Alfresco 3 Enterprise Content Management Implementation

By Amita Bhandari , Munwar Shariff , Pallika Majmudar and 1 more
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  1. Introduction to Alfresco

About this book

Alfresco 3.0 has generated a lot of curiosity with its new content management features. Users have been waiting for a book that covers these concepts along with the security, dashboards, and configuration features of Alfresco 3.

Alfresco 3 includes Alfresco Surf, a new N-Tier Architecture, which delivers scalability and accommodates more users on existing hardware resources. This new release also includes a draft implementation of the CMIS specification, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Protocol support. The new multi-tenancy features enable Alfresco ECM to be configured as a single-instance multi-tenant environment.

This well-crafted and easy-to-use book is a complete guide to implementing enterprise content management in your business using Alfresco 3. It covers the enhanced document management, a new web-based collaborative application called Alfresco Share, and various integration options with external applications.

Alfresco 3 offers true Enterprise Content Management (ECM) by providing an open source alternative to Microsoft SharePoint, Documentum, and Interwoven. It is the most popular Java-based CMS with over 1.5 million downloads, 50,000 live sites, 74,000 community members, and with more than 150 application extensions in forge. This book guides you through creating smart, collaborative content repositories and shows how to use Alfresco 3 to create more elegant document sharing, better collaborative working, and reliable automated workflow processes.

The book also explains how administrators can set up Alfresco 3 for multiple business units as a single-instance multi-tenant environment. Business users can leverage Alfresco Share, a new built-in web-based collaborative content management application bundled with Alfresco repository. It simplifies capturing, sharing, and retrieval of information across virtual teams.

This book shows you how to unleash the power of Alfresco 3 to create collaborative working systems in your enterprise

Publication date:
June 2009
Publisher
Packt
Pages
600
ISBN
9781847197368

 

Chapter 1. Introduction to Alfresco

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the fastest growing category of enterprise software. Customers who are implementing or upgrading ECM systems are facing issues such as vendor lock-in, high maintenance costs, and a lack of standardization. Open source technologies and open standards are becoming powerful alternatives to commercia closed-source ECM software. Alfresco—a relatively new player in this market—has already gained a lot of momentum by providing content management solutions to enterprises, by using open standards and open source based technologies.

The latest release of Alfresco has an Enterprise Edition as well as a Labs Edition. The Alfresco Community Labs product, formerly known as the Community version of Alfresco, is an unsupported product, and is designed for use by developers and technical enthusiasts in noncritical environments. It serves as the research vehicle for new features, and as the platform for the Alfresco Community. Constant innovation of Alfresco Community Labs renders a daily build that offers the latest functionality.

The Alfresco Enterprise Edition is a production-ready, stress-tested certified build that is supported by Alfresco Software Inc. It is a fully-supported Alfresco Product that can be used by corporations and governments that require commercial Service Level Agreements (SLAs). With the release of Alfresco Enterprise Edition 3.0, Alfresco adds Alfresco Share, which is a new collaborative content solution, a draft implementation of the CMIS specification, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Protocol support to Alfresco's innovative ECM platform.

This chapter provides an introduction to Alfresco and outlines the benefits of using it for your enterprise's content management requirements. It also introduces the features of Alfresco Enterprise 3.0.

In this chapter, you will see:

  • The overview and features of Alfresco Enterprise 3.0

  • Key features of Alfresco software

  • How to use Alfresco for your document management, records management, web content management, and collaboration requirements

  • The future roadmap

 

An overview of Alfresco


Alfresco was founded in 2005 by John Newton, co-founder of Documentum, and John Powell, former COO of Business Objects. Its investors include the leading investment firms Accel Partners and Mayfield Fund. A combination of the proven track record of its leaders, the features of the technology, the open source business model, and good venture capital backing of the team makes Alfresco unique.

Leveraging the benefits of open source

Enterprise customers can reduce costs, minimize business risks, and gain a competitive advantage by adopting the right open source based business software solutions. Based on publicly-available pricing from a range of vendors, a white paper from Alfresco shows how it is possible to save, in the first year of implementation (based on a 1,000 user configuration) up to 89 percent of the cost of SharePoint purchases, and up to 96 percent of the cost of other ECM solutions, by using Alfresco's open source ECM. You can reduce the cost of software solution acquisition, deployment, and maintenance by bringing the community into the development, support, and service process.

