An omnibus platform like SharePoint presents two challenges to Microsoft in the web publishing arena:
- It doesn't employ the very latest version of .NET
- Long update cycles means it can fall behind functionally
Neither challenge is prohibitive, but both are potentially problematic. In the past Redmond and its partners have showcased some interesting alternatives (as well as add-ons) to SharePoint via "CodePlex." And now we're seeing the next generation of this trend.
Several new products -- all running on .NET 4 -- were announced last week. Among them is the first release of Orchard, an ASP.Net, MVC-based content management system for building websites and blogs. Orchard is really an evolution of Oxite, an open source blogging engine released a couple of years back. Orchard is also open source (based on the new BSD license) and shares both code and developers with Oxite.
Orchard is managed via the independent Outercurve Foundation (formerly CodePlex Foundation), and will likely progress with community contributions, but you can easily see Redmond's influence. In fact, Microsoft has so far sponsored the project and provided developers working on it for close to a year. However, do remember that Microsoft is not going to provide any formal support for it. Like other community-driven projects, you will pretty much depend on others in the community. In fact, the Orchard project page actually recommends you to go with SharePoint if you prefer a formally-supported option.
The good thing for you the customer though is that you are in the market for .NET-based, open source alternatives, you now have another option beyond Umbraco and DotNetNuke (DNN) -- the latter of which we evaluate closely in our Web CMS Report.
Like many others in this category, such as Joomla! and Drupal, Orchard will be able to run in a shared hosting environment -- allowing it to target simpler or agency-driven website scenarios. Orchard claims they will partner with the likes of DNN. It's not clear yet how that will happen, but you might be able to reuse elsewhere .NET components that are part of the Orchard project.
For Microsoft, it gives them a play in an important SMB segment that might find Sharepoint too expensive for web publishing. For you the customer, however, don't assume that Orchard is as well tested or scalable as SharePoint. It's an alternative, but not a well-proven one.