Alfresco has just announced the third incarnation of its Enterprise Content Management System. Alfresco Enterprise 3 is what Alfresco CTO John Newton refers to as the completion of the Product Suite that had been envisioned since the company began.
A Busy Year for Alfresco
These days the team over that Alfresco has been very busy. They have managed to weave their ECM into a number of other products. Products like Quark, Acrobat.com, CAStor and Adobe LiveCycle are just a few to mention who have incorporated the ECM into their product in some way.
In addition, Alfresco spent the summer releasing Alfresco Labs 3 which included a version of their new collaboration solution, Alfresco Share and Surf - a new development platform. From there they spent time performing extensive testing to prepare for the release of their latest enterprise version.
The enterprise version is the certified build of Alfresco -- the one that is sold to production environments for companies and government organizations that want a stable, supported solution. Alfresco currently has over 700 organizations using the enterprise version.
And here it finally is...
Alfresco Enterprise 3 - An Alternative to SharePoint
Alfresco Enterprise 3 is a collaborative enterprise content management system. With it you see the tight integration of document management, web content management and collaborative Web 2.0 technologies like wikis, blogs, discussion forums, social networking and more through the addition of Alfresco Share. It also includes a draft implementation of the new proposed CMIS specification and Microsoft Office SharePoint protocol support. Alfresco Document Management
The ECM is built on the new Surf platform, a lightweight User Interface development framework that leverages the Alfresco Web Scripts technology and templating capabilities. Alfresco Activity Feeds
Alfresco Share Features
Alfresco Share combines content management and collaboration:
* Document Library: New features include thumbnails, the ability to preview a document using a Flash Viewer, commenting and tagging
* Search: Search for people and experts in addition to content
* Virtual Teams: Create virtual teams for projects and communities. Teams can include both internal and external people
* Activity Feeds: Keep track of what is new or changing in content and people
* Personalized Dashboard: Configure a customizable dashboard or site based on roles or projects
* Content Creation Tools: Create content in wikis, blogs, MSOffice
* Calendar: Track deliverables and import the information into your personal calendar using iCal Alfresco Virtual Teams
The Benefits of Alfresco
John Newton has no trouble outlining the benefits of Alfresco Enterprise 3 over solutions from other vendors like Microsoft, IBM and EMC. Obviously he sees the biggest benefit being cost.
In an interview with John Newton, CTO of Alfresco, he called Alfresco Enterprise 3 similar to SharePoint, "but more scalable". The Alfresco repository can handle up to 100 million documents, can run more people on a single machine and uses the natural clustering and caching capabilities of web architecture.
It's also more cost effective. Using the Open Source model, the costs are per CPU and per user -- which makes IT decision makers look at it as more of an operating expense than a capital expense.
Due to their open standards architecture, Alfresco ECM can run on existing hardware and software, thus taking advantage of existing skillsets of employees.
Alfresco is built on a component based architecture and the open source community is constantly building components that can be used for free. Some examples include a twitter-like component, a component that integrates an iGoogle gadget, wiki access in a web page and activity feeds.
Another benefit to this new release is the implementation of the SharePoint protocols. Organizations who use MS Office, can easily integrate Alfresco as it now looks and feels like SharePoint to the Office software.
Of course, we would be foolish not to point out that this version also implements the CMIS specification. So organizations can connect to repositories other than Alfresco's own. In testing their implementation in August with the rest of the CMIS group, Alfresco clearly demonstrated the ability for Alfresco to talk to SharePoint, Lotus Connect, SAP and others.
Living in Tough Economic Times
No one likes to see an economic downturn. But for some, times like these do have their benefits. Newton sees this year as Alfresco's opportunity to get a leg up on the competition in terms of market share. They have an ECM solution they believe is equal, if not better, than many other options on the market today and they have the cost advantage.
These days most of the issues related to using open source in the enterprise have been debunked. But even for those organizations still on the fence, they can't ignore it as an option primarily because of the cost.
Newton believes we can expect to see open source taking over a much bigger piece of the stack and any barriers that might be left will fall down over the coming months.
Alfresco Enterprise 3 -- officially available on Friday October 31 (download a trial until then) -- may just be a solution you see often in enterprises as they try to cope with the slumping US economy. Is this truly Alfresco's time?