Alfresco is the leading open source alternative for Enterprise Content Management. It couples the innovation of open source with the stability of a true enterprise-class platform. The open source model allows Alfresco to use the best-of-breed open source technologies. It also allows contributions from the open source community to get higher-quality software produced more quickly, and at a much lower cost.

State-of-the-art content repository

The following diagram provides an overview of the Alfresco content repository and its integration with external systems such as Virtual File Systems, Web Applications, Knowledge Portals, and Web Services.

A content repository is a server or a set of services that is used to store, search, access, and control content. The content repository provides these services to specialist content applications such as document management systems, web content management systems, image storage and retrieval systems, records management, and other applications that require the storage and retrieval of large amounts of content. The repositories provide content services such as content storage or import, content classification, security on content objects, control through content check-in and check-out, and content query services to the content applications.

What distinguishes content management from other typical database applications is the level of control exercised over individual content objects, and the ability to search content. Access to these services requires wrapping the calls in security to prevent unauthorized access or changes to content or its metadata. The finer the granularity of this security and the complexity of its relationship with other objects such as people and folders requires a more sophisticated mechanism than that provided by traditional database security.

The complex requirements of these services imply that much of the business logic of the content repository can be as large as, or larger than, the database itself. Almost all of the content repository vendors provide proprietary service interfaces to encapsulate the breadth of functionality required. Despite having tried over the last ten years to standardize these interfaces, it is only over the last two years that any progress has been made. In 2005, the Java community adopted the JSR-170 standard interface, and Alfresco's content repository is based on this standard.

Scalable architecture

The single most important aspect of any ECM system is the underlying architecture. Alfresco supports pluggable aspect-oriented architecture out of the box by leveraging open source standards and components such as Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, CMIS, JSR 168, JSR 170, and JSE6.

The architecture is based on open standards. Hence the applications built using Alfresco can be deployed on any environment, such as Windows, Linux, Mac, and so on. It can use any relational database, such as MySQL, Oracle, and so on. The scalable architecture can run on various application servers, such as JBoss Application Server, Apache Tomcat, and so on. It can work with any browser, such as, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and so on. Also, it can integrate with any portal such as JBoss Portal, Liferay Portal, and so on.

In any enterprise, the amount of content that you will manage will keep on increasing. In some organizations such as media, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and so on, the content increases exponentially every year. Hence, scalability is a critical issue when evaluating ECM solutions.

Due to its modular and light-weight architecture, Alfresco is highly scalable. Alfresco provides horizontal scalability by having each tier in the architecture deployed on multiple servers. Similarly, Alfresco can scale up vertically by supporting partitioning and load-balancing in multi-server environments.

Alfresco server can scale up information by using complex search, structure, and classification of information. Alfresco server can scale up activities by using complex information per activity with dynamic views and full object-level security.

Open standards-based underlying components

Open standards protect enterprise investment, promote innovation, and make it easier for IT departments to support the software. By adopting open standards for their ECM requirements, enterprises can lower the risk of incompatibilities with existing technologies. Enterprise application integration becomes easier with open standards.

Alfresco is completely built on the following open standards:

  • Java 1.6

  • Java Content Repository API

  • Java Portlet Integration

  • Spring 2.0 Aspect-Oriented Framework

  • ACEGI Aspect-Oriented Security Framework

  • Hibernate 3.2 ORM Persistence

  • Lucene 2.1 Text Search Engine

  • AIFS (Alfresco Intelligent File System) supporting Windows Files sharing (SMB/CIFS), NFS, FTP

  • WebDAV

  • Jakarta POI – Java API for accessing Microsoft file formats

  • PDFBox iText – Open source Java PDF libraries

  • Open Office 2.x

  • JSR-223 Java Language Integration—Scripting for Java platform

  • JBPM 3.2

Globalization support

If your enterprise has a global business model, it is very important for you to provide content in multiple languages. Most enterprises look beyond their geographic borders for new markets. The majority of web users speak little or no English. Hence, ECM systems should be designed with globalization in mind.

Alfresco out of the box supports several major languages, including Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.

