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Why Alfresco Is Just Plain Silly

So if you read the totallllly not biased CMSWire publication (sarcasm, plainly it’s the most prejudiced and predisposed publication available for the CMS sector), you certainly saw the article in print yesterday, Under the Covers: Alfresco’s SharePoint Services (WSS) Killer. Obviously a rather bold statement, but hey, it’s CMSWire and in all probability the next one will be SharePoint: How It Robs Heroic Veterans and Kills Kittens Mercilessly.

Though I think Alfresco is a neat product (although it makes me think of the Olive Garden), I think the product team missed the principal concept regarding enterprise deployments that transpire in a suitably planned, structured, and managed IT department. Commonly (just padding that), they choose a technology stack and stick with it, and this is for palpable, advantageous reasons. In fact, any enterprise architectural methodology, if not calling it out directly, will in the least allude to this. From a support and manageability standpoint staffing resources don’t have to be spread so thin from having to learn more platforms / technologies / etc., mediation functions can act transitory between sub units (i.e. developers can hand of tasks between each other). Along the same lines, barriers to effective communication drop, even from an operations / development standpoint (arguably the most volatile relationship in any company), heightening completion of task speed and elevating quality of service since it shares a common language.  From a cost standpoint, they are called Enterprise Agreements with MSFT. Most companies that heavily use MSFT products have em. I could keep going on with the benefits of sticking to a stack, but honestly from a resourcing standpoint it is just an evident decision.

And Alfreso runs on freakin Apache Tomcat and uses MySQL database?!?!?!? Now don’t get me wrong, the site that you are reading this on runs RedHat and the backend database is MySQL (don’t believe me? Click here for an 404), I enjoy this stack as much as the next guy (for personal use). But honestly, for a Microsoft centric shop Alfresco is asking a lot. Now in order to properly support the implementation, there either has to be training of an existing resource, or a new resource acquired. And yet another portal to throw into the mix to confuse users. Most likely with support that is not comparable to MSFT PSS.

I don’t get it.

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9 Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    Regarding your comment about only running on MYSQL and Tomcat: Alfresco Enterprise is certified against several different combos of operating systems, databases and application servers, http://tinyurl.com/bk9vwl.

    Your arguments for vendor lock-in are creative but do you really think it is a good idea to be at the mercy of any one vendor?

  2. Adam Buenz says:

    Nancy:

    IMHO, making a decision between being locked into one vendor shows more foresight than being locked into 7 vendors, if that is what you are asking. I don’t see what the “good” part about spreading your company technology stack thin is. Inclusive maintenance and support would be a nightmare.

    I read through the link you sent. I think my argument is still pertinent, because there was an overarching topic that was “I don’t want to hire anymore people to support YET another product in my company”. Even under the Windows platform, you still have both WebLogic and Tomcat, both of which are intensive enough technologies that could easily be translated to a full time position in an organization.

  3. Andrew Connell says:

    Nancy-
    To build off what Adam said, I’d rather be locked into one vendor and have no integration / data sharing story beacuse one vendor will have it all the data sharing work OOTB, or at least a heck of a lot more than multiple vendors.

  4. Mike says:

    If you are a MS shop with MS enterprise agreements, use .Net development etc introducing a Java based app is probably not going to appeal no matter what it is. However, if you have an Oracle enterprise license and/or are a Java shop and/or use J2EE app servers etc then products that provide a open approach that allow you to reuse your existing investment are going to appeal. Be forced to use .Net, SQLServer, Active Directory, IE etc etc doesn’t work for everyone. It’s horses for courses.

  5. Matthew says:

    I travel to alot of large corporations in the US and CA as part of my software support job. I work extensively with SA’s, DBA’s and web admins. Very infrequently do i find any sizable organization that is 100% Microsoft. Most have Oracle, MYSQL, Apache, Linux, etc in house. So i don’t see this as silly. I work in the Records Mgmt vertical market and most of the implementations of Sharepoint i have seen have not lived up to the hype.
    Furthermore, based on both your domain name and the big MVP logo, i think it’s funny that you call their article ‘prejudiced’. Lastly, in your ‘about’ page you mention having several ‘deployments’ in various branches of the Government; you may have noticed during your ‘deployment’ with the “United States Marine Core” (sic) that they have “Esprit de corps”. Processors have ‘cores’. Interesting article though – thanks!

