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Drupal 7 Faces Challenges From ERP, CRM

Open source CMS confronts Enterprise 2.0 demands for integration of enterprise software systems under standards enabling interoperability across all departments.

The Drupal Content Management System (CMS) has crossed a line. Typically, when an open source project delivers a new release there's just a press release. By contrast, enterprise applications usually get the big rollout treatment.

Last week's launch of Drupal 7 had all the earmarks of a scaled enterprise launch, while retaining the look-and-feel of an open source effort. More than 300 events were scheduled in 95 countries, including a sold-out New York event at a famous Lower East Side watering hole. Most were hosted by both vendors and large customers because enterprises using open source often rely on one another for help, not just vendors or their channels.

While the Drupal 7 launch events demonstrate enterprise momentum, Drupal faces a new threat, from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications, and CIOs anxious to assert control over Enterprise 2.0 features and the employees using them.

Last month's McKinsey study showing adopters of this new paradigm become industry leaders has galvanized management suites, and raised concerns about security that CMS programs, with their heritage on the open Internet, were not originally designed to handle.

Members of the Drupal community have been actively discussing the construction of ERP functions within Drupal, but delivery of such modules could be some time away, and many security managers may find more comfort putting communication inside their ERP systems than going the other way. Integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems is also starting to emerge from third parties.

Like Joomla, Drupal is an open source CMS, released under the General Public License (GPL) V. 2. This means you don't just "buy" it. Instead, you download it, try it, learn it, and then adapt it. While there are many companies offering support licenses (including Acquia, where Drupal co-founder Dries Buytaert is CTO) success demands an internal commitment to both learning the software from the inside-out and becoming part of a software community.

Among the more interesting new features of Drupal 7 is support for RDFa, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendation for embedding XHTML metadata within documents often associated with the term "semantic web." Buytaert has written about the advantages of this in social networking sites, allowing deep social searches that trace data to its source, a key to Enterprise 2.0 deployment.

While Enterprise 2.0 may be a handy buzzword, as a practical matter it demands integration of enterprise software systems under standards enabling interoperability across all departments. Drupal 7 is a play in that effort, but whether it's a big enough play for large enterprises has yet to be determined.

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