Security and access control

Protecting unauthorized access to content is a key requirement for enterprises. This is true for corporate web sites, intranets, extranets, front office, and back office applications.

A nice thing about Alfresco is that permissions can be applied at a space (folder) level, or can be set for each individual content item. Out of the box, Alfresco supports a relational database-based membership system, and also supports external identity management systems such as LDAP, NTLM, Kerberos, and Active Directory.

Essential library services

Library services are required if you want to manage, leverage, modify, and control the content in an ECM system. Alfresco provides library services such as Check-in and Check-out, version control, auditing information, and content streaming.

Using Alfresco, you can define the library services to be executed automatically, based on business rules. For example, every edit to the content can version the content automatically. Or every Check-out can move the content to a specific location, again based on business rules.

Alfresco provides additional intelligence on the content by adding metadata (data about data), business rules, security rules, and collaboration rules dynamically, by using aspect-oriented programming. Alfresco also provides features such as content metadata extractors, content transformers, translations, and auto categorization, to make the content intelligent.

Business process automation

Business process automation increases productivity, reduces costs, streamlines processes, and shortens operation cycles. Alfresco includes JBoss Business Process Manager (JBPM) as a business process management and automation solution. This helps to manage the document life cycle by providing security and audit trails capabilities.

Enterprise integration

Alfresco provides open standards based protocols for integrating with external applications. Some of the application integration examples are mentioned in this book in Chapter 9. Alfresco can be used either as an embedded repository, or as an external content repository. Because it is open source, you can re-use the integration components for your business applications, thereby saving time and money.

Alfresco, now integrates with applications such as Facebook, ViewOne Pro, and iGoogle, and gadgets such as iPhone.

Quark Publishing System 8 and Alfresco are working together towards bringing web-based storage and collaboration for Quark assets. Alfresco integration with Joomla! is a perfect example of how cooperation between open source projects can yield innovative solutions more rapidly than a proprietary model.

Alfresco integrates with Kofax Ascent Capture and offers customers access to a comprehensive production capture solution, including automatic document classification, data extraction, and validation for both Internet-based distributed capture or centralized environments.

Alfresco integrates with an open source J2EE-based leading portal framework called Liferay. The Alfresco-Liferay bundle is an out of the box solution that provides an excellent portal-based ECM solution.

Drupal, a free and open source modular framework and Content Management System (CMS) written in the PHP programming language, can also be integrated with Alfresco to yield effective solutions.

Alfresco integrates with external identity management systems such as LDAP and Active Directory, and supports centralized security and single sign-on.

 

Alfresco Enterprise 3.0—An overview


Alfresco Enterprise 3.0 is built on the Alfresco Surf platform. This platform enables you to build dynamic, REST-oriented web applications and collaborative web sites. . The Surf platform is designed to work in a number of different web environments. It includes content-oriented components designed around the Yahoo! User Interface (YUI) Library and Adobe Flash for dynamic uploads and the preview of content and other information. These new user interface components make it much simpler for users to develop new collaborative web applications. It is also designed so that it can work as a Web Part in Microsoft SharePoint Portal.

Alfresco Network

Alfresco Enterprise subscription customers are provided with access to Alfresco Network. Alfresco Network provides an easy-to-navigate portal frontend through which customers can access enhanced Enterprise features, including the following:

  • Alfresco Knowledge Base: This is a repository of certified solutions, recommendations, and best practices for building with and configuring Alfresco's Enterprise product.

  • Alfresco Call Tracking: This supports the creation and tracking of support tickets through to resolution.

  • Documents and Downloads: This provides full access to Enterprise-certified product releases and their associated documentation.

  • Extensions / Add-on Library: This provides access to officially certified and supported extensions and add-ons that can be plugged into your existing Alfresco Repository or Alfresco Surf presentation layer.

  • Enhanced Support Experience: This provides live interaction with support engineers, document lockers, and also provides integrated call tracking history.

  • Heartbeat and Monitoring: These provide remote support for the Alfresco Repository in order to monitor the heartbeat and health of the system, collect log files, and provide a quicker resolution turnaround.

  • Enterprise News Feeds: These provide access to all of the latest updates, consolidated into feeds around product, support, and community news.

