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Alfresco what is it and how it is different

George Stoianov
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 15, 2006
Posts: 94
I was wondering if the author can tells how Alfresco is different from other CMS tools written in PHP - Mambo, Python - Plone etc. and what are it's enterprise features? How does it support content creation from multiple individuals and groups? Does it support other database but MySQL and what kind?

Thanks.
Munwar Shariff
author
Greenhorn

Joined: Jan 24, 2007
Posts: 29
This is a good question. I co-authored a book on Plone called Plonelive (http://www.plonelive.com). Alfresco CMS is my second book.

Most of the content management systems such as Mambo (PHP based), Plone (Python based) are Web Content Management systems. Which are meant to be used as public websites, Intranets and collaborative web sites.

However Alfresco is different. It provides wide range of solutions such as Document Management, Records Management, Web Content Management, Digital Asset Management, Imaging and Forms Management.

It is the first Java based, open standards based system for Enterprises. Enterprise requirements will be so specific such as:
- Can this system be able to handle thousands of users?
- Can the system handle millions of documents?
- Can it perform well? and so on...

Alfresco is implemented at Large Financial Institutes to manage millions of documents for thousands of users.


Munwar Shariff, CTO, CIGNEX Technologies Inc, Email: munwar@cignex.com, Author of Alfresco ECM Book
George Stoianov
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 15, 2006
Posts: 94
So, Alfresco does not offer a good interface for the general public? I mean does it have the capabilities to expose a certain part of the documents it contains to the outside world and provide views etc. that allow outside people to search and find documents the company is willing to share with the general public?

As far as being Enterprise directed does that mean also that it is hard to install and maintain, that is one of the inheritened features of enterprise solutions they are a lot more flexible and scalable but getting them going is a bigger effort?

As far as storage does Alfresco persist its data into an RDBMs, file system or a combination? What kind of content can it handle text, video, audio, etc.?

Plone is largely based on Zope as far as I know and Zope offers the capability to manage and create objects in order to present content does Alfresco have a similiar idea?

BTW I think it is great that it is there and it is open source and now that Java will be GPL it will/should certainly gain momentum.

Thank you.
Munwar Shariff
author
Greenhorn

Joined: Jan 24, 2007
Posts: 29
Alfresco does offer good interface for the users. It depends upon what you refer to "general public". General public could be anonymous users, internal employees, external customers or external "systems" in my opinion. The user interface, business rules and content delivery changes based on the users and the use cases.

One of the strongest key selling point for Alfresco is the "ease of installation". It took me less than 5 minutes to install the latest Alfresco WCM. You must read the "Installation Chapter" of the book to understand this better.

Alfresco persists the binary data in the file system and meta-data in the RDBMS. It can handle any kind of data and nice thing about the data is that you could extend the content types by adding the mime-times in the configuration file.
George Stoianov
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 15, 2006
Posts: 94
I see that one of the points as what we can learn from this book is:


Using Alfresco as a Smart document repository; working with automatic version tracking and control, and accessing the repository from the Web, shared network folders, or FTP
(Source: Alfresco book link)

What is automatic version tracking and control is it something like Subversion or just tracking document changes by date and storing many copies??

Thanks.
[ February 08, 2007: Message edited by: George Stoianov ]
Munwar Shariff
author
Greenhorn

Joined: Jan 24, 2007
Posts: 29
You are right...Automatic version control is like subversion (SVN). Whenever you check-in a document into SVN it automatically creates a new vesrion.

Similarly you can configure Alfresco to create new versions whenever it is updated. Remember that there are many ways you can create and update a document in Alfresco.

You can use the web client and update the document. If you are a windows user, you can drag and drop the files through CIFS interface into Alfresco repository. You can update the file using web services API and so on. No matter how you edit a document, the automatic versioning is enabled at the repository level and available to all these protocols.
George Stoianov
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 15, 2006
Posts: 94

You are right...Automatic version control is like subversion (SVN). Whenever you check-in a document into SVN it automatically creates a new vesrion.


So those Alfresco than index and compare the text inside text files the way SVN does, what I mean is let us say I created a Product presentation and put it in Alfresco later when the product changed and I had to make modification and I put the new document Alfreson would record the changes and I can request to see how the document has evolved over time and I can choose to print an old version if I so desire. Is this what you meant? If yes what mechanisms are used to accomplish this?

I think it is really good that you have so many ways of adding documents... I should really give it a try. Are there start up DB schema scripts etc. for MySQL I think so you said 5 min to install .

And I have one more "politically charged" question (I would understand if you do not answer):
I have been looking and reading about Python for a while, never tried it in production or for play, and I am a big Java fan, so I was wondering how would you compare Plone which is based on Zope and Python and Alfresco based on Java and quite a few open source frameworks etc.??

Thank you.
Stephane Clinckart
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 21, 2003
Posts: 89
Originally posted by George Stoianov:


So those Alfresco than index and compare the text inside text files the way SVN does, what I mean is let us say I created a Product presentation and put it in Alfresco later when the product changed and I had to make modification and I put the new document Alfreson would record the changes and I can request to see how the document has evolved over time and I can choose to print an old version if I so desire. Is this what you meant? If yes what mechanisms are used to accomplish this?

I think it is really good that you have so many ways of adding documents... I should really give it a try. Are there start up DB schema scripts etc. for MySQL I think so you said 5 min to install .

And I have one more "politically charged" question (I would understand if you do not answer):
I have been looking and reading about Python for a while, never tried it in production or for play, and I am a big Java fan, so I was wondering how would you compare Plone which is based on Zope and Python and Alfresco based on Java and quite a few open source frameworks etc.??

Thank you.


Hi,

I'm a developper that use Alfresco in a professional project - not from long time, so maybe i'm wrong for some points... (Take care about and don't fight me :-) )

So far I know about internal way that use alfresco to store document change on a document is that:

Each version of a document has an "internal copy" of the file into an alfresco directory (alf_data).
You will find subdirectories in this directory:
audit.contentstore,
contentstore,
contentstore.deleted,
lucene-indexes.

These directories contains others subdirectories..; but doen'st matter.
You will find there (in contentstore) a "copy" of your document in a special namepattern (for info, extension is rennamed in .bin and name is unique timestamp + ???). Alfresco give a direct link via is web interface to the document with the "original document name".

So, you are able to find a old version of a document at each moment.

BTW, a "bootstrap" part initialise the database for you at first startup of the server. You just need to configure wich DB server you want to use.
Alfresco make use of Hibernate internely... DB that are supported by Hibernate should be supported by Alfresco.

I hope this helps you.

Stephane
[ February 12, 2007: Message edited by: Clinckart Stephane ]
George Stoianov
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 15, 2006
Posts: 94
Thank you Clinckart Stephane that is useful information I will check back when I give it a try .
Regards
 
With a little knowledge, a cast iron skillet is non-stick and lasts a lifetime.
 
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