Building a Portal with Grails-Framework

von Peter Soth

In this blog post I will describe how we have implemented a web portal by using only the Grails Framework [1]. Our approach differs from the Grails Portlets Plugin in the fact, that in our case the portlets are running directly in a Grails application and not as a JSR 168 portlet in a Liferay portal.

Why do we need a Grails Portal?

exensio has a long experience in the development of portal solutions. So far we have used portal solutions from the major manufacturers like Oracle. On the other hand, we use the Grails framework for developing Web applications more and more. Thus the idea  to combine both was close. Our solution offers the possibility to embed a Grails controller as a portlet within a Grails application. Below I've included screenshots showing this feature.

The Building Blocks of the Grails Portal

A portal consists mainly of the following building blocks:

  • Portal
  • Page contains one or more portlets. A Portal can contain one or more pages.
  • Portlet-Instance of a Portlet. Each Portlet can reside on the same or another page.
  • Portlet Preferences. Each portlet can have specific preferences. For instance,  a path to the root node of content.

The Link Issue of the Grails Portal

The generation of links must be implemented in a portal different than in a Grails application. The problem in a portal is that a click on a link must be redirected to the portlet on which the click has been executed.
There are different ways to solve this problem. The easiest way is to use Ajax or Flash to implement the portlets. This was not our preferred solution. Our solution should be based on standard GSP pages. We solved the link problem by implementing a portal controller which gets the requests first. A link in our Grails Portal looks the following:


The link contains all the necessary information like portal (since the portal can contain one or more portals), page, portlet instance and the action which should be executed in the instance of that portlet. The portal controller loops over all the portlets which reside on the executed page, renders each portlet and returns the whole portal page back to the browser.


As you can see it is possible to implement a portal based on the Grails framework. This portal acts like a portal from the major vendors but is much easier and faster to implement.


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