eZ_logo_2009.png Open source web content management vendor eZ Systems (news, site)  has announced that with the release of the v4.4 edition of eZ Publish -- targeted for late this month -- the company will split the software into distinct but highly related Community Project and Enterprise editions. Read on for the details.

At the moment, and up until the release of v4.4, eZ Publish is developed by eZ Systems’ engineers with partners and consultants only able to contribute product extensions via the company's projects website (projects.ez.no), but with no direct input into the eZ Publish core itself.

For its part eZ’s QA and maintenance team can work on eZ Publish but cannot easily benefit from collaborative work with the eZ community -- not a good thing if you take into account the reported 37,000 community members.

eZ Publish Community Project

As of version 4.4 a new eZ Publish Community Project edition will become available. With this comes a new model of managing the software repositories. And a new openness for core product contributions from the community.

With this edition, community members will be able to contribute directly to eZ Publish easily with commit rights to the software repository and, eZ says, even work directly with the engineers. Historically, this has not been possible.

The result is that the next edition will be developed not just by eZ Systems, but also with the help of the community, with new features and fixes transferred to a new eZ Publish Enterprise edition once they have been vetted and approved by eZ’s quality assurance team.

In addition, eZ’s quality assurance and maintenance team will work on a repository that is still under strict control but will also be able to benefit from the community contribution. Any bug fixes that are made will be back-ported in the trunk of the community for the next version being developed.

eZ Publish v4.4
eZ Publish Repository Management and Access Before and After Version 4.4

eZ Publish Enterprise v4.4

Running in parallel with the Community Project edition will be the simultaneous release of eZ Publish Enterprise. This will be a new version of the platform which will benefit from community contributions, but will be controlled solely by eZ Systems engineers.

Enterprise will be managed from a private eZ Publish code base -- a code repository with stronger and more rigorous testing applied  -- and will additionally be packaged with paid support and monitoring services. It will also feature integrated Enterprise add-ons available only for eZ Publish Enterprise subscribers.

The result is that as of September 28, eZ will provide:

  • eZ Publish Community
    Based on SCRUM for developers, researchers, or any of those interested in the bleeding edge development of eZ Publish. There will be 3-week "sprints" and the latest builds will be available on the eZ Community website.
  • eZ Publish Enterprise
    This version is designed for professional use of eZ Publish and will contain a mixture of of software licensed either under GPL or the Professional User Licence (PUL). This version will be available on a bi-annual basis (March and September), and available only through eZ Publish Enterprise Subscription or as a trial download.

Previous to the 4.4 release eZ Publish was being updated quarterly twice a year after a rather long restructuring cycle between version 4.0 and version 4.1. The 4.4+ release cycle simultaneously speeds up the Community version development while maintaining the premium or enterprise version release timing.

As to why eZ has decided to do this now, the company says the split will, on one hand, enable the community to have greater influence on the product roadmap, while on the other it will increase the value of its eZ Publish product across their entire user base. It also means that it will be easier for community members to contribute to the development of eZ Publish and not just through add-ons.

Bertrand Maugain of eZ Systems told CMSWire that there would be two main benefits from their point of view. Firstly, they hope to get a lot more commits from external developers, and secondly they are hoping to benefit from the perception of having developed software specifically for the enterprise with Enterprise-only add ons and stricter Q&A.

Professional Open Source and Repository Management

There are a lot of open source software companies in the market and many variations on how they encourage community members to become clients, and give them money. Making comparisons between approaches is tedious and time consuming, as it requires poking around in the nitty, gritty details of just how changes -- enhancements and bug fixes -- flow back and forth between the internal engineering team and the community-accessible software.

eZ Systems recent changes have the appearance of further engaging the community while protecting and enhancing their enterprise credentials. It certainly seems like new levels of participation in core development will be possible. That should be a positive stroke for the community at large and hopefully a good source of innovation for the company.

What people should pay attention to is how innovation and fixes flow back out of the company to the community repository. If that process proves to be healthy and timely, then this restructuring sounds like a win-win for community and company alike, and should be applauded.