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I would say that you can provide the users and groups, without using the portal features.
The users and groups could (as for some portal) come from a LDAP, with it's own (legacy) application to manage all the users/groups.
Having the users managed outside of the portal is, on my humble opinion, the best way to do it in entreprise portals.
Well, after that said, you may use the portal GUI tools to manage your user.
And start customizing it, to fit your company requierements.
You can build a full application, for managing the users/groups, in portlets.
This could be taken, as a "copy and modify" of the one provided in GateIn.
And at least, you can only rewrite the screen (for groups) that need some customization.
(But think also that it may requiere some validation, or other things... and when you start to pull this kind of thread,... you never know how far it goes... with some dirty adaptation of the code to try to get what you need...).
To do so : you can modify the .gtmpl file directly in the exoadmin.
This will work.
Not easy to transfert this modification, when upgrading to a new portal version.
Or make an extension.
This is better : more clean.
And I am not sure it will be much longer to make it.
I would say that the main drawback of writting your users/group application is that it takes time to code it and test it.
But... the main drawback of making some quick and dirty modification in the portal, is... that it may be "add this, ... then modify also this... then hacking this to be able to have another feature, etc..." ... and you loose a lot of time at the end, to reach to your customization.
hope it helps,