If your organization has people with the time, talent, and desire to work together but your budget is short a few zeroes, an open-source alternative may be what you need to fill the collaboration gaps in your enterprise.

Our theme of Enterprise Collaboration continues with a review of contributions by three well-known vendors in the open source space -- plus bonus coverage of two companies you may not have heard of. 

Drupal Commons

Branded as a "social business software solution," Drupal Commons is a framework enabling companies to build their own community sites -- internal or external.

Along with the obligatory blogs and wikis that are boilerplate features for any social software platform, Drupal Commons has the following features:

  • User profile creation and management
  • "Groups" that govern themselves through one or many administrators
  • Forums, per group
  • Shared calendaring
  • Personalized dashboards
  • Built-in analytics for the almighty ROI

If your organization's goals include enabling your external customers to share knowledge about your products or enabling your internal IT people to share knowledge about best practices, Drupal Commons is worth a look.


Drupal Commons Community Site

Alfresco 3.4 Share

Alfresco (news, site), a pillar of the open source content management landscape, continues to reinforce the concept of "social content management" with its latest release. While Share is less a SharePoint killer and more of a Sharepoint agitator, the product appeals to both users and IT administrators alike.

For users:

  • RSS feeds of member activity
  • Personal and project-based dashboards
  • Project calendars
  • Forums, blogs and wikis
  • Tag support
  • Project Data Lists -- both the most obvious and most useful feature

For IT:

  • JMX Administration
  • Clustering support
  • Standards support
  • Scalability-focused architecture



Alfresco Share

Liferay Social Office

If there is such a thing as a mature product in the open source world, Liferay Portal is it. A longtime companion application with Alfresco's content management system, Liferay (news, site) looks to capitalize on a strong 2010 by continuing to leverage collaboration across both the physical and virtual workspaces.

Features of this latest offering include:

  • Microsoft Office integration through publicly available SharePoint protocols
  • Document Library, e.g. a web-based shared drive
  • Team calendars
  • Wikis, blogs and forums (in case you were worried)
  • Profile creation and management
  • Email (that's new)
  • Instant messaging
  • Activity tracking (think Facebook's Wall)


Liferay Social Office

Two More, As Promised


While it is difficult to imagine one open source project "acquiring" another open source project, that is the case with DotNetNuke's acquisition of Active Modules. This move symbolizes the commitment of the DotNetNuke team to social collaboration by incorporating multiple parts of the Active Modules offering into the core of DotNetNuke.


Why the Cyn.in product from Cynapse is not making more noise in the collaboration market is difficult to comprehend, considering a feature list that rivals all the products mentioned above and an impressive technology platform -- SaaS and Software Appliance versions with clustering support. I am not saying you should pencil Cynapse in on your short list, but the product suite is worth a look.

What Does It All Mean?

You may be as tired as I am of everything being called "social," but the reality is that social software -- usage, creation and discussion -- is only going to expand. If anything, this list indicates that the commercial vendors in the enterprise collaboration space had better get their software ready and polish their pitches because the open source players are ready for the competition.

What do you think?

Do you have any experience with any of these products? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Are you using any commercial collaboration offerings? How are they working out for you? What do you want to see happen in this space? We would love to hear your opinion.