Today Alfresco takes aim at Microsoft SharePoint, the collaboration juggernaut, with the release of Alfresco Labs 3. Currently available in beta, Alfresco Labs 3 lets companies use SharePoint in an open-source environment.The rise of SharePoint has stunned traditional vendors of enterprise content management and records management products, such as EMC's Documentum. These products traditionally operate inside closely controlled silos. SharePoint, with its tight integration with Office, brings collaboration and content management features, such as check in, check out, and version control, to a wide audience of general users.
Alfresco Labs 3 performs a bit of technological judo to compete with Microsoft. It uses the same protocols that Office 2007 uses to communicate with SharePoint to connect to Alfresco servers instead.
Because the SharePoint UI is built into Office 2007, users get the same functionality without Microsoft's backend SharePoint infrastructure. Instead, companies can use the Alfresco software and a variety of OS and database platforms.
"It can be Linux servers, MySQL, Tomcat, Oracle, DB2, whatever you want," says John Newton, Alfresco's CTO.
Microsoft made these protocols and others available on orders from the European Commission, as part of an effort by the commission to provide a more competitive playing field.
"We are the first ECM system to provide this SharePoint compatibility," says Newton. The official enterprise release of the software is scheduled for October.
But Alfresco isn't the first to take aim at SharePoint. This July EMC announced CenterStage Essentials, a new collaboration application built on the Documentum 6.5 platform.
Currently available as a beta, CenterStage provides collaborative workspaces that let employees share content, manage workgroups, track changes and annotate shared documents with comments. All of the information created or loaded into CenterStage sits inside a Documentum repository, giving IT the ability to enforce document management policies on the content.
CenterStage is expected to move out of beta by the end of the year.