Tag: Content Services

Confluence Alfresco Integration for the Enterprise

Posted by on October 05, 2010

Today organizations of all sizes are adopting wiki solutions as a way to facilitate communication and collaboration around planning, projects and departmental matters. Wiki solutions allow users to attach documents to pages and to hyperlink to those documents from other pages. This is extremely useful, however documents, which have traditionally been stored and secured on corporate shared drives are now living in separate places. Some now live within the wiki, while others continue to live on file servers. This is an example of an age-old issue in technology; as we bring in new tools that provide us with more options and better ways to work we are faced managing the side effects of a growing technology footprint.

This issue is not new technology, but instead, one of architecture. As our needs grow we need to adjust our architecture to accommodate new demands. In this case, what we need to do to solve the problem is to separate a few concerns. Some users want to access the document through a file server (shared drive) while others want to access it via the wiki. Traditional shared drive technology doesn’t do a great deal to help us accommodate this. Traditional shared drives provide file system access to documents but lack APIs that allow us to get to our content by more sophisticated means. Further, most wiki technology is one sided as well; while a wiki solution may provide web based access via pages and services they tend to lack file system access. Finally, even if the wiki could “project” its store as a shared drive it’s not likely to be the proper system of record for your documents. By separating the issues of storage, management and delivery we can articulate a solution that allows us to serve documents through a traditional shared drive interface via a proper system of record while at the same time, providing APIs that allow us to get to that content as a service so we can incorporate better ways of working with the document through new technologies as they emerge.

Enter Alfresco. Alfresco is architected from the ground up to be a system of record. It’s designed to provide API / service based access to your documents and content, as well as traditional shared drive access. Alfresco supports three different remote programming APIs including SOAP, webscripts and CMIS. And in addition to presenting itself as a file server so users can connect to it as a file share, Alfresco also mimics an FTP server, a WEBDAV server and even a Microsoft Share Point server. Alfresco is designed to store, secure and manage your documents and to provide access to those documents in the way that best suits your users.

If we use Alfresco to store our documents and integrate our wiki solution to read and write documents though Alfresco’s APIs rather to the wiki itself we satisfy our objectives:

  • Store documents in a proper system of record
  • Allow file-share access to the documents
  • Allow API level access to client applications like wiki

confluence attachments integrated with alfresco

hlgh architecture

Alfresco’s capabilities go far beyond security and content retrieval. Once your documents are in Alfresco they can be searched, workflowed, transformed, translated, versioned and so on and so on, no matter how they are accessed; all through stock capabilities provided by Alfresco out of the box.

At Rivet Logic we see real value in allowing knowledge workers to interact with their content though tools and in whatever process that fits their needs best. At the same time, it’s important to manage content or the same efficiencies that are gained through productive tools and well-designed process are lost due to stove-piped information. The need is real, and given that, we set out to create an open source project that demonstrates a more appropriate architecture and provides a stepping-stone for much greater integration going forward. Najy Nicolas, a “Riveter” from our Boston office has integrated one of the most popular wikis, Confluence, with the management capabilities of Alfresco, the leading open source document repository. We’re calling this project the Confluence Alfresco Integration rivet or CAIr for short. CAIr is open source. You can find downloads, source code and documentation here: http://wiki.rivetlogic.com/display/CAIR/Home

Alfresco sets course for 4.x at Alfresco Community Meet up in DC

Posted by on October 21, 2009

Yesterday about 100 people crowded the halls of the Kellogg Conference Center in Washington DC as another round of Alfresco community summits got underway.

Bill Robinson (Alfresco, VP Sales) reported that 1% of the total Alfresco community / ecosystem base has been attending these meetings. The customer to vendor mix seemed to be about 50 / 50. As a member of Rivet Logic I now help to tip the scales on the vendor side. As a customer of Alfresco in my past life in publishing I can tell you that these events are really important for customers. The opportunity to network with other customers is unparalleled. If you can’t make it out to Atlanta or LA for the upcoming events, mark your calendar for next year. You can’t afford to miss these.

