It's no secret that "cloud computing" is fast becoming one of 2010's hottest buzzwords. Any company left behind "the cloud" stands to lose money and business. With this in mind, Alfresco, an open source enterprise content management system provider, announced on Tuesday, January 12, the company the availability of Alfresco Enterprise Edition 3.2 - the new features of which focus largely on cloud capability. That news was quickly followed by the technical preview of Alfresco Content Services for Lotus social collaboration products, announced Wednesday, January 13.
Alfresco will unveil the integration between its open source enterprise content management (ECM) system and IBM Lotus Quickr, Lotus Notes, Lotus Connections and WebSphere Portal at Lotusphere, held January 17-21 in Orlando, Fla. According to Paul Hampton, Alfresco's director of product marketing says this partnership was "driven by IBM wanting to provide lightweight content management services for Lotus Notes products." New or existing users of Lotus software can now add Alfresco software into the back end of their system, allowing users to store and manage content.
The Alfresco-Lotus integration includes an implementation of the SharePoint protocol, which allows organizations that want to provide an alternative to Microsoft SharePoint without disrupting users. This provides users with access from Microsoft Office, while giving companies freedom of choice in IT architecture.
While the Alfresco-IBM partnership is just getting underway, the Enterprise Edition ECM tool has been undergoing a makeover, getting ready for its next iteration. Though Hampton says the change users will find in the 3.2 edition "wasn't something that warranted a full-point release," there are some significant differences.
Like so many other companies are doing, Alfresco responded to changes in the ways clients prefer to work. Hampton says, "People wanted to run applications like Alfresco in the cloud - and scale as their needs demand." Alfresco now supports multiple deployment options from traditional on-premise to full cloud deployment ranging from a simple AMI to a fully-configured, fault-tolerant and load-balanced Alfresco cluster.
"We've been running a cloud trial for the past couple of months," says Hampton. Users can sign up for a free 24-hour trial to see how Alfresco in the cloud can work for them.
Also new to the 3.2 version is the availability of multi-tenancy. Alfresco is the only ECM system that natively supports multi-tenancy, a component of multi-company cloud implementations. This is most useful for companies that want to host Alfresco to provide as a service, or for different divisions within a large company.
Also new to Alfresco this time around are the records management module, and IMAP support for email client access and email archiving. With 5015.2 certification, Alfresco RM enables both commercial organizations and government agencies to address the strict legal requirements associated with managing key business records. On the email front, simple drag and drop support allows users to share key email messages with colleagues and team members. IMAP standard protocol support provides full access to repository services without a client install and can be accessed from mobile devices.
The list of the new and updated features is rounded out with collaborative content creation; rich user profiles; portlet updates; storage policies; monitoring and configuration tools; WCM authoring and deployment.
Alfresco also stresses the ability of its open-source solution to save users money. "I was talking to an industry analyst about records management...you're looking somewhere around 2 to 3 million dollars...and because we're open source, we're a fraction of that cost. There is no enterprise license fee."
Anyone looking for an ECM solution can download Alfresco's software for free, but a company can also choose to purchase support packages from the company-which is how Alfresco makes its money. This allows users to save on internal support costs, but isn't the only way clients can cut costs. "With a cloud deployment a lot of...cost is taken away for you," says Hampton. Which adds up to "incremental savings."
Even with all these changes, Hampton warns there will likely be another point release-or two-before Alfresco releases its Enterprise Edition 4.0.