Alfresco Web Studio

Alfresco Web Studio is a visual, drag-and-drop, designer for building web sites using the Alfresco Surf platform. It features graphical overlays that facilitate the building of your web site's pages, navigation structure, templates, and presentation layout. Web components snap into your site's pages through simple drag-and-drop interactions. Using Alfresco Web Studio, you can quickly create custom web sites while leveraging the strengths of the Alfresco Web Content Management runtime and repository.

Alfresco Web Studio is available for Surf designers who want to build Surf applications by using a visual, drag-and-drop designer. By using Alfresco Web Studio, application designers are able to browse a library of Alfresco Web Components and visually assemble their web experience.

This puts the full-breadth of Alfresco Collaboration, Document Management, and Web Content Management functionality at their fingertips. It also opens the doors for Web Component provisioning from other open source and open standards vendors (that is, Google Gadgets and so on).

Alfresco Share

Alfresco Share delivers out of the box, collaborative content management. Alfresco Share simplifies the capturing, sharing, and retrieval of information across virtual teams, boosts productivity, and reduces network bandwidth requirements and email volumes between project team members.

Alfresco Share is built on Alfresco's innovative ECM repository. Additionally, Alfresco Share introduces a new, simplified, easy-to-use and easy-to-adopt knowledge worker UI. The current JSF client will still be available and unchanged, but, the migration to the new UI will be paced by the community and by the community's self-migration to the new UI infrastructure and user experience.

Now, you can share content in a document library and also have access to that content via thumbnails. You can upload project content in bulk and let others choose content via thumbnails and view content in a Flash viewer—allowing users to view content regardless of the originating application or product version (for example, Microsoft Office 2007). It is also possible to search rich metadata for document properties and tags. The content can be tagged, and access to the tags can be shared. Social tags can also be shared and filtered. Discussions can be created on sites, documents or even topics, and the content can also be provided via an RSS feed.

Alfresco Surf

Alfresco Surf is the presentation tier technology utilized by Alfresco for its entire 3.x product suite.

Alfresco Surf works hand-in-hand with Alfresco Web Content Management, and provides virtualized content retrieval, preview, and test support for user sandboxes and web projects. Applications built with Alfresco Surf can be deployed from Alfresco Web Project spaces to production servers while taking full advantage of Alfresco WCM's Enterprise class features.

Alfresco Repository Public API

The Repository Public API provides content and collaboration services for customizing and developing Alfresco applications. It was introduced with Labs 3b, and offers services such as site management, site activities, tagging, commenting, thumbnails, blogs, wikis, and forums for supporting social collaboration. These new REST APIs are based on ATOM Publishing. The Repository Public API has two forms:

  • A RESTful API for remotely connecting to the Repository (as used by Alfresco Share.)

  • A Javascript API for developing extensions to the Repository (as used in Web Scripts, Actions etc.)

Alfresco Draft CMIS Implementation

The Alfresco Enterprise 3.0 release includes a Draft CMIS Implementation. The Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) specification defines a domain model and a set of API bindings that can be used by applications to work with one or more Enterprise Content Management repositories or systems. The Alfresco Draft CMIS Implementation includes: CMIS REST API binding, CMIS Web Services API binding, CMIS query language, Apache Abdera CMIS Extension, and CMIS REST API Binding Test Harness. The CMIS implementation will provide the following benefits:.

  • Being a write once, run-anywhere application

  • Integrating multiple repositories

  • Supporting business processes across repositories

  • Requiring users to learn only one UI for all repositories

The CMIS technical draft specification (v0.5), announced on September 10th 2008, has been developed jointly by EMC, IBM, Microsoft, Alfresco, Open Text, Oracle, and SAP.

Microsoft SharePoint Protocol support

Alfresco was the first ECM to offer Microsoft Office SharePoint Protocol support. Available at a lower cost and with no additional client installation, this is remarkable. It also allows a choice for hardware, database, operating system, application server, and portal products.

 

How you can benefit from Alfresco


Alfresco offers Enterprise Content Management (ECM), such as document management, collaboration, records management, knowledge management, web content management, and imaging. You can configure and customize Alfresco to address your specific business requirements. Some of these are listed below for your reference.

