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First Look

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Alfresco's Cool Approach to ECM, Open Source Marketing, BPM and SOA

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For many more details, listen to the entire 10:19 podcast Download file

Executive Summary:

The time-honored paper chase seems to have been replaced by a new, equally wasteful digital document diaspora.

A recent study revealed that employees spend up to 25 percent of their working day on non-productive, document-collaboration related tasks. Another reveals that 80 percent of engineering and manufacturing errors are caused by use of improper versions of drawing or documents.

IanHowells_127x100.jpgAnd this is happening at the same time the rush to SOA and compliance solutions put a new premium on quickly producing the correct documents. So the elite First Look Research Staff set out to find a more intuitive and inexpensive solution that could also facilitate SOA and BPM efforts.

Last month, Alfresco Software announced the latest enterprise version of its open source Enterprise Content Management System -- the first that could be easily embedded in other applications via the Java Virtual Machine.

But first, what’s with unusual company name, which conjured up visions of restaurants rather than repositories?

“Well, the idea was that we came from Documentum, and we wanted to have a freshness about the company around open source,? said Alfresco’s Chief Marketing Officer Ian Howell. “And we thought alfresco is open-air dining, which infers open source and seating in the open air. We also wanted a name that began with “a? so it would always be at the top of the list.?

Howell noted the continued changes marketing and Open Source product entails. Instead of long sales cycles, innumerable demonstrations and post-installation handholding, his customers have often already installed and done further development on his product.

“By first time they’ve talk to you, they’ve already used the product and they don’t want simple demonstrations. And that has some big implications on your sales cycle and also the product itself. It has to be really, really simple to install and very simple to use,? Howell said.

“So what we brought was something that was just like a shared drive because that’s the most dominant document management system out there and as easy to configure as email rules,? Howell added. “And that’s what we aim to do as well -- something that replaces the shared drive and gives you the core functionality for version control, searching and compliance, but still is as easy to use as a shared drive."

The whole goal, Howells said, was to ?give you the functionality of a Documentum for a price of SharePoint and that’s as easy to use a shared drive or a SharePoint as well.?

Howells also drew a parallel between the relational database market of the early ’90s, when the SQL standard transformed the market.

“We recently did a similar kind of benchmark around an equivalent standard for content management benchmark called JSR-170 and put in a highly scalable benchmark and worked with partners like mySQL and Red Hat. So we see JSR-170 being a very important standard for content management,? he said.

Another key standard is Open Search, which can search across multiple Alfresco repositories and integrate other Web sites or RSS feeds or blogs for a true kind of federated and distributed search.

Processes that can encompass the application and the content-management system -- Howells used the example of changing a standard operating procedure in an ERP system -- link ECM to SOA and BPM.

“We see a couple of key standards here, really BPEL -- Business Process Execution Language -- linking into Web Services as being core for BPM,? Howells said. “And also, within the Open Source world, we see jBPM being very important.?

“So that kind of links to architecting SOAs because we believe it’s going to be very important if you are going to have standards for BPEL, to have Web Services for content so that your BPEL engine can call the content-management system using standard Web Services calls as well,? Howells noted.

“So from an architectural perspective, what really we’ve got here is what would classically be called an SOA or a loosely coupled environment and you need standards around Web Services that are designed for Web content -- and that’s exactly the tack we took,? Howells added.

“The other standard we see in this kind of very loosely coupled environment, which is a Web 2.0 standard, is the REST standard, which is more URL-based, so you can very easily combine and mashup various applications very quickly? Howells said.

For many more details, listen to the entire 10:19 podcast Download file

Executive Summary:

Join ebizQ producer Krissi Danielson for interviews with the innovators, movers and shakers behind emerging enterprise software solutions.Have a solution that qualifies? E-mail Krissi at krissi (at)ebizq.net

Krissi Danielson

Krissi Danielsson is a podcast producer with ebizQ and contributor to ebizQ's SaaSWeek site. View more

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