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Configuring Alfresco subsystems

An Alfresco subsystem is a configurable module responsible for a sub-part of Alfresco functionality. Typically, a subsystem wraps an optional functional area, such as IMAP bindings, or one with several alternative implementations, such as authentication.

A subsystem can be thought of as miniature Alfresco server embedded within the main server. A subsystem can be started, stopped, and configured independently, and it has its own isolated Spring application context and configuration.

The application context is a child of the main context, therefore, it can reference all the beans in the main application context. However, the subsystem's beans cannot be seen by the main application context and communication with the subsystem must be through explicitly imported interfaces. The main features of subsystems are:

Multiple ‘instances’ of the same type
The same template spring configuration can be initialized with different parameters in different instances. This enables, for example, the chaining of multiple authentication subsystems through property file edits.
Dynamic existence
JMX-based server configuration capabilities in Alfresco Enterprise releases.
Own bean namespace
There is no problem of bean name uniqueness if you need multiple instances of the same subsystem. Again, this vastly simplifies the problem of building an authentication chain as there is no need to edit any template Spring configuration.
Clearly defined interfaces with the rest of the system
A subsystem's interfaces must be 'imported' in order to be used anywhere else in the system. This is done by mounting them as dynamic proxies.
Hidden implementation specifics
Implementation specifics are not visible because all of its beans are hidden in a private container.
Swapping of alternative implementations
To switch over from native Alfresco authentication to NTLM passthru authentication, you switch to a passthru authentication subsystem and the correct components are swapped in.
Separate product from configuration
A subsystem binds its configuration settings to properties and can even do this for composite data. There is no longer a need to edit or extend prepackaged Spring configuration in order to configure a subsystem for your own needs.