Like the "A" in Alfresco begins the alphabet, open source Enterprise CMS vendor Alfresco Software begins LinuxWorld's list of Ten Enterprise Software Companies to Watch.Although Alfresco no doubt benefited from the alphabetical order of LinuxWorld's list, they prove that they belong by being the only entry from the competitive enterprise content management space. Alfresco tops a diverse list of companies that includes everything from CRM to ERP to data visualization, yet the one trait that all the companies on the list share is the desire to help customers run their businesses more efficiently.
Alfresco is the most recent in a long line of companies whose solution hopes to solve the problem of how to manage the increasingly enormous amounts of content that is generated daily. From contracts to resumes and Office documents to web pages to podcasts, companies of all sizes are generating more content than ever before and the need to manage that content effectively is greater than ever.
Alfresco Software's enterprise content management solution enables customers to manage images, documents, records and more recently website content all within a common JCR accessible content repository. The benefits of using Alfresco, as touted on their website, include: ease of use, administrator productivity, a distributed architecture, and an open source development model.
The ease of use claim has been disputed by some, as the product requires a fair amount of expertise to implement and customize and the user interface while simple, has been faulted being over-simplified in some cases. On the other hand, the product's core Java architecture has been applauded for its sophistication and the amount of thought put into the loosely coupled design. The core system clearly benefits from the many years of Documentum experience on the part of co-founder and CTO, John Newton, and from the recent additions (in 2006) of important members from the Interwoven Web CMS team.
Alfresco's inclusion on this list, coupled with February's announcement that it would adopt the General Public License (GPL) for future releases, does nothing but increase the already palpable and rather voluminous buzz surrounding the up-and-coming enterprise content management vendor.
While the larger and more established Enterprise CMS vendors will be difficult to unseat from their entrenched positions with their primary customers, Alfresco could potentially gain momentum by targeting mid-size companies who have a need for an enterprise content management system but cannot afford the TCO implicated by the larger vendors.
Furthermore, the open source nature of Alfresco could be appealing to companies that believe they can deliver valuable products and services without having to depend on expensive commercial software and services.
This "low cost" angle gets batted around a lot in the context of Alfresco and LinuxWorld highlights the same. However at US$ 10,000 per CPU for annual maintenance and the "Community Edition" not really being known for its active community, we wonder if things are being over stated here.
Companies and organizations that seem to think otherwise and have already adopted Alfresco include: E-Trade, Harvard University, MIT, and NASA. For detailed product coverage we recommend checking out CMS Watch's Web CMS Report wherein Tony Byrne and fellow analysts dig more deeply under the covers of Alfresco's WCM and ECM capabilities.