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Engineering Content Management For A Web 2.0 World

If you think we're entering a recession, you wouldn't know it from talking to Alfresco's CEO John Powell.
If you think we're entering a recession, you wouldn't know it from talking to Alfresco's CEO John Powell.To say Powell is upbeat about the 3-year-old company's future would be an understatement. And why not? It just received nine million more reasons ($9 million Series B funding) that validate how it's approaching the enterprise content management (ECM) market.

Alfresco has approached things a little differently than some of ECM's household names like IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft. It would rather you download its open source software and use its services and support to help you get to market -- faster.

The company is convinced clients will pay for the content management expertise Alfresco has assembled, a roster that includes Documentum's co-founder John Newton and of course Powell himself, former chief operating officer at Business Objects.

"Customers are moving away from seeing content management as this big monolithic thing. The new world is about simplifying every process and being functional in a matter of days," said Powell.

It's the "matter of days" part that should make the ECM heavyweights a little nervous. Traditionally, enterprise content management (ECM) has been difficult to implement, with clunky interfaces and architectures that weren't truly service-oriented.

"The Web services and SOA approach has been painful", said Powell. He argues the company's use of Representational State Transfer (REST) architecture helps Alfresco deliver solutions at a much faster clip. Instead of hard-wired integrations that are sometimes proprietary, it has built REST into a core set of Alfresco services that let clients connect to the services needed. Powell cited a recent integration to Facebook to show how his company's software is "engineered for the Web 2.0 world."

"Using REST, our Facebook integration took all of two days," remarked Powell. "In less than a week, our client was able to deploy a Facebook portal that leveraged all the data they needed to collaborate in real time."

He says one of the biggest trends is how the ECM market has, in his words, "polarized." He's seeing two types of clients: those that consume their content through an ECM stack and those that consume content via open source. The latter, Powell contends, allows companies to choose a best-of-breed route when choosing complementary applications that comprise the enterprise stack.

That's an important angle in today's enterprise environment, where clients are always battling vendor lock-in and pushing for open standards.

"The Web has changed tremendously in the last five years," said Powell. "Open source has moved beyond the reputation of being a crazed hobbyist. We're helping companies manage content in real-time, that's what enterprises want."