache configuration files and sets cluster.link.enabled=true but does not set ehcache.cluster.link.replication.enabled=true. In this case, Liferay uses the cache configurations specified in the custom cache configuration files. This is the recommended configuration when overriding the default cache configuration files.

As a general rule, we recommend that portal administrators not set custom cache configuration files but to set cluster.link.enabled=true and ehcache.cluster.link.replication.enabled=true (i.e., we recommend that portal administrators set up the configuration in scenario 1). If it’s necessary to tune the cache configurations, it’s better to do it via a plugin than to do it directly. We explained how to do this in the section above called “Modifying the Ehcache Settings With a Plugin.”

Next, we’ll show how to share indexes in a database. This is actually not a recommended configuration, as it’s slow (databases are always slower than file systems), but for completeness, we’ll go ahead and tell you how to do it anyway. But you’ve been forewarned: it’s far better to use one of the other methods of clustering your search index.

Sharing a Search Index (not recommended unless you have a file locking-aware SAN)

If you wish to have a shared index (and we really hope you don’t), you’ll need to either share the index on the file system or in the database. This requires changing your Lucene configuration.

The Lucene configuration can be changed by modifying values in your portal-ext.properties file. Open your portal.properties file and search for the text Lucene. Copy that section and then paste it into your portal-ext.properties file.

If you wish to store the Lucene search index on a file system that is shared by all of the Liferay nodes (not recommended: you’ve been warned), you can modify the location of the search index by changing the lucene.dir property. By default, this property points to the lucene folder inside the Liferay home folder:

lucene.dir=${liferay.home}/data/lucene/

Change this to the folder of your choice. You’ll need to restart Liferay for the changes to take effect. You can point all of the nodes to this folder and they will use the same index.

Like Jackrabbit, however, this is not the best way to share the search index, as it could result in file corruption if different nodes try reindexing at the same time. We do not recommend this for a production system. A better way (though still not great) is to share the index via a database, where the database can enforce data integrity on the index. This is very easy to do; it is a simple change to your portal-ext.properties file. Of course, we also don’t recommend this for a production system, as accessing the index from a database will be slower than from a file system. If, however, you have no other option and want to do this anyway, keep reading.

There is a single property called lucene.store.type. By default this is set to go to the file system. You can change this so that the index is stored in the database by making it the following:

lucene.store.type=jdbc

The next time Liferay is started, new tables are created in the Liferay database, and the index is stored there. If all the Liferay nodes point to the same database tables, they will be able to share the index. Again, performance on this is not very good. Your DBAs may be able to tweak the database indexes a bit to improve performance. For better performance, you should consider using a separate search server or syncing the indexes on the nodes’ file systems.

Alternatively, you can leave the configuration alone, and each node will have its own index. This ensures against collisions when multiple nodes update the index. However, the indices will quickly get out of sync since they don’t replicate. For this reason, this is not a recommended configuration either. Again, for a better configuration, replicate the indexes with Cluster Link or use a separate search server (see the section on Solr above).

Now we can look at the last consideration when clustering Liferay: hot deploy.

Hot Deploy

Plugins which are hot deployed will need to be deployed separately to all the Liferay nodes. The best way to do this is to configure your application server to support farms. This is a feature that enables you to deploy an application on one node and then it replicates automatically to each of the other nodes. This, of course, is configured differently for each application server, so you’ll need to consult your application server’s documentation to learn how to do this. It’s by far the best way to handle hot deploy, and is the recommended configuration. If you have this working, great! You can skip the rest of this section completely.

If for some reason your application server doesn’t support this feature or you can’t use it, you’ll need to come up with a way to deploy applications across your cluster. Each node needs to have its own hot deploy folder. This folder needs to be writable by the user under which Liferay is running, because plugins are moved from this folder to a temporary folder when they are deployed. This is to prevent the system from entering an endless loop, because the presence of a plugin in the folder is what triggers the hot deploy process.

When you want to deploy a plugin to the entire cluster, copy that plugin to the hot deploy folders of all of the Liferay nodes. Depending on the number of nodes, it may be best to create a script to do this. Once the plugin has been deployed to all of the nodes, you can then make use of it (by adding the portlet to a page or choosing the theme as the look and feel for a page or page hierarchy).

All of the above will get basic Liferay clustering working; however, the configuration can be further optimized. We will see how to do this next.

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