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Open Source ECM Growing Up

The Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space is about more than just managing content. It's about creating content too.

That's where open source ECM vendor Alfresco's new Labs 3.0 release comes into play. Alfresco Labs 3.0 adds new Web Studio functionality that enables users to build sites with drag and drop ease.

Alfresco's open source products compete in the commercial space against Open Text, EMC/Documentum and Microsoft's SharePoint, among others. The Labs release is Alfresco's community version and represents the leading edge of its open source release efforts.

"We are seeing a continuing increase in demand for Alfresco," claimed John Newton, co-founder and CTO of Alfresco Software. "Many organizations tell us they are seeking more cost effective ways to achieve their IT strategies and they are, more than ever, rigorously review existing proprietary software renewals," he told InternetNews.com.

Among the new additions in Alfresco Labs 3 is the Web Studio application, which uses the Alfresco developed Surf web framework. Surf is a modular script-able Java-based web framework for Web applications. Newton claimed that Web Studio can be used for a drag-and-drop design experience to build Web sites and applications.

"Web Studio allows you to work with and view the Web site you are developing, but uses the Yahoo YUI [Yahoo User Interface] AJAX libraries," Newton explained.

The Yahoo YUI is an Ajax toolkit for building and displaying dynamic Web content. Web Studio is also designed to develop and edit Web sites safely by using the new Alfesco Web Content Management REST based Web Scripts.

Alfresco Labs 3.0 will also integrate with other Web content management systems like the open source Joomla project. However, Alfresco is targeting a different space for his products overall.

"Joomla and Drupal have very successfully focused on Web site presentation management, which allows the non-technical content editor to manage page layouts and site features," Newton said. "With the introduction of Alfresco Web Studio, Alfresco has provided comparable tools for the enterprise, allowing non-technical users to create and manipulate new Web sites, but still adhering to the enterprise architecture and technology requirements."

Alfresco Labs 3 also includes some support for the new CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) standard that is currently being developed by the OASIS standards body. Newton noted that CMIS holds the promise of one day becoming the SQL of the content management industry.

The Labs release is a precursor for upcoming features in the Alfresco Enterprise release, which benefits from additional testing, certification and support services.

"Our Labs release is a community version of the Enterprise release," Newton commented. "As always, the Labs version includes the latest innovations in the Alfresco product line for the Alfresco Community to test and comment on."

Newton explained that the Alfresco has been working on the Labs 3 release since the summer of 2008 with an aim of expanding Alfresco's collaboration and social computing initiatives and to provide an open source alternative to Microsoft's SharePoint server product.

Currently, Alfresco does not offer support for everything that Sharepoint offers. SharePoint uses the Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) protocol for federated user authentication access. ADFS is Microsoft's implementation of the WS-Federation standard. Newton noted that he was looking into the issue of ADFS support but he didn't think that it was something that Alfresco currently supports.