John Newton, Alfresco co-founder and CTO gave the keynote address and laid out the strategic and technical vision for the upcoming versions of Alfresco. As usual he did not disappoint. Alfresco will continue to attempt to disrupt the current ECM market with evolving open source business model and technical strategy and innovation. Of particular note:

  • Alfresco will license the Webscript engine and Surf framework under an ASF (Apache Software Foundation) license. The repository and other core technology will remain under the GPL. Alfresco will retain ownership and continue to maintain these libraries.
  • Alfresco will continue with ongoing activities in partnership with SpringSource (now a division of VMware) to integrate the Webscript engine and Surf in to Spring MVC.
  • Some components of the platform, which are intended specifically for enterprise deployments, will only be available in the Enterprise edition of Alfresco.
  • CMIS, an emerging content management standard continues along its approval process within the OASIS standards body, albeit at a slower pace mostly due to red tape. CMIS is to content repositories as SQL is to the database. In the late 80’s and early 90’s the adoption of SQL standards helped the relational database market gain widespread traction. SQL enabled third party vendors and development platforms more easily and cost effectively develop value. John Newton, a veteran of the SQL revolution, strongly believes that CMIS will have a similar effect in the content management space. CMIS will be a core component of the Alfresco architecture and strategy.
  • Alfresco will be evolving its architecture to better support an ability to run in a cloud environment. Alfresco’s architecture has always contained key elements of cloud-ready software including its stateless service tier. Future enhancements will include functionality like repository sharding.
  • The DM and WCM repositories will be consolidated. The AVM technology under the WCM repository will be retired in favor of a DM / CMIS based store which supports a similar feature set including snapshots, sandboxes, and a simplified layering scheme. This activity will lead to a, much needed single object model and a single set of core services for library functions, permissions, auditing and so on.
  • Alfresco will focus on CMIS and WCM for 4.x.
    • Alfresco WCM focus will deepen its developer focus going forward with Spring and Eclipse integration.
    • Alfresco Runtime servers, currently based on AVM stores will be replaced with scalable CMIS runtimes.
    • Alfresco Share will continue to take on administrative functionality and should completely replace the Alfresco Explorer client by 4.x

I was able to get to the Records Management best practices break out session, which I found very informative. Strong RM capabilities and DOD 5015.2 certification have been a long time coming. Alfresco RM is implemented within Alfresco Share as a “Site type.” Users may be invited in to the RM space to become record managers and consumers. During the presentation we learned about current trends in RM and were treated to a demonstration of the RM application and the process of moving content through its lifecycle as a record from declaration to deposition.

Our CEO, Mike Vertal, outlined a large-scale records management solution that Rivet Logic has been working on with SAIC based on Alfresco, Liferay, and SAIC’s Teratext email archiving platform.

I gave a talk entitled Alfresco Best Practices, which I co-authored with Jeff Potts of Optaros and Peter Monks of Alfresco. The three of us are very excited to have had an opportunity to consolidate all of the practices, pointers and gotchas we’ve learned over the years. The presentation is aimed a variety of levels from Alfresco noobs to Alfresco experts and attempts to cover the lifecycle of a project from conception to deployment and operational aspects. It’s a lot of material to cover in 90 minutes. We invited listeners to tweet about their favorite best practices, practices they thought they could implement immediately and any areas we might have missed. The most active, productive tweeter in each section was awarded a much-coveted Alfresco Community Member t-shirt. We’ll be giving this talk in Atlanta, LA and at a number of the international meet ups – so bring your notepad and twitter account! For those who can’t make it to the events please watch and contribute online at: #alfrescobestpractices. All the material – including more detailed source material will be made available on line after the meet ups. We invite you to enhance and embellish the material. Also for those of you who run local community groups… this presentation is a great score. Download it and present it at your next meeting!

Alfresco Tech Talk Live: Leveraging Alfresco Share for Collaborative Enterprise Authoring

Posted by on June 04, 2009

Tomorrow (Friday June 5th, 2009) at 12pm EST I have the pleasure of presenting and leading a discussion for the bi-weekly Alfresco Tech Talk Live hosted by Dr. Yong Qu of Alfresco.

We’ll be exploring how Alfresco Share, with some basic modifications, can be leveraged to create a collaborative authoring and management environment for your enterprise content. Join us tomorrow for a demonstration and open discussion as we explore this interesting subject.

To attend, please visit http://alfresco.acrobat.com/live and enter the meeting room as a Guest.

Alfresco Community Meeting in NYC 2009

Posted by on May 11, 2009

Last week I attended the Alfresco community meetup in New York City. The turn out was impressive. Nancy Garrity (Alfresco Community Manager) told me that the event was completely “sold-out” and that there was not enough room for everyone that wanted to come. I was sorry to hear that we were not able have everyone there that wanted to be there but it’s really great that there is so much interest in Alfresco.

