Forum OpenACS Q&A: Is OpenACS-4 the Answer for my Project?


While I am not a real programmer, I'm more of a SysAdmin for a Gov't
agency. I have been tasked with building a framework with hardware
and software for deploying web-servers in an intranet environment.
These servers will be located in 19 different offices throughout the
southeastern United States. Obviously open-source gpl'd code is
indicated as we'll be using exsiting spare hardware and the budget
is $0.00 .

I've been using some of the components in the OpenACS 3.5 for just
over a year in a production environment, so I am familier with the
current stable OpenACS package. As I have been visiting many OpenACS
and ACS sites the past few days, I am impressed with the
implementations of others.

My skills are above average for SysAdmins in our region/agency; how
easy would it be to train the average SysAdmin, with a preinstalled
OpenACS 4 system, in the care and feeding of OpenACS, have them
actually train end-users within the office to add content and
realize a benefit from the system.

What are some of the downsides of using OpenACS 4 over say one of
the PHP4 CMS implemetations? I already know about the benefits of
OpenACS over the PHP alternatives. What training challenges are most
likely to surface when training users to fully use the OpenACS
system? Are there any training resources for end-users, admins,
etc... that may be available for walking a user/admin through
OpenACS and getting the most from the system?

I know I am asking alot, but any help WILL be greatly appreciated...


Posted by defunct defunct on
I can't offer you too much information on training resources, however, anecdotally I can say:

Sys admin training. This is quite simple and those people I have explained the system too have picked it up quite easily. I think the only real difficulty is ensuring you highlight and explain some of the overly techie ACS stuff... for example in group admin, most users I come across immediately ask..'Whats a composition mean?'

I also think end users are equally as easy to train, but with specific reference to the CMS I think this interface is a bit clumsy and pretty difficult to communicate. Again, slightly too techy would be my observation, however, I expect in your circumstance they are only likely to need the basic of some derived/cut down version

I guess what you're asking is 'Is the OpenACS a low cost, low maintenace way to acheive your goals.'

Yes, absolutely! Training is pretty easy, and once you've got a server up and running, from an admin point of view, you can largely forget about it.. leaving you lots of spare time to figure out why the J2EE, Tomcat wonder beast on your other server is still down and showing no signs of re-surfacing...

Posted by Gilbert Price on
Simon, thanks for you perspective. Since I really have no experience with OpenACS/ACS 4, I guess I'll start installing it to an ole HP Netserver LX next week and get a feel for it.

Maybe put up an alternative architecture and solicit comments from the prospective Admins in the other offices.

My fear is once deployed, changing the expedient package to the superior package may be hard once I'm successful in getting the overall skill level up and instill some confidence in the Admins who have had nothing more to worry about than a Windows 2k file/print server and alot of workstations. (Wow, what a run-on sentence. Well, I never professed to being an English major!)

If anyone is interested in following this project, I've started a web page and will be posting all developments to This is my OpenACS 3.5 on a cable modem I run from home.

Thanks for the input Simon,