eZ Publish Web Content Management SystemeZ Publish (news, site), from 10 year old Norwegian vendor eZ Systems, is an open source web content management system and PHP component framework licensed respectively under the GPL and New BSD open source licensing schemes. The product has had much success in the online media space in Europe and is now making strong moves into the U.S. market.

Version 4.0 of eZ Publish was released back in December 2007. And there's been a rather notable pause as v4.1 was readied. But the company asserts that this was for good reason and that 2008 was largely a year of consolidation. Let's have a look at what they've delivered in 4.1.

eZ Publish and eZ Components

eZ Publish

The eZ Publish web content management system is a freely downloadable bundle that enables a range of web content management, web publishing and social media operations.

The product is based on open source LAMP technologies. For techies, it offers an object-oriented, PHP-based content application framework. For business folks it provides a flexible content management and online publishing tool that has been increasingly designed to suite the needs of the online media and web publishing business sector.

eZ Components

eZ Components is an enterprise-class components library of over 40 standards-based components for use in building PHP web solutions. Each component is independent, which means developers are are free to pick and choose which bits they build with.

Ez Components PHP Library
Diagram -- eZ Components PHP Software Library

It's important to note that the latest versions the eZ Publish Content Management System (see coverage here) also use eZ Components for much of its core software functionality. This is a shift that is taking place over a number of product releases.

What's New in 4.1

This latest release is aimed at making eZ Publish more friendly to enterprise customers. Key focus points were user experience, scalability and performance.

Usability Improvements: New Editor

Version 4.1 ships with an updated WYSIWYG content editor component. Version 5.0 of Online Editor is an XML editing tool that delivers improved support for usability and accessibility standards. This plus the addition of a multi-upload function -- enabling users to mass publish any content type -- combine to bring an improved content manager and web publishing experience.

Workflow Improvements: Workflow Your Way

eZ Components contains a module called Workflow. Don't let that confuse you. eZ Publish 4.1 and its predecessors do not use this for core workflow. That is the plan, but I hear tell that it's not to be manifest until the neighborhood of version 5.0. You can keep tabs on the product roadmap here.

What we have in 4.1 is interesting though. Previously, objects in eZ Publish had a limit of three possible workflow states: Pending, Approved and Published. Core changes since 4.0 now support any number of arbitrary workflow states.

This is big boon for those who have more complicated workflows. Previously you had to hack eZ to make such things possible. Nowadays, the grass is greener -- you define the states you need.

Performance Gains: Better Caching

This release brings improved caching -- primarily a concern for very large scale websites. eZ Publish already had rather sophisticated caching which could be applied on a granular level for pages, sections or content objects.

With 4.1 caching has been improved in a number of low level ways. DB schema optimizations have been made, core code algorithms have been heavily optimized and cache management processes have been refactored to reduce mutex issues and streamline the refresh of stale objects.

Scalability Improvements: Oracle DB, Solaris O/S

eZ Publish 4.1 now is certified to run on the Solaris operating system and to run against Oracle's enterprise database software. Despite the strong growth of acceptance for Linux and MySQL, supporting these old dogs is bound to please a significant segment of enterprise IT managers.

It Was Time for an Update

We're both impressed by and happy to see this latest release from eZ. The one year plus gap between point releases had some folks grumbling.

But in my conversations with the company's leaders, they always asserted that the timing was for very good reason -- the core changes delivered in 4.1 were deep in the core, resource intensive to implement and most importantly driven by community and customer need. We're looking forward to seeing how the community responds. Share your thoughts in the comments below.