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Alfresco ECM, With a Dash of Web 2.0

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has always been about managing and connecting to content.

Open source startup Alfresco is taking the ECM model a step further with the help of Web 2.0 approaches for the Alfresco Community Release 2.1.

"The 2.1 release really changes the way we look at the architecture of applications," John Newton, Alfresco's CTO and chairman, told internetnews.com. "From the beginning, we built a Service Oriented Architecture with SOAP , which fits into the more traditional way that enterprises integrate systems. What Web 2.0 has done is that it provides a tool to make a Web-oriented architecture possible."

What Newton means by a Web oriented architecture is one in which enterprise application components, in this case Alfresco 2.1, are Web accessible via a URL, as opposed to making a more complex SOAP call.

Alfresco is calling this new approach Web Scripts. What they do is provide a simple mapping between a URL and some components within the Alfresco repository.

"So it's a dispatching mechanism to be able to say from this url 'go and access a user interface component or something inside the alfresco system,'" Newton explained. "It's also a framework to be able to plug in various scripting languages to allow you to add new URL addressable components."

Newton noted that the Web-oriented approach more easily allows for mashups with both external sources as well as internal sources within the Alfresco content repository.

Additionally Alfresco 2.1 allows for mashups inside Microsoft Office applications. Newton explained that Alfresco has added a lightweight browser component to Office and plugged it into some common Office commands. Those commands hook in to bring related information from the Alfresco repository and are displayed in a task pane right next to the document.

The next version of Alfresco , version 2.2, will further expand the Web 2.0 posture of the ECM tool. Newton said developers are working integration of external services such as social networking and tagging tools. The idea is to bring those Web 2.0 approaches inside of Alfresco to provide an external view of what is going on with content and collaboration.

"I think that will be really groundbreaking in term of providing a collaboration environment for the enterprise."

Newton helped to launch Alfresco in 2005, after having been best known previously as the co-founder of enterprise content management (ECM) developer Documentum. The company has strived to be open source since its launch. Alfresco formally changed its licensing scheme in February from a Mozilla Public License (MPL) variant to the GPL version 2.