Using Alfresco for document management

Using Alfresco, you can implement document management solutions such as Enterprise Document Management, Digital Asset Management, and Contracts Management.

Alfresco document management features provide organizations with all of the services necessary for creating, converting, managing, and sharing electronic documents. Built on industry-standard open source platforms, Alfresco provides version management and search capabilities.

The document management administrator interface allows you to import and export workspaces and documents, define security, and provide user management through the definition of users, groups, and roles. Cost effective upgrades and data migration administration are some of the key benefits.

A built-in data management and transformation engine provides you with the ability to transform the data into required formats, based on business rules. Integrated workflow provides you with full control over the document life cycle, management, and process flow.

Presentation templates and dashboard views provide you with a personalized and real-time reporting of your content. The preview feature is useful for viewing the content in combination with other content elements. Similarly, the composite document feature helps you to logically group documents and digital assets for your marketing projects.

Digital Asset Management provides a single access point for all of your rich digital media and their underlying metadata information throughout the extended enterprise. Alfresco centralizes storage and provides easy, efficient, enterprise access to digital assets, and allows them to be quickly repurposed, which streamlines processes and saves money.

Whether it's an employment contract, a purchase agreement, a maintenance contract, or a collaboration agreement with a business partner, in order to protect a company's commercial interests, one should guarantee completeness, validity, traceability, and inalterability. Alfresco's document lifecycle management features ensure that people in various departments, divisions, or regions of a company can work together to support all of the processes relating to a contract throughout its lifecycle—from creation, through fulfillment and modification, to termination.

Key features include:

  • Flexible metadata management

  • Full audit control

  • Transformation of data

  • Security and version control

  • Indexing and full text search

  • Locking, Check-in and Check-out

  • Offline briefcase synchronization to allow offline access content

  • Taxonomy and categorization of content

  • Advanced search with combined metadata, location, and multi-category search

  • Soft deletes and deleted documents recovery support

  • Scheduled jobs and actions

  • Management of web assets

Using Alfresco for records management

Using Alfresco, you can implement records management solutions, such as enterprise records management, compliance, imaging, forms management, and business process management.

Alfresco's record management features provide a secure, auditable environment for creating, declaring, classifying, retaining, and destroying records. Organizations can ensure compliance by defining and enforcing policies for records use, storage, and disposition, with a legally-defensible audit trail.

Records management capabilities are modeled to support the US Department of Defense 5015.2 Records Management standards. Alfresco provides file plan templates for numbering, classification, disposition, and other metadata-driven population of records. Disposition includes the transfer of records and/or the ultimate destruction of the records.

Predefined reports will provide you with information about recent records, records due for cut-off, records due for expiry, records due for transfer, and records due for destruction.

The lifecycle determines the disposition of the record, including when the records will be cut off or grouped together, how long the records will be held, and what happens to the record after the holding period expires—whether they are transferred to a records holding area, or whether they should be destroyed.

By integrating with scanning and OCR technologies, Alfresco provides an end-to-end solution for collecting paper documents and forms, transforming them into accurate, retrievable information, and delivering the content into an organization's business applications. The information then becomes full-text searchable, and goes through various lifecycles based on the organization's defined business process

Emails are considered as records in some organizations. Alfresco enables you to drag-and-drop emails from Microsoft Outlook into the file plan space. The system will extract the metadata from email files and populate information such as who the e-mail is from, who the recipients are, and the subject of the email. Email content is stored in a secure and scalable repository, and is also full-text searchable.

Key features include:

  • Record plans

  • Automatic conversion from proprietary office formats to long-term vendor neutral formats such as Open Document Format (ODF) and Portable Document Format (PDF)

  • Vital records information management

  • Record cut-off information management

  • Record holding and retention management

  • Record transfer process

  • Record destruction management

  • Record lifecycle management

  • Archival policies

  • Disposition schedules

  • Restriction of user functions

  • Audit trails

Using Alfresco for web content management

Using Alfresco, you can implement web content management solutions with a scalable content repository, a web 2.0 AJAX-based user interface, flexible workflow, multi-language support, and a robust search engine.

