Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation

By Munwar Shariff
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  1. Introduction to Alfresco

About this book

Alfresco offers true Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and aspires to be "Documentum fast and free", and was founded by a former Documentum executive. Alfresco can store a wide range of digital content in flexible, smart "spaces". Content is accessible through a web interface, shared network folders, FTP, WebDav, and other methods.

Users can set up Alfresco to process content in certain ways, according to business rules and workflow requirements. It can also apply version control to documents automatically, making it easy and safe to collaborate and update documents.

Alfresco is regarded as the most powerful open-source enterprise content management system. Using Alfresco, administrators can easily create rich, shared content repositories. This book shows you how to unleash this power to create collaborative working systems in your enterprise.

Publication date:
January 2007
Publisher
Packt
Pages
356
ISBN
9781904811114

 

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 lack of standardization. Open-source technologies and open standards are becoming powerful alternatives to commercial closed-source ECM software. Alfresco, a new player in this market, is gaining a lot of momentum by providing content management solutions to enterprises using state-of-the-art open-source technologies and open standards. This chapter provides an introduction to Alfresco and outlines the benefits of using it for your enterprise's content management requirements.

By the end of this chapter you will have learned about:

  • An overview of Alfresco architecture

  • Key features of Alfresco software

  • Using Alfresco for your document management, records management, web content management, and collaboration requirements

  • The future roadmap

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. The proven track record of its leaders, the features in the technology, the open-source business model, and good venture capital backing of the team, as a combination makes Alfresco different.

Leverage the Benefits of Open Source

Enterprise customers can reduce costs, minimize business risks, and get competitive advantage by adopting the right open-source-based business software solutions. You can reduce the cost of software solution acquisition, deployment, and maintenance by brining 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 and 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 shows an overview of 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 used to store, search, access, and control content. The content repository provides these services to specialist content applications such as document management, web content management systems, image storage and retrieval systems, records management, or other applications that require the storage and retrieval of large amounts of content. The repository provides 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 these 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 granularity of this security and its complex relationship with other objects such as people and folders requires a more sophisticated mechanism than provided by traditional database security.

The complex requirements of these services imply that often the business logic of the content repository can be as large as or larger than the database itself. Almost all the content repository vendors provide proprietary service interfaces to encapsulate the breadth of functionality required. Despite attempts 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 and related standards.

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 the open-source standards such as Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, MyFaces, JSR 168, JSR 170, and JSE5.

The Alfresco architecture supports high availability for mission-critical applications using clustering, fully distributed caching, and replication support across multiple servers. The functionality and the various architectural layers are shown in the following figure:

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

In any enterprise, the amount of content you will manage will keep on increasing. In some organizations such as media, pharmaceutical, healthcare, etc., 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 vertically by partitioning and load balancing in a multi-server environment.

Alfresco server can scale in information using complex search, structure, and classification of information. Alfresco server can scale in activity using complex information per activity with dynamic views and with 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 1.5

  • JSR 170—Java Content Repository API

  • JSR-168 Java Portlet Integration

  • Spring 1.2 Aspect-Oriented Framework

  • ACEGI Aspect-Oriented Security Framework

  • MyFaces 1.0.9 JSF Implementation

  • Hibernate 3.0 ORM Persistence

  • Lucene 1.4 Text Search Engine

  • JLAN—Java-based File Server supporting Windows Files sharing (SMB/CIFS), NFS, FTP

  • WebDAV/DeltaV

  • JBoss App Server 4.0

  • JBoss Portal 2.0

  • Jakartha POI—Java API to Access Microsoft File formats

  • PDFBox—Open Source Java PDF Library

  • Open Office 2.0

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

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 the web users speak little or no English. Hence ECM systems should be designed with globalization in mind.

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

Security and Access Control

Protecting against unauthorized access to the content is the key requirement for enterprises. This is true for corporate websites, intranets, extranets, front office, and back-office applications.

Nice thing about Alfresco is that the 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/ Check-out, version control, auditing information, and content streaming.

Using Alfresco, you can define the library services to be executed automatically based on the 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 based on the business rules.

Alfresco provides additional intelligence to the content by adding metadata (data about data), business rules, security rules, and collaboration rules dynamically, 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 document life-cycle with security and audit trails capabilities.

Enterprise Integrations

No application is an island. Alfresco provides Web Services and the Java Content Repository Application Programming Interface (JCR API) to integrate with external applications.

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 and 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, which provides an excellent portal-based ECM solution.

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

 

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. The proven track record of its leaders, the features in the technology, the open-source business model, and good venture capital backing of the team, as a combination makes Alfresco different.

Leverage the Benefits of Open Source

Enterprise customers can reduce costs, minimize business risks, and get competitive advantage by adopting the right open-source-based business software solutions. You can reduce the cost of software solution acquisition, deployment, and maintenance by brining 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 and 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 shows an overview of 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 used to store, search, access, and control content. The content repository provides these services to specialist content applications such as document management, web content management systems, image storage and retrieval systems, records management, or other applications that require the storage and retrieval of large amounts of content. The repository provides 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 these 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 granularity of this security and its complex relationship with other objects such as people and folders requires a more sophisticated mechanism than provided by traditional database security.

