The IT Strategist’s Guide to Transforming ECM
7 habits that help you unlock the value of enterprise content
Agility and rapid innovation are required to address today's varied and evolving content needs. This habit covers how you can keep pace with a content services platform that features open APIs, open standards and an open source core.
Explore Open Technologies
The Advantages of an Open Content Services Platform
Content, and the information it contains, supports a multitude of business activities. As users’ needs change and the volume and types of content grow, it’s vital that you can continually adapt how you manage and integrate content with business processes. An open content services platform—one that uses open technologies and standards—is the only way to achieve the agility and rapid innovation your business demands.
The Problem with Proprietary ECM Systems
Companies have struggled to derive value from ECM systems based on proprietary technologies. Integration is complex and implementation efforts can take many months. Customization can require expensive specialists and make future upgrades a headache. And vendor lock-in limits technology choices and the ability to respond quickly to new requirements.
What Makes a Content Services Platform “Open?”
An open content services platform features:
What You Gain with an Open Content Services Platform
The benefits of adopting an open content services platform include:
Rapid Time to Value: You can shorten development cycles and maximize the value of content with a platform that is easy to integrate, extend, and customize.
Long-Term Agility: You can adapt quickly and innovate freely using the technologies that are right for your organization—now and in the future.
Architectural Flexibility: You can build applications using an API-led, microservices architecture, which enables rapid, iterative application delivery. (For more on the advantages of this architectural strategy, see - Take a Content Services Approach).
Better User Experience: You can support users where and how they like to work and deliver bespoke application experiences tailored to their needs. (For more on centering solution design on user challenges, see - Prioritize User Experience).
Thriving Ecosystem: You can tap into a broad ecosystem of developers and partners for engineering talent, advice, and custom solutions and add-ons.
Why is REST the way to go?
REST is currently the most commonly used standard for platform integrations. Its six guiding constraints —which include client-server architecture, statelessness, cacheability, and a uniform interface—allow you to integrate content services into business solutions in a performant, scalable, easily maintained way.
Check out the Alfresco REST API
Our API Explorer clearly documents each endpoint in the Alfresco Content Services REST API. You can experiment with the API in a live sandbox using the “Try it now!” button.
How Open Standards Eliminate Content Silos
Open standards make it easier to surface and use content in popular productivity applications and business systems. The most important standards in content management are listed below:
|Standard||Why It's Important|
|CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services)||This OASIS standard improves interoperability across content repositories. It is the dominant open standard in content management.|
|WebDAV, FTP||These standard file protocols allow file services to access content stored in the repository and present it as a shared network drive.|
|MS Office Services||This protocol allows users to open, edit, and save content from within any Microsoft Office application, including SharePoint.|
|IMAP, SMTP||These standard email protocols allow users to interact with content from within compatible email applications, like Microsoft Outlook.|
Standards support varies by ECM system. Of course, the broader the standards support, the more versatile and valuable a system will be within your IT environment.
CMIS: A Best Practice for Heterogeneous Environments
CMIS is often described as SQL for content management. The interoperability standard allows you to integrate content from multiple enterprise content management systems through a common API.
You can use the CMIS standard to maximize the return on your content assets while reducing vendor lock-in. Architects rely on CMIS to:
- Provide seamless access to content regardless of where it’s stored
- Unlock the content in ECM systems with hard-to-use proprietary APIs
- Maintain the flexibility to swap out ECM technologies over time
- Increase IT efficiency with a reusable skillset and code
Alfresco offers choice:
The Alfresco REST API supports CMIS methods as well as unique Alfresco features such as ratings and comments. Click here for more information on the supported APIs.
Innovation and Agility in Open Source Technology
There are lots of great reasons to use a content services platform based on open source technologies, including:
- Ongoing Innovation: Open source is where the real innovation is happening, driven by the contributions of a global developer base. Proprietary companies—including legacy ECM vendors—are often more motivated to collect maintenance fees than to drive technology advances that might disrupt their installed base.
- Transparency: Full visibility into the code base leads to shorter development times, faster security reviews, and more flexibility when adapting the software to your organization’s business needs and technical environment.
- Future Proofing: You’ve got greater long-term technical agility along with the freedom to draw from a large pool of developers. With proprietary software, you’re at the mercy of the company that controls the intellectual property (IP), constrained by their technology approaches and the level of their research and development investments.
