Alfresco-Adobe Pact Pushes Open Source Toward the Mainstream

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Last week Adobe surprised a few people—well, at least it surprised me--with the announcement that it was including Alfresco content management services as part of its LiveCycle Enterprise Suite Update 1 package. The surprise was two-fold, that Adobe felt it was necessary to add content management services at all and that it chose open source vendor Alfresco as its content management partner. I spoke to Alfresco CEO John Powell to get his perspective on the pact and how it can help push open source into the enterprise mainstream.

Powell is understandably excited by this arrangement and one of the main reasons, he says is because the Adobe partnership gives his company credibility with companies that might otherwise not even sniff at an open source vendor. “Adobe went through a lengthy evaluation and having picked Alfresco, it means we offer a quality enterprise-grade content management system. Working with Adobe gives us a wider access to people who wouldn’t normally have access to open source applications.”

He adds that there are still polarized views about open source inside the enterprise, partly due to FUD spread by companies such as Microsoft. “Definitely some organizations still feel that open source isn’t ready for mission critical applications. If you have that prejudice, it’s difficult [for companies like Alfresco] to overcome.” Working with Adobe can help Alfresco get its open source application in through the back door and let these companies see that it really works.

From Adobe’s perspective, it was looking to find a completely embedded content management solution that worked in all browsers. Raja Hammoud, group manager, product marketing for LiveCyle says Adobe liked the fact that Alfresco was open source. “Open source was attractive and being standards-based was important to our customers,” he says. It didn’t hurt that Alfresco’s services played nicely with the Adobe platform.

But Powell is quick to point out this a business arrangement, meant to give Alfresco a lift, but not necessarily one that will result in business directly from Adobe customers. In fact, beyond back channel ways such as this, customers might not even know that the content management services were Alfresco’s at all as the content management services are completely embedded in the LiveCycle ES application.

The LiveCycle partnership is the first publicly announced product using Alfresco’s content management services, but Powell suggested the two companies have been working on others and perhaps we will be hearing about content management services in other products moving forward.

Whether or not that happens, the fact that Alfresco as an open source vendor has partnered with a mainstream software company like Adobe is noteworthy in itself. Powell says he and co-founder John Newton (who helped find Documentum many years ago) started Alfresco with the vision of building standards-based content management services, and the partnership with Adobe is its most significant to date. If the Alfresco-Adobe deal can help push open source further into the enterprise mainstream, it will not only be a big deal for Alfresco, but could be a big step for other open source vendors as well.

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