Adobe and Alfresco

  • 17-Jun-2008

It's been a while since there was a big product announcement in the ECM world, but today's announcement by Adobe that they will be embedding Alfresco into their LiveCycle Enterprise Suite will doubtless garner a few headlines. Alfresco, the UK-based open source ECM company, has certainly done a great job of marketing themselves since their launch a couple of years back, stealing some limelight from more established and much bigger vendors such as Interwoven, Vignette, and Open Text.

The question we have to ask is whether this announcement is another marketing triumph, or whether it suggests something more substantial.

First off is the fact that it is a real OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) deal, and the technology will actually get embedded into the Adobe offering, so it is more than simply a paper partnership.

But let's think about what the Adobe offering is and why we do not currently evaluate it in our ECM Suites Report. Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite is a product set built upon the acquisition of Acellio in 2002 (better known as "Jetform"). Though the user interface and underlying codebase may have changed a bit, the principle of this product remains the same: automating simple, usually forms-based, processes. The product excels as a point solution particularly in Government, where a form needs to be issued to the public, and the capture and subsequent business process needs to be automated quickly.

In theory the Alfresco repository adds some true ECM capabilities at the back end of the Adobe product set. Also the Alfresco solution will add some "Web 2.0" capabilities to Adobe, as Alfresco supports Adobe Flex. So in theory, the LiveCycle solution could be extended to build more complex applications rather than basic forms routing.

On a corporate note the OEM deal is intriguing, since of course Alfresco is a minnow compared to Adobe, and there are close connections between the executive teams. For example the Senior Vice President of this particular Adobe Business unit is none other than Rob Tarkoff, a close friend and ex-Documentum colleague of Alfresco CTO John Newton. Could Adobe be planning to acquire Alfresco? Who knows? But if the OEM is successful, an acquisition might appeal to both firms, if less so to Alfresco's current customer base.

In short then, it's an intriguing announcement, and we will be looking at demonstrations of the technology in practice later today as well as testing it out more thoroughly over the coming months. Like us, you should treat this new product arrangement with real caution until it has been thoroughly tested by customers. That is not a a slight against either firm, but an announcement is just that and no more. Time is always the true test.

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Peter Morville, Consultant, Guru Author, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

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