Notes from the Alfresco Community Conference

I’m back from the Alfresco Community Conference which was held Wednesday in New York City. It was a day well spent with excellent presentations given by John Powell, John Newton, Kevin Cochrane, Paul Holmes-Higgin, and Helen Dann. Christian Science Monitor’s Russ Danner gave an update on regional Alfresco user groups. And three Alfresco clients–Kaplan, Harvard Business School Publishing, and Film Solutions–all gave brief updates on solutions they’ve built with Alfresco. It sounds like Kaplan has a significant Alfresco WCM-based site going live this week, BTW.

The conference also gave me the chance to meet several of you in person. Thanks for the kind words and your continued interest in the blog. I made some progress on the Advanced Workflow article on the plane home so stay tuned for that.

Here are some (rough) notes from the conference…

Alfresco has released a new independent benchmark

  • 100 million objects
  • Loaded the objects at 140 objects/second (using an RMI interface on a different node than the repository)
  • Unlike some competitors–ahem, Microsoft–there are no artificial limits in terms of the number of objects in a collection or the number of collections.
  • Linear scalability–there was no degradation as volume increased.
  • Sub-second response times.
  • Next stop is 1 billion objects. An impressive side note is to compare how long it took Documentum to get to a billion objects (~10 years?) with Alfresco’s efforts (~3 years?).

Alfresco’s architectural principles (para-phrased):

  • Content is a service
  • Everything must be modular
  • Lightweight scripting is important
  • Enterprise scale
  • Must fit into the user’s environment (multiple platforms, multiple browsers, multiple databases, etc.)
  • The web is the interface
  • Continuous innovation

Problems with Sharepoint (I’m considering doing a Sharepoint vs. Alfresco smackdown article so we can get a real independent comparison going, but for now, here’s Alfresco’s opinion):

  • Slow, doesn’t scale. (Limited to 5 million docs per library and about 10 libraries total).
  • Hard to program and extend.
  • Poor WCM.
  • 100% Microsoft stack from browser to back-end and everything in-between.
  • John Newton said, “IBM should be competing directly with Sharepoint but they aren’t providing any guidance.”

A comment John made that is begging to be drilled into is that he considers Alfresco’s Office integration to be better than Microsoft’s. This is a bold claim. Most people would cite “deep MS Office integration” as one of the things that would immediately take you down the Sharepoint road. So I guess I’ve got a to-do to figure out how much truth there is to that claim.

Exciting things just released or coming soon:

  • Major commitment to Flex
  • Flex SDK
  • New Flex-based client for Knowledge Workers called “Networks”
  • Joomla, WordPress, and MediaWiki integration
  • Facebook and iGoogle integration. Essentially run facebook apps/gadgets that expose the Alfresco repository. It sounds like Alfresco will also be an OpenSocial container when OpenSocial is ready.
  • JSR-283 which provides a SQL-like query capability to the repository (Recovering Documentum developers, think “DQL”).
  • Support for ATOM Publishing

What’s going on with various releases (None of these dates are necessarily set in stone. Check the Alfresco wiki for the official roadmap):

  • 1.4 is nearing end of life. Everyone should be upgrading to 2.1.1.
  • 2.1.1 is now available.
  • 2.2 is on its way and should be out before the end of the year.
  • 2.9 Community (Q4 of 2007)
  • 3.0
  • Community in February of 2008, Enterprise in Q2
  • WYSIWYG for mash-up compositions
  • Flex-based RIA client for ECM

More info on 2.2:

  • This release is the foundation for the new collaboration features that will start to find their way into the product.
  • Email addressable spaces. Allows every object in the repository to have an email address. For example, mail a piece of content to a folder in the repository. Respond to an email about a piece of content and start a discussion thread that gets persisted to the repository.
  • Branching. Allows web projects to start as copies of an existing web project.
  • Web Content ACL’s. Exposes object level permissions in WCM to the UI. (Previously, only the DM store could be used to assign permissions at the object level. The WCM store was limited to the site level).
  • In-context editing. Allows someone to click an icon while previewing a web site that immediately launches the web form used to create that content.
  • Find content created with a specific web form. Adds a link to the sandbox page next to the “Create Content” link for each web form that takes you to the content created with that web form. MUCH NEEDED.

    More info on 2.9 community:

    • Like a preview of some significant features that are coming in 3.0
    • Dynamic data dictionary. Allows you to implement new models or override existing models without a restart. YES!
    • Multi-tenancy. Good for internal or third-party hosting situations in which you want to essentially partition the repository so that two or more “tenants” would never know the others existed. Segregates workflows, repositories, models, etc.
    • iGoogle/Facebook integration. Exposes things like search, workflow tasks, and “document library”.
    • Collaboration AMP. Includes ability to post content to WordPress, use Alfresco for the back-end to MediaWiki, IM presence integration.

      All in all a good opportunity to hear from and interact with Alfresco leadership and others in the community. I’m looking forward to the next one.