The complex requirements of these services imply that often the business logic of the content repository can be as large as or larger than the database itself. Almost all the content repository vendors provide proprietary service interfaces to encapsulate the breadth of functionality required. Despite attempts 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 and related standards.

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 the open-source standards such as Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, MyFaces, JSR 168, JSR 170, and JSE5.

The Alfresco architecture supports high availability for mission-critical applications using clustering, fully distributed caching, and replication support across multiple servers. The functionality and the various architectural layers are shown in the following figure:

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

In any enterprise, the amount of content you will manage will keep on increasing. In some organizations such as media, pharmaceutical, healthcare, etc., 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 vertically by partitioning and load balancing in a multi-server environment.

Alfresco server can scale in information using complex search, structure, and classification of information. Alfresco server can scale in activity using complex information per activity with dynamic views and with 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 1.5

  • JSR 170—Java Content Repository API

  • JSR-168 Java Portlet Integration

  • Spring 1.2 Aspect-Oriented Framework

  • ACEGI Aspect-Oriented Security Framework

  • MyFaces 1.0.9 JSF Implementation

  • Hibernate 3.0 ORM Persistence

  • Lucene 1.4 Text Search Engine

  • JLAN—Java-based File Server supporting Windows Files sharing (SMB/CIFS), NFS, FTP

  • WebDAV/DeltaV

  • JBoss App Server 4.0

  • JBoss Portal 2.0

  • Jakartha POI—Java API to Access Microsoft File formats

  • PDFBox—Open Source Java PDF Library

  • Open Office 2.0

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

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 the web users speak little or no English. Hence ECM systems should be designed with globalization in mind.

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

Security and Access Control

Protecting against unauthorized access to the content is the key requirement for enterprises. This is true for corporate websites, intranets, extranets, front office, and back-office applications.

Nice thing about Alfresco is that the 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/ Check-out, version control, auditing information, and content streaming.

Using Alfresco, you can define the library services to be executed automatically based on the 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 based on the business rules.

Alfresco provides additional intelligence to the content by adding metadata (data about data), business rules, security rules, and collaboration rules dynamically, 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 document life-cycle with security and audit trails capabilities.

Enterprise Integrations

No application is an island. Alfresco provides Web Services and the Java Content Repository Application Programming Interface (JCR API) to integrate with external applications.

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 and 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, which provides an excellent portal-based ECM solution.

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

 

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 business requirements. Some of them are listed here 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 the services necessary for creating, converting, managing, and sharing electronic documents. Built on industry-standard open-source platforms, Alfresco provides version management, search capabilities, and visualization showing relationships and dependencies.

It uses full Service-Oriented Architecture using industry standards such as Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, MyFaces, JSR 168, JSR 170, and JSE5. Its architecture includes high availability using Master/Slave Distributed Synchronization within a Data Center through 2-phase commit or remotely between sites through replication. Its architecture supports zero-footprint clients to easily access the server via standard Windows Network File Share.

Document management administrator interface allows you to import/export workspaces and documents, define security, and manage users with users, groups and roles. Cost-effective upgrades and data migration administration are some of the key benefits.

Built-in data management and transformation engine enables you to transform the data into required formats based on the business rules. Integrated workflow provides you with full control over the document lifecycle, 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 to view the content in combination with other content elements. Similarly the composite document feature helps you to logically group the documents and digital assets for your marketing projects.

Digital Asset Management provides a single access point for all your rich digital media and its 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, purchase agreement, maintenance contract, or collaboration agreement with a business partner, completeness, validity, traceability, and inalterability must be guaranteed if a company is to protect its commercial interests. Alfresco’s document lifecycle management features ensure that people in various company departments, divisions, and regions can work together to support all 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/check-out

  • Offline briefcase synchronization to access content offline

  • Taxonomy and categorization of content

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

  • Advanced reporting and dashboards

  • Document composition by logically grouping various content

  • Preview feature with presentation templates

  • Soft deletes and deleted document recovery support

  • Scheduled jobs and actions

  • Management of web assets

  • Brand management

  • Digital image library

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 records 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 population of records. Disposition includes the transfer of records and/or the ultimate destruction of the record.

Predefined reports will provide you with information about recent records, records due for cutoff, records retention 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 cutoff or grouped together, how long the records will be held, and what happens to the records after the hold 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 by collecting paper documents and forms; transforming them into accurate, retrievable information; and delivering the content into an organization's business applications. The information is then full-text searchable and goes through various lifecycles based on the organization’s defined business process management.

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 whom 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 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 cutoff 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, 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, and an infrastructure for supporting multiple sites. The content managed can include text, HTML, XML files, graphics and photos, video or audio, and specialized programming 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 timely information. Since, Alfresco web content management is built on open-source platforms, supporting, managing, and expanding these systems is straightforward and cost-effective.

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

Alfresco leverages the existing infrastructure for membership such as LDAP, Active Directory, or a relational database. Its fine granular level of security enables content authors to secure a web page and also the files, embedded images, and videos within a web page.

