As the Open Source Movement gains momentum, led by the growing popularity of the Linux operating system, it should come as no surprise that the number of open source content management products on the market is growing. What separates companies such as Zope, Lenya , eZ publish, and Nuke from better-known counterparts at Documentum, Vignette, and Hummingbird is that the open source products (with a few exceptions) tend to focus solely on Web content management, rather than enterprise content management—but that doesn't mean at least some of them aren't making their way into the ECM space as well.
Open source vendors—as is the rule in the Open Source Movement—also provide the code (though not necessarily for free), and companies can do with it what they will within the terms and conditions of the license. Usually this means that a company can manipulate the code in order to develop a CMS that meets particular specifications. On the flip side, this flexibility also means that open source software packages tend to be more of a foundation on which to build a CMS, rather than a more polished "out-of-the-box" solution that comes from mainstream content management vendors. Although there are typically no licensing fees associated with open source solutions, requisite customization often requires intensive in-house development (and probably help from an outside consultant).
Open source isn't for everybody, but for a growing number of organizations, taking the open road is the smart choice. This article takes a look at the open source content management system landscape and provides some examples of companies operating in this space.
The Scope of Open Source CM
Most open source content management packages have been designed to manage Web content. In fact, according to Scott Goodwin, who runs the Web site, opensourcecms.com, many were originally developed by small teams of programmers seeking a way to deliver content. They designed a system themselves and then made the code available as open source. "Most open source CMSs were started by some programmer who wanted to easily add/create/edit content while keeping the content and the design separated. From there, if the system is any good, it will begin to have some type of following and other programmers will begin adding to the core or creating third party modules to extend the functionality," Goodwin says.
If you visit opensourcecms.com or cmsreview.com, you'll find hundreds of open source content management packages. Goodwin admits that quality can vary dramatically among the numerous packages, but he points out that many have caught on and are widely supported.
"Some of these open source CM systems are fantastic, while others are—how should I say this—less than stellar," says Goodwin. "Since there is generally no financial motivation for the initial creation of any open source CMS, the quality can be questionable. However," he says, "if the system becomes popular and more people and programmers become involved, the system generally gets better and better with each iteration. With any popular open source software, you'll continually capture better and more qualified eyeballs going over the code, making it stronger, leaner, and more secure."
The real strength of open source content management is that it reduces the overall cost of implementation, according to John Blossom, president and senior analyst at Shore Communications, Inc. "The big picture is that it means that virtually any company can have a sophisticated Web publishing infrastructure that takes content out of the realm of unstructured content for a fraction of what systems cost only a few years ago. The real money is in solving business problems far more sophisticated than these tools, but in the meantime these tools are revolutionizing the ability of sophisticated content to appear virtually anywhere online or in the enterprise," Blossom says.