Alfresco web content management features provide a rich environment for creating, managing, and publishing web content, along with an infrastructure for supporting multiple sites. This managed content can include text, HTML, XML files, graphics and photos, video or audio, and specialized programming required for user interaction. Through this solution, organizations can integrate multiple disparate sites and data formats, and give users (often sales people, partners and customers) rapid access to information, and in a timely manner. Because, Alfresco web content management is built on open source platforms, supporting, managing, and expanding these systems can be straightforward and cost-effective.

Alfresco supports a wide range of protocols, such as HTTP, HTTPS, WebDAV, web services, XML-RPC, FTP, and RMI for the exchange of content with external systems. With the help of technologies such as RSS and web services, the content is delivered to various channels such as public internet sites, internal marketing sites, and portals.

Alfresco leverages the existing infrastructure for membership such as LDAP, Active Directory, and Relational databases. A granular level of security enables content authors to secure a single web page and also the files, embedded images, and videos within a web page.

Users of the Alfresco web content management system are typically nontechnical business users, or subject matter experts who do not understand HTML syntax. Alfresco includes inline editors to edit text, HTML and XML content, and connectors to edit the office documents using desktop tools of your choice. The transformation engine is used to transform content from one form to another. For example, all of the incoming images of various types and sizes can be transformed to a standard format and size.

Drag-and-drop layout development lets users customize the look and feel of web sites without waiting for assistance from developers. Alfresco speaks your language and supports multilingual content management.

A robust, full-text search engine lets you search your web content (HTML, PDF, MS-Word, PowerPoint slides, and so on) based on your security access permissions. Advanced search features enable you to search web content based on its metadata and keyword values.

Key features include:

  • Standards-based forms for creating content

  • An e-mail based workflow and approval process

  • An in-context review or view of changes in the context of a live site

  • Managing branches and support for parallel branching

  • Pre-built templates for both web sites and web site components

  • The integration of enterprise systems

  • The re-use of existing sites–easily re-use an existing look and feel

  • High-availability, fault tolerance, and scalability support for any number of sites, auto failover, and clustering of the delivery tier

  • Multi-site change set management­–support for projects, sandboxes, change sets, layers, and snapshots

  • A preview feature with presentation templates

  • The management of web assets

  • Brand management

  • A Digital Image Library

Using Alfresco for collaboration management

Using Alfresco, you can implement collaboration solutions, such as corporate and departmental intranets, knowledge management, and client and project extranets.

Alfresco collaboration features provide the infrastructure, integration points, and tools required for accessing, sharing, and distributing content among users or systems. Built upon industry standards, open source platforms, Alfresco helps you to quickly define and develop environments for teams (project teams, associations, research, and so on) that will streamline processes, reduce costs, and improve time to market. Users can manage and collaborate on documents, web information, and forms within a single system through a consistent user interface.

A comprehensive security model that is based on individuals, groups, projects, and team spaces provides you with the highest level of control. The solution leverages the existing infrastructure, such as LDAP or Active Directory, for authentication and authorization.

A web-based rules engine enables business users to define the business and content rules appropriately, without the help of programmers and IT. Alfresco supports a graphical tool for defining the workflow and business process management for content flow in collaborative environments.

Users can discuss content by using the discussion forums and discussion threads tied to the content. Users can subscribe to content and receive email notifications when content is added or updated. The solution supports both inbound and outbound RSS syndication for sharing content beyond the corporate firewalls.

Interfaces such as Common Internet File System (CIFS) and WebDAV allow each team member or department to map the folder on the server as a local network drive. This enables the bulk transfer of files between your local system and the central server repository. Users can use their favorite editors to edit the content that is mapped in the local network drive.

Knowledge Management (KM) refers to a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for re-use, awareness, and learning across the organization.

