Archive for the ‘Product Information’ Category

The Power of Alfresco Content Replication

Monday, February 21st, 2011

One of the new features delivered in Alfresco Enterprise 3.4 is the ability to replicate content between servers. Introducing this new feature has made me remember a project I worked on back in 1995. At the time I was at Documentum and working with a large global petroleum company. They were using Documentum to manage the creation and approval of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). But they needed to make these available to remote drilling stations, often in distant parts of the world. Of course network reliability and bandwidth stopped them providing direct online access. Content replication would have been ideal but was not available.

This is exactly the type of problem that the Alfresco content replication service is designed to solve. Content can now be replicated between servers, providing fast local access to key information. Replication can be scheduled to take place at regular intervals, run manually or triggered on an event (i.e. when new content is approved).

In the diagram below the SOP’s are replicated between the head office in Texas and the remote drilling stations. Having local copies mean that the remote workers are not affected should something happen to the network or source server.

I have presented this solution a number of times and two questions always come up:

  • Is replication the same as Clustering? No. Clustering is a means to support large-scale deployments by clustering the application over multiple systems. This is used to improve performance and reliability. But even though the application is spread over many servers it is still a single instance of Alfresco. With Alfresco replication you are running multiple, separate, instances of Alfresco and replicating a subset of the content between these servers.
  • Can’t I do the same thing with database replication? Some vendors use database replication, but this is more complex and is not as flexible as true content replication. First off, the content needs to be stored in the database (as BLOBS) or you need to synchronize both the database AND the file systems. Secondly the whole database is typically replicated – which is overkill if I only need to share a few files with the remote site. With Alfresco users have the flexibility to select a set of files and have these, and only these, replicated to a number of different servers.

The introduction of content replication in Alfresco Enterprise is a great new feature… I just wish it had been available 15 years ago!

The Versatility of Alfresco Aspects

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Recently I was having a conversation with Alan Weintraub, Principal Analyst at Forrester. We were discussing the importance of building the right taxonomy for managing content. Both of us have been in the content management business longer than we cared to remember, and both have worked on systems that needed to create hierarchical type taxonomies with metadata held at different levels. Spending many hours trying to decide the most appropriate place for a certain attribute.

Enter Alfresco Aspects. An aspect is a collection of attributes that can be overlaid on to any file, irrespective of type. The system may have a number of types defined – Contracts, Reports, Issue Logs and Case Files. If I create a contract and then want to identify it as a customer contract I just add the customer aspect. Aspects can be applied manually, with the user choosing to add an aspect, or automatically – applying an EXIF aspect to hold extra photograph information once a JPG is uploaded. Of course multiple aspects can be applied to a file.

Using aspects makes it much easier to deploy Alfresco; it simplifies the metadata model and makes content much easier to find for the end users. I just wish it had been invented 20 years ago!




Video: Adding an aspect
Video: Search an aspect

Alfresco Product Naming and Numbering

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Background

Apparently there has been some confusion over the various product names and the version numbering that has been used by Alfresco in the past (see a sample below).

Alfresco Product Names

Alfresco Product Names

Now what makes perfect sense to us at Alfresco does not always mean the same thing to the Alfresco Community. For example while we knew that ‘Alfresco Enterprise Edition 3.2r’ meant that it would support ‘Records Management’ this was not immediately obvious to others. And when we released Alfresco Community Edition 3.3g (the g meant that it included a technology preview of the Google Docs integration), people asked what happened to versions a, b, c, d, e and f!

So to make it simpler we are adopting the following numbering convention…

Alfresco Community

The Alfresco Community product is freely available to download and use. Future versions of Alfresco Community will be identified by the following numbering scheme:

Alfresco Community Major.Minor.Build

Where:

  • Major – Number used to identify major releases in functionality (examples 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 etc.)
  • Minor – Number used to identify minor releases (example 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 etc.). There will be multiple minor releases for each major release
  • Build – Builds that are publicly released will be identified by a letter (example 3.4.a, 3.4.b, 3.4.c etc.)

The addition of a build letter will enable Alfresco to release multiple incremental builds for each minor version. These could be to provide a more stable version, or to include a technology pre-view. Each of these will be incremental (starting with a) so should allow people to easily understand which is the latest version.

Alfresco Enterprise

The Alfresco Enterprise product is provided to subscription customers. It has some enterprise extensions and goes through a more extensive QA process. Future versions of Alfresco Enterprise will be identified by the following numbering scheme:

Alfresco Enterprise Major.Minor.ServicePack.HotFix

Where:

  • Major – Number used to identify major releases in functionality (examples 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 etc.)
  • Minor – Number used to identify minor releases (example 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 etc.). There will be multiple minor releases for each major release
  • ServicePack – Number to identify the service pack included (examples 3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3, etc.)
  • HotFix – Number to identify which hot fix is included (examples 3.3.1.115)

As Alfresco Enterprise goes through its development cycle, various pre-view (alpha, beta) releases will be made available to customers. These will be identified with the full pre-view name (Example 3.3.alpha or 3.3.beta). This should stop any confusion about 3.3.a being an alpha version.

Cheetah

The next release has been code named ‘Cheetah’ and will be released as 3.4. So expect to see Alfresco Community 3.4.a and Alfresco Enterprise 3.4.0 released over the next few months.

You can check the roadmap to see what will be delivered as part of Cheetah and Swift.


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