Alfresco Enterprise 4 adds a free public cloud option
Building on the enterprise CMS's open source foundations, Alfresco has announced that, alongside the release of its subscription offering Alfresco Enterprise 4, it is rolling out a hosted, multi-tenant cloud version of the platform. Designed for enterprises that want control of their content with their own installations of Alfresco but would find it useful to have a globally accessible, controllable document store in the cloud, Alfresco are offering organisations, with or without its enterprise CMS, free accounts with ten gigabytes of storage on the Amazon EC2 hosted system.
The cloud-based CMS will be accessible, as with standard Alfresco, through the web interface, CMIS API and Sharepoint or WebDAV compatible sharing, allowing organisation's users to not only create their own sites but also invite third parties to have access to those sites for easier external collaboration. The public cloud version of the CMS will not, at least for now, be supporting the compliance and record management functionality of Alfresco.
The company is counting on enterprises who want to rely on the platform signing up for one of its support subscriptions which ensure assistance and availability for the cloud version. The cloud platform is currently in an invitation-only beta phase and companies can sign up for an invitation now. Existing Alfresco customers who purchase the service by the end of February will get a terabyte of storage free.
Enterprise customers who want to synchronise parts of their in-house Alfresco systems with the cloud-hosted platform will need to wait until Summer 2012 when Alfresco will make the synchronisation components available. Before then, the company plans to ship a new Dropbox integration component which will, for example, allow enterprises to publish changed documents automatically on the popular proprietary file sharing platform.
The cloud-based strategy for Alfresco Enterprise 4 doesn't mean that there are no enhancements in the core. Alfresco Enterprise 4 is a qualified, supported version of October 2011's release of Alfresco Community 4.0, which offered improved indexing performance, drag and drop support for HTML5-enabled browsers, Google Docs integration and social integration features including "like" and "follow" mechanisms, activity streams and the ability to publish to sites such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr. Alfresco highlights performance improvements in the new version, reporting 3-4x faster uploading of content and a ten times faster response to queries in the Alfresco Share user dashboard. The company also offers new deployment options for scalability.
Alfresco demonstrated an iPad application – open sourced and available in the Apple App Store – which allows documents to be accessed and edited with a selection of iOS applications. Although no Android application is available from Alfresco directly (Android users can use the web interface or third party applications in the Android Market), the company is looking at creating Android support in future and an Android developer has recently joined the company.
In the background, Alfresco's community manager Jeff Potts, did announce that one element of Alfresco's functionality would be going away and would no longer be sold to new customers. The "AVM repository" which supported Alfresco's Web Content Management solution with web author sandboxes, XForms, XSLT and deployment services has been superseded by new web content features in the rest of the product and, thanks to the standard CMIS API, it is also possible to plug Drupal, Liferay and other web-content-oriented platforms into the Alfresco repository. With that in mind, Alfresco are beginning to remove the AVM so that by the release of version 5, it will no longer be present. Existing customers who use AVM features will be supported on Alfresco 4 until its end of life.
Alfresco's Enterprise 4 software is available for 30 day trial. Details of subscriptions are available on the site. The LGPL licensed Community edition is also available to download from the company's community site.