Back at the height of the market downturn in October, we looked at how Alfresco should address the rapidly changing economic situation. Rather than being pessimistic, we believed that this was a real opportunity for us. Times like these wipe the decks clean and provide openings for companies that provide value for money and can replace existing older technologies. This is the fourth recession in my career and what past experience has shown is that management and IT are under pressure to do more with less, cut costs, make remaining people more productive, and implement new technology if there is a clear zero-sum gain in cost reduction. Regulation also always comes after the disaster hits, but the new regulatory regime must be addressed with fewer resources. It seemed like a perfect time to be in open source!
Today we are releasing Alfresco Community Edition 3.2 and it really is an ECM designed for the Credit Crunch. We have been expanding the capabilities that generally been out of reach of anyone who could not afford a traditional ECM system, but who can now use one to reduce costs, improve productivity, reduce long-term costs of development of content applications or prove compliance. This release tackles records management capabilities, handling and archiving of emails, mobile access for the worker on the go, the latest and greatest implementation of CMIS, and new extranet collaboration capabilities. All of these are targeted at what we felt would be important factors in a lean economic environment. All are also available as open source to help reduce the cost of managing content in enterprises struggling to do more with fewer resources.
New records management capabilities are very important for us, because this is the platform with which we will be going to the US government to certify for DoD 5015.2, but also because it provides a level of control that any organization facing regulatory requirements will find useful, such as life cycle management, retention policies, review process and disclosure and transparency controls. Built upon the new Share and SURF platforms these records management capabilities are the basis for a new records management application that is planned for certification at the end of September. To support this, we have added a new interactive forms system based upon the Yahoo YUI Ajax library and now allows both types and aspects to be applied and used in Share, including new records or regulatory metadata. By basing these capabilities on Share, we get a lot of the benefits of Share, including in browser viewing without downloading the record, URL-addressability of records information, and collaborative capabilities such as commenting, tagging and discussions. A new import and export capability is designed to simplify archiving records sets and import them to separate records repositories if necessary. A new records life cycle management automatically handles the physical storage of records to offline or tertiary storage. This is also the first records management system designed to be queryable by the proposed OASIS CMIS standard.
Related to and required by records management is a new ability to manage and archive emails using the IMAP email protocol. Virtually any email client can access, archive and categorize documents, records, attachments and other content with no plug-in required, because the Alfresco repository supports the IMAP protocol natively just as it does CIFS, WebDAV and NFS. This email integration is designed for two purposes. The first is for archiving and managing email, especially records. This interface allows you to manage email according to your organizational policies. If the policy is to archive everything and figure out organization later, the Alfresco rules can accept all content and can invoke rules to help organize, classify and apply the appropriate retention policies. However, if it is important for users to help classify the email as records, then users can drag and drop emails into the appropriate repository folders within their standard email client.
The second purpose for IMAP integration is to allow users who live in email to be able to access content from the repository without leaving email. Most browsers are IMAP capable, such as my Mac Mail client, and we have done extensive testing on Microsoft Outlook. Metadata and context of content is presented to the user with Freemarker script templates, which are very easy to configure. This metadata appears as email text in folders from the repository and the actual content appears to be an attachment to the email. This makes it easy to forward or send documents as either simple attachments or who content with metadata. It is also easy to use Alfresco from devices designed specifically for email such as the Blackberry, iPhone, Palm Pre or other mobile mail devices.
Every recession seems to create a step change in technology usage and this recession is probably no different. Smart phones now outnumber the number of laptops sold and for many tasks they can be just as effective. That is why we felt that content will be increasing consumed, processed and created on these small devices. However, the smaller form factor means that you can’t just take a big app and make it smaller. With Alfresco 3.2, we have looked at the tasks that people perform today and what content management tasks they could perform on mobile devices. The result is a version of Alfresco Share designed to fit the form-factor of these new smart phones, starting first with the iPhone. According to StatCounter, between the iPhone and iTouch, Apple has approximately 37% of the mobile browser market. It is also the first ECM application designed for business processes on the go. We have focused not only on browsing and access of content, but also on the business processes by allowing users to start and track workflows and activities around content collaboration.
This release also has the most complete implementation of the latest release of CMIS, version 0.61 of the OASIS CMIS Technical Committee, of which David Caruana and I are members. We have implemented both the REST-based Atom Pub and SOAP Web Services protocols. Dave has spent a lot of time on these capabilities and it is the future of our API. A lot of the work has gone into the new query language that provides SQL-like query capabilities along with other capabilities that had previously required using Lucene. Alfresco’s implementation of CMIS has been the basis of integrations with Joomla, Drupal, Atlassian’s Confluence, CMIS Spaces and CMIS Explorer and we expect more in the future. Dave and Gabriele Columbro are planning on contributing some our experience to the Apache Chemistry project. Dave is hoping to contribute our CMIS client test harness, which may be used against any CMIS and currently contains over 100 tests covering all aspects of the spec including schema validation.
Some of the CMIS integrations to Alfresco include Joomla, Drupal and Confluence
Following release of Share last year and updates earlier this year, we have added a number of capabilities to support the use of Share in an extranet in order to provide content collaboration outside the enterprise firewalls or in the cloud. We have been testing scaling Share to tens of thousands of concurrent users. Since extranet use cases are more people-oriented, we have extended the contextual information available about users in the users profiles. We have also simplified the administration of users, groups and sites from a new administration framework integrated into Share. Share can also take advantage of some of the advanced metadata management capabilities of the Alfresco repository with the new forms system mentioned earlier and explicit support for types and aspects in Share. Some of the new user interface components available include Content Favorites and a new Image Gallery. This release of share is Cloud-ready for EC2 and other cloud services.
Alfresco’s Web Content Management Platform has been improved to support larger authoring and deployment environments better. A new parallel deployment engine uses multi-threaded updates to web farms for higher performance updates of web sites. A new web clustering architecture allows authoring installations to scale to more users and allows the deployed servers to also be clustered for shared services. A change to the architecture of previewing means that changes to either content or even code can be instantaneously previewed in a test environment. Improved rendering and transformation of web content provides better support for XML includes, XSL transforms and execution of Freemarker and Web Scripts in the web tier. A new pluggable deployment architecture allows you to deploy to multiple delivery environments such as to file systems, other Alfresco servers or external and web-edge delivery channels.
Sorry for the long post, but there is a lot that we have been working on while the Great Global Recession has been raging on. Our goal has been to help you cut costs of traditional ECM, improve your productivity through mobility and efficiency in handling content, address new compliance issues with the first open source records management system, help tame the great email beast, and engage your customers, partners and employees with new WCM and extranet capabilities. We also hope to future-proof your content applications by delivering the first and best with CMIS implementations as they appear from the OASIS technical committee. Last year, we showed you how we can save costs by providing apples to apples comparisons between ECM vendors using the US GSA Schedule 70 pricing. Now we hope to help you beat even those saving with new capabilities that we are releasing with the Alfresco Community 3.2 download. We hope you give it a try at http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Download_Community_Edition
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