The session got underway with Ian Howells, Alfresco’s Chief Marketing Officer, who reviewed the trends in favor of open source ECM, not the least of which is the accelerating demand driven by the global recession.

Michael “Uzi” Uzquiano, Product Manager for Alfresco WCM and Alfresco Network, then laid out a roadmap for Alfresco WCM, Surf and Alfresco Network. Some key highlights were:

• Repository harmonization. Alfresco provides two distinct content stores: the Web Content Management (WCM) repository, and the Document Management (DM) repository. Alfresco is bringing these two stores together at the API level and then consolidating many of the core capabilities.

• Clustering for the WCM repository (not just DM) is under development.

• New Forms Service: Alfresco WCM has long had a capability for defining forms. A user can install an XSD in the Data Dictionary. The XSD is then translated in to a Web form that provides a friendly user interface for reading, modifying, and storing XML. The DM repo does not have such a feature. Instead, within DM property sheets map to the underlying content model. Many users have requested both capabilities be available uniformly for both DM and WCM. Alfresco is responding to these requests with the new service. The new Forms Service will have a much more powerful persistence capability. I asked to find out if customers who already have XSD form definitions in play would need to change to a different format. I was told that these customers should be safe.

• Spring Webflow integration with Surf: Spring Webflow is the project in the Spring Portfolio that focuses on providing the infrastructure for building and running rich, Java-based web applications.

Uzi laid out a timeline for future Alfresco releases:

1. v3.2 Labs targeted for June

2. v3.2 Enterprise targeted for September 2009

3. v3.3 in early 2010

4. v4.0 later in 2010

In addition to Uzi’s presentation, a number of other presentations and demos were also given. I particularly liked the customer case study given by the Warren country Correction Center. They process a large volume of inmates in and out of the facility. Each time an inmate is processed in or out of the correction center a large volume of paper work is generated which must be stored for long periods of time. Warren country is now well on their way to eliminating the need to store large volumes of content in physical file cabinets. They have implemented an Alfresco based solution for archival and retrieval of inmate data. Electronic storage of the inmate information allows the correction center to quickly search and retrieve important information on inmate background, health, behavior and other important documents for both operational and legal functions.

Other demonstrations included
• Scanning best practices and an Alfresco-integrated Kofax demonstration.
• A walkthrough of Alfresco Share
• Digital tampering protection through an integration with Surety’s Absolute Proof.
• IMAP demonstration that allows your email bin and folders directly with Alfresco.
• A demonstration of a Flex UI for Alfresco.

I gave a presentation entitled “Leveraging Alfresco Share for Enterprise Content”. At Rivet Logic, we get a lot of requests for solutions to help authors manage deep, inter-related content types that need to ultimately be published to numerous channels, including the Web. In addition to the publishing requirements, enterprise class assets usually benefit from an authoring environment that includes social and collaborative capabilities like those found in Alfresco Share. To address this, we demonstrated a number of best practices and design patterns for managing enterprise content with an authoring environment plugged in to Alfresco Share combined with an instant Web preview capability. Based on the feedback, the approach seemed well received. Like many of our customers, members of the Alfresco community are quite interested in collaborative authoring environments for enterprise class content.

It was great to meet with everyone who was able to attend. These types of events are vital for the community. It’s a perfect time to give Alfresco feedback and for the customers and community to meet one another.

Alfresco Community Conference

Posted by on October 11, 2008

Today I am back in Boston after spending most of the week in Washington DC. I was there for the Alfresco Community Conference and also to spend some time at Rivet Logic’s new headquarters. We have a lot more room for our team in our new digs. Every time I have a chance to spend time with the group in Reston I am reminded of what an awesome team Rivet Logic has put together and why joining this team was such an easy decision.

The DC Conference was absolutely awesome. I left DC with the same excitement I had for Alfresco the first day I read about it on the web back in early 2005. This coming release is a Landmark release for Alfresco and a springboard for really big things in the future.

