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Alfresco Takes ECM to the Cloud

Alfresco on Thursday released a major new version of its enterprise content management software platform that will help enterprises transition the use of ECM to the cloud.

The new release, Alfresco Enterprise 4, introduces an HTML 5-based user interface targeted at supporting mobile devices, notably iPads. The new UI embeds key social network features such as the ability to favorite, like and comment on content. It also integrates with social networks and has links to GoogleDocs, Microsoft Office and Quickoffice HD for iPad users.

With a new emphasis on bringing the use of social networking to the enterprise, Alfresco 4 is a precursor to the company's launch of a pure cloud-based version of the ECM platform this spring. Alfresco Enterprise 4 will synchronize with its cloud version via the forthcoming cloud connector, which will let customers integrate their premises-based content management system with the cloud version, enabling file sharing and other forms of collaboration.

"In the same way we focused in open source in our first wave of disruption of the ECM industry, we think cloud is driving the second phase of disruption for this industry," said Alfresco chief marketing manager Todd Barr in an interview. "We're trying to stay out in front and innovate to make sure we make Alfresco a platform that can be used to the cloud."

Alfresco was founded in 2005 by John Newton, who also helped launch ECM vendor Documentum, a leading provider of document management software that is now part of EMC. Based on London, Alfresco has its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta and now has 250 global channel partners. The company claims it has thousands of enterprise customers, including Toyota, NASA, Merck and Cisco.

The Alfresco platform is Java-based and includes a document repository that puts metadata around objects to add intelligence to file management with such features as version control, sharing and search. Alfresco also uses Microsoft's SharePoint Protocol to integrate with Office.

In addition to EMC's Documentum business unit, Alfresco competes with IBM's FileNet, OpenText and SharePoint. Barr pointed out that Alfresco also interoperates with SharePoint repositories, thanks to support for the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard. Alfresco played a key role in convincing ECM vendors, including Microsoft, to support CMIS.

The cloud version of Alfresco is currently in beta. Barr said it runs on Amazon Web Services' EC2 service and will provide a multitenant ECM platform. Alfresco also plans to offer integration with DropBox, letting users tie files stored in that file sharing services to the Alfresco ECM.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/02/2012 at 1:14 PM


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