Key features include:

  • Team spaces

  • Full audit control

  • Discussion forums

  • Message boards

  • RSS syndication

  • Ad-hoc security

  • A version controlled content repository

  • Full-text search of various content items

  • User-controlled routing

  • Integration of enterprise systems

  • High availability, fault tolerance, and scalability

  • Business process-driven content management

Using Alfresco for enterprise content search

Most ECM systems do not consider search to be an important part of Enterprise Content Management. Search functionality helps us to locate information quickly, to generate business reports, and to make business decisions. The following features of Alfresco will provide you with an enterprise search solution:

  • Single-point access to an enterprise content repository

  • Full-text search of documents

  • The ability to index documents and provide metadata search capabilities

  • The ability to build and share reports by using saved searches

  • The ability to search for users and collaborative groups

  • The ability to search archived content

Applications of Alfresco

Because the architecture is flexible and extensible, you can build various applications using Alfresco, such as:

  • Enterprise document repositories

  • Intranets

  • Enterprise knowledge management portals

  • Scalable content repositories

  • Corporate web sites

  • Marketing communications

  • On demand publishing

  • Compliance and records management

  • Financial applications that involve security, forms handling, and an approval process

  • Research portals for collaboration and the sharing of information

Alfresco's web site (http://www.alfresco.com) has a list of customer case studies. Going through these case studies will help you understand the type of applications that you could develop using Alfresco.

 

How does the future look like with Alfresco?


This book is based on Alfresco Enterprise 3.0. This book is an update to a previous book, which was on the Alfresco 1.4 release. The Alfresco system has evolved towards a state-of-the-art, one-point solution to the ECM needs.

In 2009, Alfresco aimed to focus on five key areas:

  • New and enhanced team and enterprise collaboration services

  • Publishing and management services for dynamic, Web 2.0-enabled web sites

  • Web client usability

  • Scalability, performance, and enterprise-readiness

  • Standards

There has been so much interest from international organizations, governments, and multinational corporations that translation seems a natural extension of the Alfresco model.

Alfresco has weaved itself into a number of other products. Products such as Quark, Acrobat.com, CAStor and Adobe LiveCycle are just a few to mention who have incorporated the Alfresco ECM into their products in some way.

Enterprise versus Community Labs

Alfresco spent the summer of 2008 releasing Alfresco Labs 3, which includes a version of their new collaboration solution, Alfresco Share, and Surf which is a new development platform. From there, they spent time performing extensive testing to prepare for the release of their latest enterprise version.

The enterprise version is the certified build of Alfresco—the one that is sold to production environments for companies and government organizations that want a stable, supported solution. Alfresco currently has over 700 organizations using the enterprise version.

Enterprise releases are available to customers with an enterprise subscription. Enterprise releases are tested and certified for customer deployment. The releases include a maintenance release train of engineering-led and customer-driven bug fixes to ensure successful operation in an enterprise environment. These bug fixes will periodically be made available in the community code-line, where they are mixed in with upcoming features and other product enhancements. Maintenance release schedules are driven by Alfresco Support.

Enterprise Edition

Community Labs

100% Open Source with Commercial Support

100% Open Source. No Alfresco or Certified Partner Support

High-Availability Cluster Certified

No High-Availability Cluster Testing

Scalability Certified

No Scalability Testing

Stress Tested, Certified and Supported Build

Daily Build with SVN Access

Certified across Combinations of both Open Source and Commercial Stacks

Quality Assurance on Periodic Build on a Basic Open Source Stack

Better support options

Alfresco comes with multiple support options. Firstly, it is supported by the company Alfresco, which gives users direct access to Alfresco's engineering team and the most recent bug fixes. This is currently the best way to receive high-quality support for the Alfresco software. However, as more and more people adopt the software, the options for quality support beyond Alfresco–the company–will improve.

At any given point in time, the following three support alternatives exist for Alfresco open source software:

  • In-house development support: Because the source code is open source, you can train your developers in-house to support your application that has been built using Alfresco.

  • Community support: Alfresco already has a big community world wide. With a growing community, you can always get help through the Alfresco community forums, although the quality of support can vary.

  • Alfresco enterprise network support: As mentioned, Alfresco Inc. currently provides the highest quality option for production and development support. This support is provided to the company's customers who are using the Enterprise product. It includes direct access to the engineers who write the Alfresco code, up-to-date bug fixes, configuration assistance, and a range of other services.

Free upgrades

For every new release, you will receive free, upgraded software. You might have to take care of your specific customization to upgrade to the latest version of the software. It is important to follow best practices while implementing Alfresco, so that upgrades are easier and less expensive to handle.

 

Implementing an example solution using Alfresco


Subsequent chapters of this book contain examples to help you implement your requirements, such as collaboration, customization, document management and so, on using Alfresco. These examples are an attempt to solve similar content management problems, that are encountered in a typical enterprise.

