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Bring On The Open Source Alternatives To SharePoint

It seems the open source world is gunning for a bigger piece of the SharePoint pie these days.

As Alfresco Software Inc. continues to emerge as the leading provider of open source software enterprise collaboration software, rival open source vendors are stepping up their efforts.

For its part, Alfresco last week said it finished 2008 with 103 percent year-over-year revenue growth, as well as 92 percent year-over year growth during the last quarter of 2008 for the period ended February 28. Since it didn't disclose its' revenues, it's hard to get too excited about that stat, but the company does appear to be on a roll.

Alfresco said it has added 270 enterprise customers such as Federal Express, Fox Broadcasting, the New York Police Department, the State of Kansas, Sun Microsystems and Virgin Mobile.

I attended the local Industry Association of Software Architects meeting in New York a few weeks ago, where the topic was enterprise content management. It was hosted in Microsoft's offices and the speaker, coincidentally, was Jean Barmash, Alfresco's director of technical services.

While this was a vendor-neutral technology presentation, Barmash pointed out that Sharepoint 2007 rearranged the competitive stakes for ECM players. "They entered the collaboration space and all of a sudden it was a billion dollar industry and all of a sudden everyone in the industry needed to have some kind of SharePoint strategy," Barmash told attendees.

One that is making a push is Paris-based Nuxeo Corp., which last month moved into the North American market. The company, founded in 2000, offers what it calls a complete ECM suite that carries no license fees using the LGPL open source license.

Like Alfresco, it positions itself as a SharePoint Server alternative -- the company has just rolled out the Nuxeo Enterprise Platform 5.2, which adds SharePoint services support. A feature called MS WSS allows developers to implement file-based services, allowing Nuxeo to be seen as a Sharepoint Server via Windows Explorer and Office. "Users can save their documents into Nuxeo as if it were SharePoint," said Nuxeo CEO Eric Barroca.

The new release also includes a SQL-based storage repository, allowing for integration at the SQL level with business intelligence and ETL tools. Also new is WebWorkspace, which allows developers to create workspaces, including wikis and blogs and other collaborative Web sites.

The Paris-based company is not well-known in the United States, but it hopes to change that in the coming year, Barroca said.

Another player that is targeting the open source collaborative space is MindTouch Inc., which is focused more as a wiki-based collaborative application development platform. The company launched at last week's Web 2.0 Conference MindTouch 2009, which it describes as a developer platform for building rich collaborative apps and communities.

MindTouch was founded by two researchers who worked under Craig Mundie at Microsoft, Redmond's chief research and strategy officer. One of them is Aaron Fulkerson, MindTouch's CEO and founder.

"Collaboration is very inefficient and unproductive because you have to plug in a dozen-plus disconnected application data silos, getting access is incredibly painful and time consuming," Fulkerson said. "We built MindTouch to provide a collaborative canvas to stretch across all of your existing technological assets, inside your infrastructure, Web services, services-oriented architectures, databases and applications. We have this connective tissue for all these disconnected systems."

There are many others. If you're with an enterprise developing some of these new apps using wikis and other new capabilities to enable new forms of collaboration, we'd like to hear some of the successes and challenges you are experiencing from a development and deployment perspective. Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/08/2009

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