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InfoQ Homepage News Alfresco 2.0: Switches to GPL from MPL+, Adds OpenSearch

Alfresco 2.0: Switches to GPL from MPL+, Adds OpenSearch

Alfresco has released version 2.0 of their Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system. InfoQ sat down with Ian Howells of Alfresco to talk about ECM systems and Alfresco.

Alfresco is an open-source (recently released under the GPL) ECM product providing one repository for image management, document management, records management, and web content management. It was recently selected by H&R Block for their ECM. InfoQ asked Howells about Alfresco’s place in an enterprise architecture.

Many large organizations have corporate standards and want to retain choice in the areas of Operating systems, RDBMS, Application Server, Java or .Net, Authentication, Content Management System, Portal, Browser, and Desktop tools. Alfresco gives choice in these areas and uses, rather replaces the existing infrastructure. Alfresco runs on Windows, Linux and Mac. It runs within the application server, utilizing distributed caches, clustering, high availability disk subsystems and existing RDBMS’s. It is based on a scalable Java stack but also allows web services development against this stack. Alfresco supports NTLM and LDAP. Alfresco also integrates with many portals by supporting JSR-168. Alfresco supports IE and Firefox. Alfresco supports JSR-170 and allows portability between repositories. Alfresco runs equally well with Open Office and Microsoft Office with full ODF support.

The conversation moved to Alfresco’s differentiators in the market and Howells pointed out the Intelligent Virtual File System (which is accessible through CIFS, WebDAV, and FTP) and developer productivity (which is aided by aspect oriented rules development and support for standards such as JSR 168, JSR 170, and OpenSearch).   Alfreso Chief Architect Dave Caruana explained OpenSearch:

Alfresco exposes its own search capabilities via OpenSearch. This means that any OpenSearch aware client can search an Alfresco Repository to retrieve paged results in either HTML, RSS or ATOM formats....but we really wanted to use OpenSearch as a foundation for Alfresco federated search i.e. search many databases with a single query... The Alfresco Web Client now provides a search aggregator (available in the Sidebar and Dashboard) which submits a single query to one or more databases (Alfresco or non-Alfresco) and presents them in a unified user interface. Results may be paged through.

Alfresco's John Newton also commented: "OpenSearch was originally created by A9 to provide a mechanism to aggregate search results from multiple search sources. Now it is supported by literally hundreds of search engines. Alfresco is one of the latest pieces of software to support OpenSearch."

As of v2.0, Alfresco has now been licensed as GPL instead of previously being MPL+attribution clause (used by Terracotta and Mule). The FAQ explains:
The GPL ensures that no vendor – including Alfresco – can control a customer’s content. The GPL also provides the maximum assurance that the open source community and not, ultimately, Alfresco, protects investments in our code...attribution was not a good fit for our Web Content Management offering, which was released in February 2007, as well as for those who wanted to embed Alfresco into other products (in a “headless” deployment). We thought it would be impractical to have users place an Alfresco logo on their websites. Finally, at Alfresco we believe that community matters as much as code. We felt that attribution was not helping us to reach out to the open source development community.

Howells commented on the next development priorities coming in v2.1, which will add more WCM capability, additional Web 2.0 capabilities and more configuration options for enterprises:

  • Web 2.0 Components. Pieces of the web client will be componentized to become Web 2.0 components in mash-ups with other applications.
  • Office Plug-in. An example of using the new Web 2.0 components will be in the context of a task pane for Microsoft Office which will be provided as a preview in this release.
  • Web Client Extensions. User interface enhancements will be made in the web client to take advantage of the new federated search, multi-lingual support and forms.
  • Extensions to WCM. WCM will add new tools to simplify page layout, site management, deployment and possibly dependency management.
  • Wiki. We anticipate that our long awaited wiki will be available in this time frame with more collaborative work with other open source projects.
  • Performance will continue to be a focus with our target of reaching 50 million items in the repository in this time frame.
  • Alfresco Network. We will also integrate new network features into the enterprise client for advice, information and configurations. The source code will be made available for these features, but the information delivered will only be for those purchasing enterprise support and services.
  • 100% Web Services. The full suite of web services has been delayed for some time now because of the lack of perceived value from customers. However, we now need this to provide more options of splitting up the functionality of the system onto different servers.
  • OpenID. We are currently considering adding OpenID as an authentication protocol. This would allow a user to access Alfresco as a single sign-on with other sites, such as AOL and even wikipedia. Support for CIFS would have to be investigated.

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