Last year Alfresco gave us Web Scripts. Web Scripts was raw functionality / capability for binding web-based functionality hosted in the repository to a parameterized, ReSTful URL. Web Scripts allowed Alfresco to easily integrate with other platforms, participate in mash-ups and to some extent get around the issues with the traditional alfresco web client (it’s much slower to develop for and a bit “click” intensive.) Web Scripts by it’s very nature is AJAX friendly which leads to better, more rich user experience and the javascript / freemarker construction makes building Web Scripts a whole lot easier than writing, compiling and deploying heavy Java code.

This year Alfresco gave us:

  • A better core repository
  • SURF
  • Alfresco Share
  • A peek at SURF Development Studio
  • CMIS

It’s clear that without the foundational work of Web Scripts and the capabilities in the WCM product the items above would not have come to pass in a single year. Web Scripts has enabled an explosion of capability. Last years release of Web Scripts may have seemed like a powerful but merely additional capability but it laid the foundation for a huge growth explosion. The game board was set up with last year’s release and it is evident with 3.x that the game has changed.

As Alfresco’s application architecture is refactored they are also able to refactor their team a bit and more cleanly dedicate resources to specific areas of the architecture. We now have a dedicated team of strong developers with a focus on repository scalability and stability. This week we were told we can expect better performance, scalability in both the DM and WCM repositories. We also heard that harmonizing the APIs and capabilities for these repositories is a goal and is underway. Alfresco has also added a new remote interface to the repository that allows Microsoft Office to use the Alfresco repository as if it were a Share Point server. Something good just got better. I like the direction the engineering is heading by cleanly separating the repository from the applications that work on top of it. I also like what I have heard about the focus on key areas like performance and scalability. New features are always important but are a distant second to improved performance and scalability of something as core and foundational as the repository and its content services.

SURF is an application platform for aggregating and delivering Web Scripts (and other components.) SURF is an MVC for site / application composition. Alfresco has taken Webscripts, templating, and URL addressability and parameterization capabilities out of the core repository, combined them with a set of new capabilities and re-organized them in a entirely separate framework. In essence SURF is entirely independent of the Alfresco Repository. The key here is that while SURF is entirely separate, creating Alfresco client capabilities in SURF is a snap.

Alfresco Share is a new application that Alfresco has developed, which, for many people will eliminate the need to use the traditional Alfresco web client for anything other than repository administration. Share is a collaboration platform similar to something one might expect from Share Point but with much more Enterprise 2.0 and social features. Share is really impressive and it demonstrates what can be built with SURF and how quickly and easily one can build it. Share was developed in less than a year but has features and capabilities of other systems that have been under development for years. Best of all, Share will continue to get better at a similar rate and because it is so easy to write new components with Web Scripts the community can contribute and accelerate this growth.

Development Studio is a SURF based application that integrates with Alfresco WCM, the Alfresco Network and your SURF application to provide you with a visual (WYSIWYG / drag and drop / edit in line) environment for developing SURF applications. I truly believe that Alfresco WCM is an awesome platform with advanced features and capabilities not found anywhere else in Open Source and in some cases even in the world of the proprietary giants. WCM is a new platform with groundbreaking capabilities but without a something like SURF or the Development Studio to demonstrate these capabilities, it was hard for customers to recognize the value sitting right in-front of them. Early on in WCM, Rivet Logic had developed similar capability to what you see in SURF for the exact same reason. SURF and the Development Studio help to round out the Alfresco offering and will really help to highlight the unique and powerful value in Alfresco WCM.

CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Standard) is a new standard for ECM platform interoperability. Today it is in DRAFT status with OASIS but according to John Newton, CTO of Alfresco there is a strong probability of its adoption with the backing of the like of Microsoft, Documentum, Open Text, Alfresco and several other key players. CMIS supports both Web Service and REST based protocal bindings making it very easy to integrate in to an existing platforms. Alfresco’s REST implementation provides nearly full coverage of the specification. Web Scripts played an important role in the lightning-fast turn-around time for this implementation. Again we see the foundational work of Web Scripts delivered last year providing big results less than a year later. CMIS will allow developers to write repository agnostic applications that will work against any repository which supports CMIS including Alfresco. CMIS also specifies a SQL like query language. Unlike previously proposed standards that pushed XQUERY and XPATH, CMIS is adopting a well understood paradigm which I believe will only encourage its adoption.

It was a fantastic week and an exciting conference. If you have not looked at Alfresco lately it is definitely time to take another look. This is truly an exciting release for this product! I really enjoyed the opportunity to see everyone in the community, Alfresco, and at Rivet Logic HQ.