"Innovation is taking ECM out the 1990's"
With these words and the immediate availability of Alfresco Community Edition version 2.1, CTO John Newton hopes to position Alfresco as not just an innovator in the enterprise content management space but also in the enterprise architecture community.With the latest release Alfresco hopes to fulfill their self-made image as an innovator with the introduction of what they are calling Web Script technology. This new development methodology provides access to enterprise content, metadata, user interface components and search capabilities via a simple URL interface. With this new lightweight scripting functionality, users of Alfresco Community Edition 2.1 have the ability to access and mashup web sites, portals, blogs and applications -- specifically Microsoft Office.
As exciting as this may sound to the end user, there may be a collective groan heard from the developer community, who rarely get excited about having to learn yet another programming language in order to do their job.
Experienced Alfresco developers have devoted enormous amounts of time and energy to become experts at the tools and programming languages required to maintain and build on top of the platform. While the additional skills related to the new Web Script technology will feed their need to learn and certainly make them more marketable, it will not make Alfresco any more popular around the shop.
With all this said, the next question is: why would Alfresco choose to take their flagship product in this direction?
The answer seems to be a desire to bring the Web 2.0 concept of letting users choose how they want to access their information inside the enterprise.
As it stands today, enterprise content still largely resides in proprietary silos, only accessible via proprietary -- and often complicated and expensive -- interfaces and tools. Alfresco 2.1 looks to evolve this story a touch by providing:
* simple access to content from the user's tool of choice
* simple mashup of internal and external content
* scalability through an enhanced REST architecture.
The last point above is notable because one of the things that Alfresco is doing with this new version is drawing a line in the enterprise architecture sand and saying: A web-oriented REST-based architecture is simpler and better than a service oriented architecture (SOA). This position is sure to be met with both support and criticism in what has become an extremely polarized debate. Alfresco backs up their position with the following points:
* Simple URL access vs. SOAP * Lightweight scripting vs. complex .NET or Java programming
* Simple mashup of internal and external vs. internal services only
* Common Web Standards: OpenSearch, URL, JSON, RSS, ATOM vs. Proprietary API's
Alfresco Community 2.1 also offers these new capabilities:
* Native Office Integration: An Alfresco repository can already be viewed as a shared drive using existing CIFS functionality, the new version offers full document management from within the Microsoft Office environment.
* Enterprise Portal Integration: Liferay and JBoss portal JSR-168 Web Script access to MySpaces, MyDocuments, MyTasks and MyWebForms.
* Enterprise Content Publishing into Blogs: The new version of Alfresco supports WordPress and TypePad.
* Web 2.0 User Interface: Including Fisheye Drilldown, AutoPreview and Cross Platform Dashlets with Full Personalization
There is definitely much to be excited about in the new release and Alfresco is wise to hand the keys over to the developer community for a thorough test drive -- via their free Community Edition -- prior to the release of Enterprise Edition, expected later this year.
If the Alfresco team can deliver on the oft repeated but rarely delivered promise of simplicity, then the enterprise architecture gamble will surely be worth it.
Are you currently using the Enterprise or Community editions of Alfresco? Are you excited or nervous about the new version? Share your thoughts with us, jump down to the bottom of this page and let us know where you stand.