Recently, we spoke with Bryan Cheung, CEO of Liferay about the future of the Liferay platform and his thoughts on the future. Liferay has been expanding rapidly and experiencing a large increase in interest thanks to a tough economy and a need for companies and organizations to find low cost, efficient solutions. Here is the interview in full, enjoy.
CC: Recently, you announced a partnership with Mulesoft to provide an alternative method of packaging Liferay, do you think this is going to change the dynamic of Liferay in the market?
BC: I think the larger story here Mike is our emphasis on Liferay as a platform. Really moving beyond just the software to Liferay and you know, some of the adjacent technologies all working together to provide solutions for businesses. So a big part of that story for example is our developer tools that we've been building over the last couple of years, some of the presentation layer frameworks that we've been building like Alloy but then on the deployment front, we want to make sure it's as easy as possible for people to get Liferay running in a number of different environments. We've already been doing that and I think it's been one of the more defining differentiators for Liferay since the inception of the product. So, the Mulesoft offering is really just an extension of that. Liferay's always been able to run in all of these different application servers and now we're targeting the Mulesoft offering as well.
CC: What prompted your decision to go with Mulesoft? Were there specific reasons for its selection?
BC: We had a number of customers in Europe who were interested in obtaining official professional support for Tomcat in addition to Liferay. It was something that we had offered unofficially as part of our support subscription but for those who wanted a little bit more assurance there, we thought that having this relationship would be helpful.
CC: Since the release of Liferay 6 back at the West Coast Symposium, it seems to have put more focus on Liferay as a multi purpose platform. I think prior to it, most people including myself thought of it specifically as a portal and now people are seeing it more as an all purpose tool for multiple deployments. Have you seen a growth in enterprise deployments since 6 came out in a significant number?
BC: We had momentum prior to the release of 6 itself and it's hard for me to separate out Liferay 6 itself versus the overall momentum of the company but we're definitely seeing a lot of growth and momentum overall. I would like to think that Liferay 6 has a good deal to do with it just because we introduced so many aspects of the product that enterprises need, workflow obviously being one of them, some of the auditing capabilities and then the overall ease of use.
CC: What changes have you seen from your customers since the release of 6? Have they had more unique requirements that they now feel they are more easily able to adapt to now with Liferay?
BC: We're seeing a lot of hype around the whole concept of social these days and I think people are adding the social moniker to whatever their existing application category is sort of making a big marketing push for it. It's interesting because portals have always really been about connecting the right people to the right information and the right applications, getting them in touch with other people and I think the social element is now broadening and deepening that where it's not just about personalization anymore but it's also community and context.
When you add that social dimension to all of these traditional solutions: intranets, portals, websites, online marketing presences, Liferay or a platform like Liferay, really makes it easy to bring all those things together and to put that social context around it.
CC: We've been hearing a lot more about Liferay than we did about a year ago or so, what do you think is contributing to this momentum and to your growth?
BC: I think it's a combination of the arrival of the product at a certain stage of convergence, bringing a lot of the features into a cohesive whole and then it's also the larger industry trends and economic trends that are going on. On the industry trends side, I think we are seeing a convergence and consolidation among a lot of these adjacent technologies so people aren't really thinking so much in terms of "I need a content management system" or "I need web publishing" or "I need collaboration" but more like "I need to put a lot of these things together and build this thing that I have a vision for and it involves people, it involves stuff, it involves getting people into groups and teams" and Liferay just does a lot of this well. On the financial side obviously with the prices we've been dealing with since 2008, that was really a driver for people to explore more cost efficient solutions like Liferay. More efficient not only from the perspective of the initial costs and the subscription costs but also, as companies are being shaken up, they need to move quickly, they need to bring great ideas to market more quickly. When you use a more flexible and all inclusive platform like Liferay, you are going to be able to response more quickly.
CC: Do you attribute that flexibility to the fact that Liferay is an open source platform or do you think thats more of a combination of that factor and the fact that your team has been able to develop with a decent turn around?
BC: Well, it's definitely both. Open source is a huge part of it and I think our team is also a huge part of it. On the open source side, when you have that kind of scrutiny across such a large number of customers and community members, you really are forced to build a leaner, better product. You can't have bloated code and you are constantly improving the code so thats definitely a factor. Another part is just not having the legacy that some of the other bigger software vendors might have of being older products and being less agile. Of course, huge kudos to my engineering team who are able to spot all of the upcoming trends and respond to them so quickly.
CC: Does Liferay have any plans to expand integration capabilities with any other platforms such as ERP solutions or any other vendors?
BC: Our general strategy is two fold. I think there are some major software packages that its in our interest to develop integrations for. For me personally, things like Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange and Outlook would make a lot of sense to have some preconfigured integrations for. Not intending to replace those systems but really to work alongside them. I think one of the reasons that SharePoint was so popular is because of the way that it works nicely with office and outlook and so we want to look at some of that. There are a whole lot of Lotus Notes customers out there, maybe not as much as on the Microsoft side but it's still a good 30-40% of the market that have so much legacy information in their Notes installations that they are not going to be able to migrate out so having a good solution for bringing that content into a Liferay deployment and then putting social and other contexts around that content will give customers the best of both worlds where they've still got all of their content but we're modernizing it and adapting it for the 21st century.
The other major thing, and you will definitely hear about this in the coming months, is the Liferay marketplace. The marketplace is really going to enable people to have integrations with some of these systems that our partners are going to be able to build for us and deliver to a Liferay audience really quickly through and online presence on the website.
CC: Is Liferay capable of functioning within a cloud deployment?
BC: Yes, Liferay has been designed to deploy to any number of environments. You know, that covers a number of considerations. One is obviously if you've already got some infrastructure pieces then we don't want to force you to swap that out for other stuff. If you've already got IT folks that are well versed in those environments, then you don't want to swap out that expertise. This makes Liferay as widely addressable as possible as far as the different environments it can run on. We do have some customers that have deployed Liferay into cloud environments.
CC: What is the next major packaging project you are working on?
BC: Our next major project is Social Office. Our first real attempt at a solution within the Liferay platform and then we've got some other ideas as well as to some other packaged solutions we can build.
CC: Great, well thanks for taking the time to speak with us Bryan!
BC: Ok thanks a lot Mike.
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Mike Johnston Author
I am the guy behind CMS Critic and the Co Founder of Website Builders Critic. When not traveling the world attending and covering conferences, I am based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where I live with my beautiful wife and kids. Visit me on my wife and my blog, Unicorns in the Mist.