SharePoint and the ECM Competition
Other content management vendors have two choices when it comes to SharePoint -- join it or beat it. The product is entrenched at the departmental level, nevertheless aspiring competitor, Alfresco, think they can uproot enough MOSS to make business sense of a full assault. Others seek harmony. Day Software is one of these. And their latest claim is that they can help SharePoint grow from department collaboration to enterprise content management.

Day CQ Connector for SharePoint

Day Software is one of those companies who has chosen to join SharePoint. Their focus is at the repository level. Day offers a Connector for SharePoint that joins SharePoint repositories with their ECM Communique (CQ) repository. Communique's repository is built on the Java community's open JSR 170 repository standard. This has enabled Day to develop the capability for the two solutions to share information. The connector can reach into the SharePoint repository using either SQL or XPATH. It can monitor changes in information and utilize all the securities settings applied to information in the SharePoint repository. Not only can CQ reach in to SharePoint, SharePoint can send information to CQ: their moto is "Any Portal in, any portlet out". According to Day, this connector is an opportunity for organizations to take SharePoint to the enterprise level, something they see a demand for. Of course you need Day's enterprise content repository there as well. In this scenario, either Day or SharePoint could be the front-end. Day believes they can help SharePoint become more enterprise ready -- by hooking up with their ECM solution that provides stronger capabilities for multi-site, multi-lingual and globalization management.

Alfresco Labs 3

Open source ECM provider, Alfresco has taken a different approach to the SharePoint battle, opting instead to offer a replacement to the Microsoft ECM. Called Alfresco Labs 3, Alfresco claims it has the "first fully-compatible open source SharePoint repository." They have been able to do this thanks to Microsoft complying with a March 2004 European Commission ruling that made them release the protocols for a number of their products, one of which was SharePoint. Alfresco saw their opening and jumped at the opportunity -- or window into the enterprise -- that arose. What Alfresco offers is an alternative content repository that can work with MS Office in the exact same way that SharePoint does. In addition there is the ability to use databases, operating systems and portals other than those offered by Microsoft. You can also develop the front-end in Alfresco -- completely pulling SharePoint from the picture. While they appear to first and foremost sell Alfresco Labs 3 as an alternative to SharePoint, they do also offer the ability to work alongside it, offering their repository as a location to store information over SharePoint's SQL Server and offering some WebParts. So they so seem to still be smart enough to hedge their bets.

Should Microsoft be Concerned?

Some people like to refer to these offerings and others as "SharePoint Killers". According to Day, offerings like Alfresco are just "content repositories with a development framework, but Day provides additional value via its suite of applications." This is great, if you already have Day in-house or want to buy it. It's true, you often see a mixed technology set in enterprises today, but Day has plenty of competition when it comes to providing connectors to SharePoint. Most other enterprise content management vendors are coming out with similar offerings and they have greater market presence. Alfresco claims it is a much cheaper alternative to SharePoint. But one questions that when considering the following: * WSS 3.0 is free, so are we comparing Alfresco Labs 3 against MOSS or WSS? * You still have to buy support and training to get Alfresco up, running and well-maintained -- what's the cost there? * Alfresco claims no client software needed for SharePoint -- okay, but SharePoint itself requires no client software, so unless we are comparing Alfresco against an alternative vendor, this is a moot point. It's also interesting to note that Alfresco is not really the first open source player in this space. O3Spaces has been working for a while now on a SharePoint replacement. If you look at the bigger picture, it almost seems like ECM vendors offer these Connectors and integrated solutions as a way of showing how easily you can incorporate their solution and pull out SharePoint. What actually appears to happen in the end is SharePoint's presence in the enterprise is further solidified. MOSS isn't going anywhere and competitors like Day are helping that become an ongoing fact.