- Code Quality: Open source software is generally highly stable, reliable, and secure because so many eyes are on the code. Plus, the transparency of open source means that bugs and vulnerabilities are more easily found and quickly patched.
Open source software is widely adopted, but a few misunderstandings persist. Here’s how to address them:
We’ll be forced to share our valuable IP
Many commercial open source companies (including Alfresco) have traditional software licenses that don’t require customers to open source their IP. The decision to contribute back to the open source community is entirely up to you.
Open source software doesn’t match the feature set of proprietary products
Not so. In fact, that’s the benefit of commercial platforms with an open source core. You get the best of open source innovation in a product that must also deliver the technical capabilities and customer value needed to compete with proprietary alternatives.
Openness Creates Options
Alfresco Content Services features an open source core, open APIs, and unmatched support for open standards. The openness of the platform has given rise to a vibrant ecosystem. In addition to pre-built integrations from Alfresco, you can take advantage of a wide range of industry-specific partner solutions and more than 500+ add-ons created by the Alfresco open source community.
Expert Interview: Developing in the Open
A conversation with Richard Esplin, Product Manager for the Open Source Core of Alfresco Content Services
Q: You’ve been involved in open source for more than a decade. How has open source evolved in that time?
In the past, you had to sell people on the value of open source. Now open source is the default position for many companies when adopting new solutions and development tools.
Q: How does Alfresco approach open source engineering?
Developing in the open is a culture as much as it is a specific technology or solution. And that culture includes a community that accelerates the innovation in our products, which benefits Alfresco customers.
Q: So open source fuels new feature development?
Absolutely. Just last week an Alfresco partner contributed back the code to help meet the EU accessibility directive. Now everyone can take advantage of that capability.
Q: What are some of the other advantages of open source?
Reduced vendor lock-in and faster time to market. You can see what’s going on under the hood and there’s a broad community of developers you can draw from if you need help.
Q: Alfresco Content Services is built on an open source core, which you’re responsible for managing. How do you go about that?
I collaborate with a broad community of developers to build our product. I’m very transparent about our plans and decisions. I publish and solicit feedback on our product roadmap, and I use our community forum to answer questions and stay in touch with developer concerns. Collaboration and transparency are key.
Q: Alfresco is a strong proponent of open standards. How is that commitment reflected in Alfresco Content Services?
Alfresco supports the most important open standards for content management. In fact, we were the first company to offer an implementation of CMIS.
But we also support standards across the entire developer experience. That includes formal standards like REST as well as the technologies that people are rallying around. In other words, we take advantage of existing ecosystems and tools whenever possible. That’s why we chose SOLR for indexing, SQL for analytics, Angular for UI, and Git for source control.
Q: So you’re giving developers more choice and more control.
Exactly. Agility is a major consideration. As an architect evaluating ECM systems, I’d ask:
How much of our current toolset can we use?
How transferable are the skills required to build solutions with this product?
What longevity can we expect from the technologies the product has adopted?
Does this product help us leverage our existing content investments?
Q: There are more than 30,000 developers in the Alfresco community. What investments have you made to support and engage them?
The primary motivation for the majority of those developers is to get their job done as quickly as possible. The Community site for Alfresco Content Services has lots of technical resources, including product documentation, video tutorials, sample code, and an issue tracker. We blog regularly and host online Office Hours and Tech Talks. About 400 questions are answered in our discussion forums monthly, mostly by people who aren’t even Alfresco employees.
Q: So developers have lots of information and expertise available to accelerate their learning curve. Is this true?
Yes. One of the metrics we track is how long it takes to get a new Alfresco installation up and running. In addition to building out our developer resources, our engineering team is always looking for ways to shorten implementation time. The Alfresco REST API and Amazon Quick Start are great examples of their efforts to help developers build and deploy solutions in days rather than weeks or months.
Q: Is it fair to say, the Alfresco open source community also includes many active, long-time contributors?
That’s right. Developers can get active in the community and make contributions to the code base. It’s very empowering. And it’s fun to work with people from around the world on a common goal. We hold hackathons and get together at industry events and meetups. This year’s Alfresco developers’ conference, DevCon2018, was completely sold out.
Q: Any final thoughts about openness?
It all comes back to fostering a transparent, collaborative culture. Openness is in Alfresco’s DNA. Our company name says it all. Alfresco (“al fresco”) means “in the open."