  6. Luis Sala says:

    Adam and Andrew,

    First off, a disclaimer: I work for Alfresco.

    Next, I agree that the article is a bit, uhm, “sensationalistic”.

    There are definitely pros and cons to both single-vendor and multi-vendor architectures. Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference based on the customer’s current architecture, stated goals, etc. At Alfresco, we make every effort to interoperate with an MSFT stack. While the core product is indeed Java-based, the software works with Active Directory, MSSQL Server, includes a CIFS server, SharePoint Protocol support and an MS Office add-in.

    Customizing Alfresco can usually be achieved through server-side JavaScript and simple HTML templates that don’t require Java knowledge. Additionally, Alfresco’s SOAP and REST interfaces make integration from .NET-based apps fairly straightforward. In fact, I’m writing some C# code samples right now.

    Andrew notes: “I’d rather be locked into one vendor and have no integration / data sharing story beacuse one vendor will have it all the data sharing work OOTB, or at least a heck of a lot more than multiple vendors.”

    Just as there are vendors with a very well-integrated solution suite, I can tell you horror stories of vendors whose stack is horribly disjointed. This is usually a result of growth by acquisition and admittedly, MSFT is unlikely to have this issue because they can afford to assign as many resources as necessary to ensure integration. But that is not the case for the “typical” vendor.

    In any case, we ultimately want to offer an alternative to SharePoint for those enterprises that are interested in it. While it’s more likely that a “pure” MSFT shop will not even consider a non-MSFT alternative, the fact is that we’ve had our fair share of MSFT shops adopt Alfresco.

    The argument that I don’t want to hire anymore people to support YET another product in my company is mostly valid when applied to smaller shops, though I feel it’s sometimes derived out of fear of the unfamiliar/unknown. In actuality, it’s not difficult for a competent MSFT sys-admin to be able to manage a Java app server (and applications) running on Windows.

    I would argue that larger shops are very likely to have a mixed environment anyway and experience has shown us that is indeed the case. That means that savvy resources are likely to already be on-hand.

    We let our customers “self select” by allowing them to try the software at no charge and we help those interested in overcoming any challenges or answer any doubts. If the customers are uncomfortable with the application, stack or anything else, they can quickly and easily disengage and pursue other avenues.

    For obvious reasons, Microsoft, its partners, customers and/or developers have little reason to be concerned about Alfresco or similar products/solutions displacing existing installations. However, I urge any IT purchaser to make informed decisions as to which solution to choose wherever alternatives, such as Alfresco, are available. They may be pleasantly surprised at what they find.

    Thanks for your attention.

    — Luis

  7. Brice Dunwoodie says:

    Adam,

    I am the founder and publisher of CMSWire.

    I think your comments that CMSWire is “the most prejudiced and predisposed publication available for the CMS sector” are curious. What exactly do you mean by this and what is such a strong statement based on?

    If you are trying to say that we are prejudiced against .NET or MOSS or WSS, that is ridiculous, and I would say that you are seriously misinformed.

    We have mountains of neutral and positive coverage of Microsoft’s products. Most of the people who contribute to the publication have more experience and affinity with Microsoft’s products than with LAMP or Java stacks.

    I personally spent many years designing and building .NET web solutions. I am a fan of .NET and of the SharePoint *platform*.

    The author of that article, Barb Mosher, was previously a SharePoint solutions architect.

    I could go on and on.

    If you’re fishing for dispositions against Microsoft, the only thing you’ll hear from us is that we think competition is healthy. We think challenges from the likes of Alfresco and Nuxeo will be good for this space.

    There may be some very biased people in the room. But they are certainly not on the CMSWire side.

    If you have professional feedback or suggestions you want to share directly with me. I welcome it. My contact information is listed in our About section.

  8. PeterB says:

    I’ve never heard of Alfresco, but Brice is right in that new ideas are always good and gives MS the opportunity to “borrow” them or buy them out.

    Obviously no one would go LAMP voluntarily especially if the organisation has invested in Windows/SharePoint skills.

    Alfresco would do well to support a WIST stack: Windows, IIS, SQL, Tomcat. At least you wouldn’t feel too dirty running Apache on a server as a .NET developer because chances are you’re already running an SVN server.

  9. Pierre says:

    I think that’s easy to split on MySQL when MsSQL can’t even do standard SQL (tell me the contrary, I experienced it, MSSQL is such a joke).

    Be a grown up adult, run UNIX.

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