Alfresco Review

Alfresco, an Open Source Content Management framework (also termed as CM repository and CM system at various places) released on Monday, 27th June. It is being touted as one that will shake up the Open Source Content Management space, especially since the company has been founded by long time CMS veterans. John Newton, co-founder Documentum, and John Powell, former Business Objects COO, have a lot of experience, expertise and industry backing. This differentiates them from many other CMS systems that have no background and are mostly run by community effort.

I downloaded the preview release and played around with it a bit. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

1. It is much faster to get up and running with it as compared to other Open Source systems. I just unzipped the tomcat bundle and started the batch file. There’s no major configuration and things like that.

2. The default installation has only 7 tables which is way less than any other CMS that I have seen!! That makes it fast, efficient and simple. However, I wonder how customizable it will be?

3. The interface is clean and simple.

4. It is not limited to Web Content Management. There are document management capabilities as well.

I’m also excited by the technologies it uses and support for standards.

However, I am confused by its branding. Is it targeting Portal space, ECM, collaboration or everything?

It is still a preview release. The documentation is shallow – I found only a user guide. I would like to see more on how to extend the framework, How to define custom content types, create custom workflows, create my own portlets and so on. I would also like to see if it can match biggies like Vignette, Interwoven etc? For example can I deploy it in a typical dev-staging-production environment so that I can publish the site to multiple destinations and so on.

I guess we’ll have to wait till a more detailed documentation is available.

7 thoughts on “Alfresco Review”

  1. I’m from Alfresco and our ambitions are in ECM. Obviously one cannot create an ECM from day one, but we can solve some of the problems that have not been solved yet.

    Our belief is that even in organizations that have purchased major licenses, ECM remains under used. The main reason is that getting content in remains a pain. A lot of content that should be used and reused by the rest of the organization is lost on big shared hard drives.

    Our strategy for the first release is simple: make it as easy to get in as using a shared file drive and make it available through standards-based portals. That is why we integrated CIFS and why we built the UI as a portlet with JSR-168 compatibility and JSF. We also organize the content in “spaces” to simplify the collaborative development of content.

    How do we position this? I would call this “Collaborative Content Management”. How would the market position this (which is more important)? The closest label that exists today is ECM or document management. I feel that ECM is overly expansive and document management is overly restrictive. But there is definitely demand for this category as we have seen in even very large organizations.

    I’d be interested in your views as to how to position it.


  2. John,
    Alfresco has a lot of promise and I am actually excited by it. Please keep up the good work.

    From whatever little i’ve seen of Alfresco, ease of use is going to be Alfresco’s strong point. I think any *positioning* should be centered around the strenghts. IMHO, market needs a CMS that:

    1. can be implemented in less than 1 M
    2. Implementation period should be small (3-6 months)
    3. and finally, should be easy to use and without bloated features that most people donot use anyways

    I donot know many CMS products that address all the above needs and I think Alfresco is in a position to meet all of the above. An “Honest to Goodness” CMS if you will 🙂

  3. Well, you might not have heard of Magnolia [1] which easily meets your points 1-3. Personally, I think it is confusing to call Alfresco a CMS – its a document management system. Of course documents are content too, but usually people associate web content management when they hear/read “CMS”, and not document management (i.e. DMS)


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  5. Alfresco does look interesting. With so much opently taken from Documentum, should we be concerned with trade secrets? Magnolia may also be a viable, more mature alternative.

  6. Hey Apoorv,
    Thanks for ur blogs.Do u have any clue about Jboss CMS.. I was researching on that and stumbled on Alfresco ?/ do u think I can support Alfresco community edition without buying support.Its community edition does look more supported than Magnolia.

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