Alfresco Enterprise 4: Social, Collaborative, Mobile, Cloud Connected Content Management We said earlier in the week that we couldn’t talk about Alfresco 4 until today. Well, it’s today now and we can talk a little bit about this latest release, although only a little bit because it really is enormous. With it, Alfresco pushes its open content management platform firmly into the mobile and social space.

While there are many content management systems that have taken to the cloud already, looking at some of them you can see that they fell into, rather than launched into, the cloud; that the planning behind them was a bit “lax."

Enterprise 4, though, does not fall into that category. Todd Barr, in an interview before the launch last week, told CMSWire that the planning on this had been extensive and was part of a concerted strategy to bring content management to where business users want it to be at the moment i.e. on the road and in the cloud.

Social, Mobile Content

And it does this by delivering a HTML5-enabled interface for social content collaboration, enhanced mobile access to enable it to run across tablets and integration with the most commonly used productivity tools such as Google Docs and Office.

Alfresco Enterprise 4 Social Inferface
Alfresco Enterprise 4 Social Inferface

Even if some of these are still only in the roadmap -- releases to be announced between now and the summer -- the real selling point of Enterprise 4 is available now: Enterprise 4, Barr said, is the base for Alfresco in the cloud.

And this is not just a vague notion of providing a few services in the cloud -- Enterprise 4 will not just be a SaaS solution. Rather, it is a multi-tenant collaboration service, currently in beta, that aims to provision mobile, social and global workforce.

Cloud-Connected Content

It is, Barr says, a new concept in content management based around all content being connected and synched through the cloud, publishable through the cloud to any cloud-based social site, along with the ability to share that content both inside and outside the firewall.

But does this not exist with other vendors already, you ask? Well, kind of…but for the large part it tends to be on-premise systems moved to the cloud, whereas Barr says this is a build from the ground up.

Legacy systems, he says, can’t move away from their legacy architecture and cannot deliver a multi-tenant, integrated cloud solution. For the large part, they only work with on-premises.

The flip side of this is that cloud-only vendors don’t offer enterprise control over security and policy, and neither do they offer on-premise or behind firewall options or agile business processes.

Alfresco Enterprise 4 Cloud Connected Content Management
Alfresco Enterprise 4 Cloud Connected Content Management

New Features

It’s impossible to list all the new features here; there really are too many, but among them are:

  • Mobile Device Support:  Gain access to and edit content from any device: Smartphone, tablet, browser or through open standards like CMIS & WebDAV
  • Social Interactions: Document management gets social and more adopted as users can “like” content, “follow” other users and see content activity streams
  • New Productivity Apps: Productivity apps integrated with Alfresco include (or will include in the near future) Office, GoogleDocs, Apple iWork on iPad, Quickoffice HD, PDFExpert, Adobe Creative Suite many more
  • Interface Functionality: Key HTML5 interactions such as file drag & drop and move and previews of virtually any common file type (docs, videos, audio, Adobe files, iWork files)
  • Publishing Channels: Publish content to social media channels, such as YouTube, SlideShare, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr

It is also possible to customize and extend the Alfresco Share application, with new configuration options and drop-in custom extensions, or build your own mobile app with the open source Alfresco Mobile code.

On top of this, there are considerable performance upgrades on v3.4, which make dashboard queries ten times faster, content uploads up to four times faster and document details loading up to 50% faster, as well as significantly improved search and indexing times.

Enterprise 4, Drupal

Alfresco is throwing the full works at this launch and has events spanning the US and Europe, which began in San Francisco last night.

It also had considerable testing -- it appears -- across the industry and by industry peers.

Ronald C. Pruett, Chief Marketing Officer with Acquia had this to say of it, which makes for some interesting collaborations in the future:

The combination of Drupal for web content management and Alfresco for document management and workflow is becoming the go-to open source standard for high-traffic websites and communities. With Alfresco Enterprise 4 connected via CMIS (the open content standard) to Drupal, web content creators now have new options for mobile content creation and content collaboration that allow them to publish seamlessly to Drupal."

There’s a lot more in this vein from other vendors, but with the Drupal link, we just had to say it…

Alfresco Enterprise 4 Roadmap

Finally, just a quick look at what will be coming up over the next few months for Enterprise 4. Alfresco in the Cloud is currently in beta.

Alfresco Enterprise 4 2012 roadmap
Alfresco Enterprise 4 2012 roadmap

Future features include features that are already available in Alfresco Enterprise, along with new features that are in development. These include:

  • Browser Integration with Microsoft Office (Spring 2012 -- already in Alfresco Enterprise)
  • Richer Collaboration Sites: Calendars, lists and other content tools to make project and team communication richer (Summer 2012 -- already in Alfresco Enterprise)
  • Transformations:Transform documents (like from .doc to .pdf) with Alfresco’s built-in transformation engine (Summer 2012 -- already in Alfresco Enterprise)
  • Tasks, Folder Rules & Workflow: Alfresco’s enterprise-class workflow engine allows tasks and simple workflows to be set up, such as Review & Approve cycles for content; folder rules automate simple tasks -- such as file transformations (Summer 2012 -- already in Alfresco Enterprise)
  • DropBox Integration: A new feature that enables synching folders and files from DropBox into Alfresco; users can use DropBox for their personal cloud file system, but promote business files to Alfresco for collaboration or preservation (Summer 2012)
  • GoogleDocs Integration: For real-time document editing and content co-creation (Summer 2012 -- already in Alfresco Enterprise)
  • More Administration Controls for organization administrators to manage users and content, centrally (Fall 2012 -- new feature)

This really only does scratch at the surface. You can learn more about Alfresco Enterprise 4 and download a free trial. You can download the Alfresco mobile app for iPad or iPhone.