Confluence and Alfresco integration … am I seeing double? :)

written by MindTheGab on June 12, 2010 in alfresco and apache and cmis and confluence and integration and opensource with 8 comments
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MindTheGab

WW Manager, Expert Services at Alfresco Software
Grown in the flourishing Open Source Enterprise ecosystem of the last decade, bringing a wealth of expertise on ECM and Application Lifecycle Management, both in terms of Product and People leadership.

With a masters thesis on Business Process Re-engineering on a fully open source stack and 10 years in the tech business between Services, Sales and Engineering, he developed a full-spectrum technical and business expertise, in the context of large scale Enterprise Content Management projects for key government and Fortune 500 global customers.
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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

About Gabriele Columbro

Grown in the flourishing Open Source Enterprise ecosystem of the last decade, bringing a wealth of expertise on ECM and Application Lifecycle Management, both in terms of Product and People leadership. With a masters thesis on Business Process Re-engineering on a fully open source stack and 10 years in the tech business between Services, Sales and Engineering, he developed a full-spectrum technical and business expertise, in the context of large scale Enterprise Content Management projects for key government and Fortune 500 global customers.