I have been building enterprise applications for what now seems to be ages. Technologies have come and gone, some became commodities others proved to be just fads. What is increasingly obvious today is that there is nothing like a global user base which can stabilize products rapidly as well as weed out the ones that don’t listen. As a result we have seen wonderful products take the center stage. Apache, Tomcat, Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) platform – the list can go on. And now Alfresco appears on the scene, catering to a burgeoning demand for enterprise content management solutions while building on top of the already mature and widely-accepted open source technologies listed above. So what? It’s the feeling that I have come to associate with such open source products – “It just works!”
I have used various commercial enterprise products over the past 10 years or so. In recent years, I have developed expertise on EMC Documentum which is a high-end, expensive content management platform loaded with all the features you can think of; and then some. For various reasons, it is significantly complex as well. I believe that this complexity, more than any other thing, puts it out of the expertise limits of a large number of professionals. As a result there is an imbalance between the demand and supply of such expertise which drives the professional fees higher for Documentum professionals. Who am I to complain?
There is a huge existing market for Documentum and I don’t expect it to disappear any time soon. Accordingly there will be a need for such services and the professionals who can market their services successfully will thrive. Then I start thinking about the market that doesn’t buy Documentum for various reasons.
A cheapskate like me would test drive Alfresco in no time because it is free. And when I did I was in for a surprise. It was all setup in about 20 minutes and it just worked! I have probably installed Documentum about 50 times now and it was never so quick and I know now how to get it to work most of the time. This comparison is a bit unfair because an enterprise grade production configuration will probably take longer than 20 minutes for Alfresco. But a development environment setup for Documentum in 20 minutes? I would love to see that.
At this point, I am not going to compare Alfresco and Documentum much more. All I would say is that if you haven’t committed to a particular platform for enterprise content management and you are looking for one, give Alfresco a try.
I am hooked because it worked the first time I installed it and it has been working fine ever since. I can just drag a document to a shared folder path which is actually a folder in the repository – the document gets versioned, metadata is populated automatically for most document types, and it is indexed for full-text searches! If you want to see simplicity, robustness, and elegance in one place, give Alfresco a try!