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Alfresco Gets SharePoint Savvy

Alfresco Software’s open source enterprise content management system presents a new challenge to SharePoint.

SharePoint may be the hot collaboration platform for application developers, but one open source provider is taking strong steps to solidify itself as a viable alternative.

Alfresco Software Inc. is taking direct aim at Microsoft SharePoint with the release of the Alfresco Labs 3 open source enterprise content management (ECM) system. The new version adds support for Microsoft Office SharePoint protocols, allowing Alfresco to serve as a fully compatible SharePoint repository.

Any organization using Microsoft Office can directly leverage the native Alfresco repository in the same way SharePoint repositories are used today, the company says. Alfresco President and CEO John Powell says organizations now have a choice of document repositories, even if they want to use SharePoint Server as a front-end.

"This way it's as if they're using SharePoint, there's no push from one system to another. That means any Office user in the world without any software being installed can use Alfresco. And for IT folks it's just a matter of configuration on the back-end," says Powell.

SharePoint compatibility extends to the Alfresco Surf platform, which lets developers create REST-based Web applications and sites. Based on Alfresco's Web Scripts lightweight-scripting and templating technology, Surf-based applications can be deployed as Web Parts within SharePoint. The updated UI features' components are built around Adobe Flash and the Yahoo! UI to enable advanced presentation.

John Pwell

Ahead of the Pack
Alfresco is ahead of the ECM pack with its SharePoint integration, says Kathleen Reidy, senior analyst at research firm The 451 Group. "The most compelling short-term news is that they have that Office-level integration," Reidy says. "That makes it a lot more viable for IT management to say, 'We're going to pull out the SharePoint Server or complement the SharePoint Server with Alfresco.'"

Making the Alfresco solution unique versus other open source ECM offerings is that competing solutions require a plug-in, according to Reidy. "I'm not aware of anyone else that has done that protocol-level integration at this point," she says.

Powell says the integration was made possible by Microsoft's publication of key SharePoint protocols. The specs were published to comply with a March 24, 2004, antitrust ruling by the European Commission.

"We couldn't have done this without that level of documentation," says Powell. "It's rather analogous to when SQL got standardized and ODBC came out. By opening up their protocols, Microsoft is in effect enabling the same thing."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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