Users of Alfresco web content management systems are mostly non-technical 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 Office documents using desktop tools of your choice. The transformation engine is used to transform content from one form to another. For example, all the incoming images of various types and sizes can be transformed to a standard format and size.

Drag-and-drop layout lets users customize the look and feel of websites 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, etc.) based on your security access permissions. Advanced search features enable you to search the web content based on the metadata and keyword values.

Key features include:

  • Contextual delivery of information based on community intelligence

  • Standards-based forms to create pages

  • Email-based workflow and approval process

  • In context review: View changes in the context of a live site with no broken URLs

  • Manage branches: Parallel branching and merging

  • Dependency management: Impact management and automatic updates

  • Pre-built templates: Websites and website components

  • Integration of enterprise systems

  • Re-use existing sites: Easily reuse existing look and feel

  • High-availability, fault tolerance, and scalability: Any number of sites, auto failover, and clustering

  • Multi-site change set management: Support for projects, sandboxes, change sets, layers, and snapshots

  • Multi-site transactional publishing: Guaranteed delivery to multiple run-time sites

  • Virtualization server: Preview web 2.0 site updates in context, view the site in the past, present, or future

  • Business process-driven web content management

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-standard, open-source platforms, Alfresco helps you to quickly define and develop environments for teams (project teams, associations, research, etc.) 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 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 staff. Alfresco supports a graphical tool to define the workflow and business process management for content flow in collaborative environments.

Users can discuss the content using 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 to share content both inside and outside corporate firewalls.

The interfaces such as Common Internet File System (CIFS), SMB, and WebDAV allow each team member or departmental system to map the folder on the server as a local network drive. This enables 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 reuse, 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 helps to locate information quickly, generate business reports, and helps to make business decisions. The following features of Alfresco will provide you an enterprise search solution.

  • Provides single-point access to enterprise content repository

  • Provides full-text search of documents

  • Helps to index the documents and provide metadata searching

  • Helps you to build and share reports using saved searches

  • Helps search for users and collaborative groups

  • Searches archived content

Applications of Alfresco

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

  • Enterprise document repository

  • Intranet

  • Enterprise knowledge management portal

  • Scalable content repository

  • Corporate websites

  • Marketing communications

  • On demand publishing

  • Compliance and records management

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

  • Research portals for collaboration and sharing of information

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

 

How does the Future Look with Alfresco?


The current release of Alfresco is 1.4. The Alfresco system will constantly evolve towards a broad-scoped Enterprise Content Management system.

More Feature Enhancements

It is planned to have Alfresco 2.0 release by the end of 2006 or early 2007. Full-featured web content management is the key focus area for this release. Along with versioning, the web content management will provide additional features such as content publishing, virtualization and in-context preview, workflow, dependency management, and content deployment.

Content federation and federated search is going to be supported in this release. The web client user interface will be redesigned using AJAX to significantly enhance the browsing, searching, and contribution process through the web client. Records management capabilities will be enhanced to get DoD5015.2 certification.

There has been so much interest from international organizations, governments, and multi-national corporations that translation seems a natural extension of the Alfresco model. More languages will be supported out of the box.

This release will provide publishing and multi-channel solutions against the Alfresco repository. In particular, managing XML with schemas such as DITA and Docbook has a high level of interest.

The lifecycle aspect will be an additional feature. The lifecycle aspect can be attached to any object to provide lifecycle control of that object. The lifecycle aspect will keep track of state and use the actions capability to provide alerts and manage workflows and location of the object.

Better Support Options

Alfresco comes with multiple support options. Firstly, it is supported by the company Alfresco, which gives users direct access to the Alfresco's engineering team and most recent bug fixes. This is currently the best way to get 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: As the source code is open source, you can train your developers in-house to support your application built using Alfresco.

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

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

Free Upgrades

For every new release, you will get free upgraded software. You might have to take care of your specific customization to upgrade to a later 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 the book contain an extended example to help you implement your requirements using Alfresco. The example is an attempt to solve similar content management problems to those that you would encounter in a typical enterprise. The example is something you can relate to.

By providing an extended example in this book, my idea is to:

  • Engage you, and keep the material feeling real-world.

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

  • Give the book an overall theme—even a narrative engine to keep things moving and not feeling like technical documentation.

 

Where do You get More Information?


The best place to start looking for more information is Alfresco’s corporate website (http://www.alfresco.com) itself. You can find the latest news and events, various training programs offered worldwide, presentations, demonstrations, and hosted trials.

Alfresco is 100% open source and all the downloads are available from the SourceForge.net website at http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=143373.

The Alfresco Wiki (http://wiki.alfresco.com) contains documentation such as a tutorial, user guide, developer guide, administrator guide, roadmap, etc.

Alfresco discussion forums (http://forums.alfresco.com) are the best place to share your thoughts, and to get tips and tricks about Alfresco implementation.

If you would like to file a bug or to know more details 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 best-of-breed open-source technologies and contributions from the open-source community to get higher quality software produced more quickly at much lower cost.

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

About the Author

  • 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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