Abstract:

Funny little story about open source business models and trends: this story goes about the long time discussed and awaited Alfresco Confluence integration, and goes back of almost one year. Confluence is the Enterprise wiki solution from Atlassian, while Alfresco…well I guess it does not need introductions on this blog :)

Short preamble:

This project started  in June 2009 hosted in Google code as joint open source initiative by Alfresco and an Alfresco pan-european partner,  Sourcesense: originally hosted on Google Code under the name “Confluence Alfresco Plugin“.  The project was originally meant to provide access to Alfresco documents from Confluence macros, and was based on the Alfresco proprietary webscripts ReST API. After a promising initial implementation was drafted, the project has not seen any commits as of Jun 2009: the reason behind this sudden stop was  that this implementation was based on very specific Alfresco APIs, and the rise of an Open Standard like CMIS would have made such an approach an early obsolete product.

Where one seem to stop, another rises from its ashes: as natural continuation of the Confluence Alfresco project, in the very same mid 2009 in Google Code a new project is opened under the, more generic, name of Confluence CMIS Plugin. As the name suggests, the scope of this set of Confluence macros was, not just to integrate Alfresco, but to provide Confluence a more generic support for any CMIS compliant repository: this open source & open standard approach was based on the initial versions of Apache Chemistry Java client, still under heavy development at that time, but already attracted some buzz in the Confluence community.

Present times:

Almost one year has passed since then, and I keep on receiving requests (almost on a weekly basis) from Alfresco partners and customers interested in an Enterprise solution for Alfresco Confluence integration.

What happened with Confluence Alfresco (and its successor Confluence CMIS plugin)?

Looking a bit deeper at the project’s mailing lists you can find some hint of what’s going on:

Sounds a bit like the ant vs grasshopper battle, doesn’t it?  :)
My view:

First of all, I must say I really do hope the two efforts will soon be consolidated into one, both from an open source contributor and also Alfresco business perspective.  Still for now, we’ll have to stick and choose one.

Those who know me already might already be guessing this: at the moment, I quite like the approach of the Confluence CMIS plugin, and not only because you can actually check out the code from Google Code / get snapshot releases NOW and have macros in your Confluence to work against any CMIS repository.

Ah, and also not just because I’m a committer in the Apache project (Chemistry) developing OpenCMIS, which is now used by this plugin :)

The reason is instead that I really do prefer an open approach to ECM, especially about building integrations, and that comes out of the my very personal idea of software development.

IMHO, being software development a process, there’s more to it than just a good mix of high quality code and good sales/marketing skills: to build a successful (and scalable) solution, you need to have a sustainable and lean process backing up the development of your solution, a process where systems and people can interact on standards basis and clear information flows, like the ones a controlled open source process can offer.

Conclusions:

The Confluence Alfresco CMIS integration story, is just one example of how the very same solution can be approached in multiple ways: with no doubt, from my perspective, the CMIS based approach is bound to be superior in terms of longevity and maintainability (thus reliability of the business model).

Also, in order to achieve a much broader target, it might be beneficial to keep it in the open source arena: this way, it might get the resonance and the broader adoption that the Confluence community is waiting to actually start consolidating content in more advanced ECM platforms like Alfresco (or any other CMIS compliant server), based on top notch libraries like OpenCMIS (BTW, we’re working toward a first release out soon).

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not just a Stallmann style fundamentalist: it’s still perfectly possible to develop proprietary (and maybe enterprise specific) extensions which might use a different licensing and business model, and maybe Alfresco specific capabilities. I just believe that for core ECM functionalities and product integration, it’s just always better to stick to the standard (especially after all the work put into the CMIS process).

And that sounds especially reasonable,  if you think that both Alfresco (LGPL licensed) and Confluence (offering free hosting for Open Source projects) have important stakes in the Open Source community and potentially customer/prospects which value the extended benefits of an Open (source + standard) approach.

And if you not convinced yet, I have few more thoughts on what I mean by Open (source and standard) ECM

8 Responses so far.

  1. Indeed AppFusions’ ReST connector was rels’d to the Atlassian Plugin Exchange here. And we continue to develop more features and update the demo page along the way.

    Its functionality is invoked via Confluence macros, and the Alfresco server URL is configured in the connector’s configuration screen from within the Confluence Admin console. It also includes French support for Quebec requirements (made available via Confluence language pack).
    While I would agree with you that CMIS may be a good long term solution, we are working in a here and now state. Not a single customer who has contacted us about the connector is using Alfresco 3.3. All are on Alfresco 3.2, which is not CMIS compatible.

    Nonetheless, we are currently testing and developing in support of Alfresco Community and Enterprise 3.2 and 3.3.

    We indeed will evolve the connector to be CMIS compatible in natural maturity with the platforms in the market – Confluence, Alfresco, and beyond.

    While I admit we were very keen to push this to market fast, with a viable solution, I would not say there was excessive marketing at all. We took over the effort with Alfresco and Atlassian management knowledge in mid-April 2010. We shipped in June.

    At same time, I sent an open inquiry via googlegroup for anyone that might like to help us, and did say no guarantee that we would post our solution code iteratively (because I expected it to be fast). I received no response until we released our demo – and then all of a sudden it was bad taste, despite it being all fresh code.

    While I appreciate your open source desires, please understand that we are building a product – not just a good idea connector. We are growing a business, and creating a solution to a customer and market need.

    As the connector progresses in maturity, it will also support the maturity of the ECM platform and E2.0 market. That is our plan – and that is win win.

    We are also working on two other related plugins/connectors to further this same agenda – OpenSearch (search between Alfresco, Confluence, and more repos) and Alfresco to Crowd module update (current one is obsolete based on versions).

    Anyone who wishes to help us, in addition to collaborating on the future with CMIS support, please contact us. We will welcome you and your assistance.

    We work with hosted internal SDLC systems, and the Google platform just does not do it for us for serious software development. We have many more tools than google tools.

    Please take this in stride as only intended – we wish for your support only, and in turn our connector and efforts are meant to support the evolution of the Alfresco market as a whole.

  2. Carry2Web says:

    Hi Gab,

    Guess what? I must be one of those enterprise customers, maybe not asking weekly, but still: would LOVE to see a true integration of Confluence and Alfresco.
    Found this blog searching for progress on the subject. World is small, good to see you alive and kicking ;-)

    CMIS indeed seems the way to go. Thanks for this blog post. Like it a lot.
    Carry2Web

  3. Hi Carry,
    sorry for the late reply, but I was on (short) holidays.

    It’s very nice to see that you’re interested; we’re currently coding on the project in order to provide a good code foundation that is clean and open to everyone, but we’re missing the feedback from customers.

    It would be so useful to know a bit more about your use-case; feel free to share your ideas on http://groups.google.com/group/confluence-cmis

    Thanks in advance,

    Maurizio Pillitu

  4. Leon says:

    Thanks for the article,

    Is this “confluence-cmis-plugin” going to provide the same features as “Confluence to Alfresco Connector” from appfusions?
    Can the files be launched, viewed, edited, and removed using “confluence-cmis-plugin”?

    Cheers

  5. Santino says:

    Thank you for your blog article.Thanks Again. Will read on…

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