The idea of providing examples in this book is to:

  • Engage the reader, and keep the material feeling realistic.

  • Help you apply the features of Alfresco to your business decisions. You will see in the fictional example that decisions are made for particular reasons, and you can compare and contrast these reasons (and thus the decisions) with your own situation.

  • Give the book an overall theme, through a narrative engine, to keep things moving and not make this book feel like technical documentation.

 

Where do you get more information?


The best place to start looking for more information is Alfresco's own corporate web site (http://www.alfresco.com). You can find the latest news and events, various training programs that offered worldwide, presentations, demonstrations, and hosted trails on this web site.

Alfresco is 100 percent open source, and all of the downloads are available from the SourceForge.net web site at http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=143373.

The Alfresco Wiki (http://wiki.alfresco.com) contains documentation including a tutorial, user guide, developer guide, administrator guide, roadmap, and so on.

The Alfresco discussion forums (http://forums.alfresco.com) are the best place to share your thoughts, and to get tips and tricks about Alfresco implementation. The discussion forums are available in multiple languages which can be selected on the home page of the Alfresco web site (www.alfresco.com).

If you would like to file a bug or learn more about the fixes in a specific release, then you must visit the bug tracking system at http://issues.alfresco.org/

 

Summary


Alfresco is the leading open source alternative for Enterprise Content Management. It couples the innovation of open source with the stability of a true enterprise-class platform. The open source model allows Alfresco to use the best-of-breed open source technologies and contributions from the open source community in order to get higher-quality software produced more quickly, and at a much lower cost.

Alfresco provides the key features of a scalable, robust, and secure Content Management System, in order to deliver trusted and relevant content to your customers, suppliers, and employees.

About the Authors

  • Amita Bhandari

    Amita Bhandari is a senior consultant at CIGNEX. As a senior developer, she has rolled out numerous Alfresco deployments world-wide. She has extensive experience in implementing Enterprise Web Applications using J2EE technologies such as JSP, Servlets, Spring, Hibernate, Web Services, Web Scripts and MVC Frameworks. She has worked with clients in media and gaming, healthcare and e-governance. She trained many students in Java and advanced Java technologies. She holds a Masters in Computer Applications from Rajasthan University, India.

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  • Munwar Shariff

    Munwar Shariff, as a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at CIGNEX Datamatics, brings over 20 years of industry experience and proven technical leadership. He oversees the enterprise architecture solution team and provides strategic planning to achieve business goals by identifying and prioritizing technology-based services and solutions. Defining initiatives and setting timetables for the evaluation, development, and deployment of pioneering technologies are his areas of expertise.

    He is an entrepreneur, open source technologist, and author of the following four technical books:

    • Plone Live
    • Implementing Alfresco
    • Alfresco3 WCM
    • Alfresco3 ECM

    He contributes to the open source community by journaling submissions on open source CMS, and has been a featured speaker at AIIM USA, JBoss World, DAM Conference, Plone Conference, Linux World, Gilbane, CTC, Yahoo OSCMS, Saudi Government, and CA World.

    Munwar has also served on board at the Plone Foundation and is currently a board member at CIGNEX Datamatics.

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  • Pallika Majmudar

    Pallika Majmudar is a consultant at CIGNEX Technologies. She is very experienced in Java/J2EE domain including the frameworks such as Struts, Spring, Hibernate, Web services, and Web scripts. She has worked on various CMS applications for the customers in United States, Hong Kong and India. She has implemented Alfresco for clients across verticals like Media, Healthcare, Hi-tech and Communications. Pallika has earned her Masters in Computer Application degree from Gujarat University, India.

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  • Vinita Choudhary

    Vinita Choudhary is a senior consultant at CIGNEX. She has extensive experience in working in a variety of environments with cross-functional, multi-cultural teams as a business analyst and has provided feedback on usability and functional gaps in process flows and proposed solutions. She has re-organized existing repository of documentation, written guidelines for document creation, filing and change control, wrote reference and training material for software developers and published the same. She is involved in providing presales support to the sales team and has worked on process streamlining for the company and various documentation aspects. Vinita holds a Masters in Computer Applications degree from Gujarat University, India.

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